First Russian explorers in the USA. Alaska and California.
The first Russian traders and missionaries reached Alaska from Siberia in 1741, when two Russian ships under the command of Vitus Bering and Alexei Chirikov reached the coast of the North American continent. The first permanent Russian settlement in America was founded without official government approval on Kodiak Island in 1784 by Gregory Shelikhov, a fur trader. This enterprise later developed into the Russian-American Company, which received a charter from the Russian government in 1799.
Eight missionaries from the Valaam Monastery arrived in Alaska in 1794, and began construction of churches and schools. They also studied the indigenous languages and then were able to convert the Aleuts and Indians to Orthodox Christianity, and interceded on their behalf before the Russian administration in cases of unjust treatment. Russian men of all ranks married local women, and a community arose with an economic base of farming and fur trade. Shipbuilding began in 1807, and Sitka became Alaska’s Russian capital in 1808.
The Russian possessions in Alaska were sold to the United States in 1867 for $7,200,000. Russia considered Alaska to be unprofitable because of the declining animal population and territorial tensions were growing between Russia and Britain. The majority of the Russians who had settled in Alaska went back to Russia, but many resettled in southern Alaska, California and parts of Oregon.
THE HISTORY OF FORT ROSS
Fort Ross was founded in 1812 by the Russian-American Company, a trading and fur trapping firm whose primary shareholders were members of the Czarist family. The Russian-American Company supported a number of outposts, mostly in Alaska. But the company''s ships made frequent forays south -- sometimes as far as Baja California -- in search of sea otter, seal and sea lion pelts. Fort Ross served as a staging area for sea mammal hunting as well as a source of agricultural products for the Northern colonies. In addition, from 1818 to 1824, the area''s rich forests provided raw materials for shipbuilding.
As a commercial venture, the colony was a failure. The Russians overexploited the sea mammal population which declined rapidly in the late 1810s and 1820s. The forests which the Russians were harvesting for shipbuilding stock yielded wood which weathered quickly, requiring ships to undergo major repairs within six years of construction. And a political agreement with Mexico, which would have made expanded agricultural development possible, faltered. In 1839, the Russian-American Company secured a supply agreement with the Hudson''s Bay Company for wheat and beef and three years later sold the fort.
The colony''s history as an experiment in multi-ethnic cohabitation is nevertheless interesting. The Russians who founded Fort Ross brought with them Native Alaskan laborers who were expert fishermen and sea mammal hunters. Native Californians, eager to avoid Spanish, and later Mexican political control, also joined the colony as employees in exchange for Russian protection. Eventually, the Native Alaskan men began marrying Native Californian women, leading to certain cultural blending and innovation.
The famous love story of russian captain Ryazanov and a Spanish girl named Cosepcion took place there. This story inspired russian produsers to create famous musical by the name of "Yunona i Avos".