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Alaska

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Peninsula of Alaska occupies the northwest extremity of the North American continent and is bordered by Yukon Territory and British Columbia in the East, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean in the South, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukotskoye Sea in the West, and the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean in the North.

Russian History

1648: Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev rounds the Chukotka Peninsula, discovering that a narrow waterway separates the Eurasian continent from the American continent. His discovery does not become widely known until Bering's later voyage.

1725: Tsar Peter the Great sends mariner Vitus Bering to explore beyond the far eastern reaches of Russia and to claim new territory for the Russian Empire.

1728: Bering sails through the strait, which now bears his name, but does not reach the Alaska coast.

1741: In command of the second vessel on Bering's next expedition, Aleksei Chirikov's crew reaches land in Southeast Alaska on July 15; Bering sights land the following day. The expedition returns to Russia with sea otter pelts, but Bering himself dies on what is now known as Bering Island off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

1742: Russian explorers and traders return and begin mass hunting of sea otters for pelts, the beginning of a Russian fur trading industry based in Alaska that became the mainstay of the Alaska colonial economy for much of the rest of the century.

1759: Russian explorer and commander Stephan Glotov lands on Unimak Island and hears the Aleut natives refer to the land as Alyaska or Alyeska, which became the basis for the name Alaska.

1761: Russian explorers land on the mainland on the Alaska Peninsula.

1762: Glotov lands at Unalaska in the Aleutian Island chain, and in 1763 on Kodiak Island.

1764: Fighting between Russians and Aleuts.

1772: Russian settlement established at Unalaska. In 1778, during his exploration of the southern Alaska coast, British explorer James Cook reports finding a Russian settlement at Unalaska. Spanish explorers reaching Alaska in the late 18th century also find permanent Russian settlements.

1781: Russian fur trading company established by Siberian merchant and shipbuilder Grigori Shelikov.

1784: Russian settlement established on Kodiak Island.

1785: Gerasim Pribilov discovers fur seal rookeries on Bering Sea islands now named for him.

1791: Shelikov hires Alexander Baranov to manage his Alaska trading operations. Baranov serves until 1818, the longest serving Russian-Alaska manager.

1795:Russian Orthodox Church established on Kodiak Island.

1799: Russian Emperor Paul I signs decree chartering the Russian-American company as a monopoly to handle Russia's trade in its American colony and to administer Russian activities in Alaska. Alexander Baranov establishes Russian fort and administrative headquarters in Sitka, which became capital of the Alaska colony.

1802: Battles between Russians and Indians in Sitka.

1821: Russian-America Company asserts exclusive control in Alaska trade and waters.

1824: Russians begin exploring mainland Alaska, over the next 20 years reaching as far north as the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. Russia establishes southern boundary with the United States and one year later the eastern boundary of Alaska with Britain.

1840: Russian Orthodox Diocese established for Alaska. Russian liturgy given in Alaska native languages. Russians begin establishing missionary schools and churches.

1841: Russian Attache Edward de Stoeckel assigned to Russian delegation to the United States.

1853: Russian explorers and trappers find oil seeps in Cook Inlet.

1859: De Stoeckel gets authority to start negotiating the sale of Alaska to the United States.

1867: US Secretary of State William Seward negotiates the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Treaty signed March 30. Transfer occurs at the Russian Alaska capital of Sitka on Oct. 18.

Russian Facts

Alaska and Russia share a border. The US-Russian maritime boundary zigzags down the Bering Strait between the Asian and American land masses.

Alaska and Russia are less than 3 miles apart at their closest point in the Bering Strait where two islands, Russia's Big Diomede Island and Alaska's Little Diomede Island, are located. In winter it is possible to walk across the frozen Bering Strait border between these two islands. At its closest, the American mainland and the Russian mainland are 55 miles apart where Alaska's Seward Peninsula and Russia's Chukotka Peninsula reach out to each other.

Cities and towns in Alaska and the Russian Far East are closer to each other than they are to their own national capitals.

Alaska has two official state holidays: Seward's Day, the last Monday in March, commemorates the 1867 signing of the treaty in which US Secretary of State William Seward agreed to purchase Alaska from the Russia; and Alaska Day, October 18, which marks the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in the Russian capital of Sitka.

Alaska has many historic Russian buildings. There are active Russian Orthodox churches in some 80 Alaska communities, many of which still use the old-style Russian Orthodox calendar and celebrate Christmas on what is marked as January 7 in Western calendars.

Many of Alaska's native people who lived in the regions colonised by Russia have Russian surnames, stemming from the days when they were colonial subjects of the tsar and many intermarried. Russian names mark Alaska's geographical landscape.

Russian Orthodox "Old Believers" who emigrated from the Soviet Union have their own old-style Russian villages in Alaska.

Except during the Cold War, Alaska and Russian natives on either side of the Bering Strait carried on with routine visits, seasonal festivals and subsistence trade.

During the Cold War, Alaskans referred to the closed border between Russia and Alaska as the "Ice Curtain."

The University of Alaska has more Russian students at its campuses than any other university in the United States.

Much of the flora and fauna and geology in Alaska are similar to the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia.

Alaska serves as the US gateway for all flights between the Russian Far East and the United States.

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