The largest number of studies on the colonization of North America is devoted to the activities of the French and British. The Dutch and Germans are also attributed to them. However, there are fewer references to the development of America by the Russians.
The history of the development of Russian America began in the middle of the 17th century, when the strait between Asia and America was discovered. It was only almost a century later that an expedition was organized to study this strait. Under the leadership of Vitus Bering, the Pacific coast of North America was discovered, and the Aleutian Islands were also explored. Accordingly, by the right of a discoverer, these lands belong to Russia. Until the end of the 18th century, a large number of fishing expeditions were carried out to Russian America.
Organized development began in 1783 with an expedition led by Grigory Shelikhov, who later organized the first Russian settlement, which was located on Kodiak Island. The first permanent settlement was founded on Unalashka and it was called Illluk. Shelikhov in his settlements organized not only fishing, but also the production of the necessary products: shipbuilding, casting of iron products, etc. However, the Russian authorities were not very interested in distant lands. Attention to distant settlements manifested itself only after the death of Shelikhov, when Paul I issued a decree that secured the rights of the company created by Shelikhov to develop all the useful resources located on the territory of Russian America. The company was named Russian-American. Its first leader and governor of Alaska was Alexander Baranov. A number of permanent Russian settlements arose under his leadership. So, in 1799 the fort of Archangel Michael was founded, later captured by the Indians and burned to the ground. However, in 1804 the Russians returned to these territories, and the new settlement became known as Novo-Arkhangelsk. This city became the capital of Russian America, and it was from it that the settlements were managed. After the sale of Russian settlements to America, Novo-Arkhangelsk became known as Sitka and remained the capital of Alaska until 1906. After the sale of Russian settlements to America, Novo-Arkhangelsk became known as Sitka and remained the capital of Alaska until 1906. After the sale of Russian settlements to America, Novo-Arkhangelsk became known as Sitka and remained the capital of Alaska until 1906.
In 1812, in Northern California, Alexander Baranov's assistant Ivan Kuskov founded Fort Ross. Back in 1811, Kuskov chose the location for the settlement in Bodega Bay. But initially, the Russians entered California on fishing expeditions. In March 1812 Kuskov sailed with 25 Russians and 80 Aleuts, and the construction of the settlement began. Since Kuskov participated in the restoration of the settlement, which later became Novo-Arkhangelsk, Fort Ross began to be built in his likeness. Already at the end of 1812, the fortress was ready. The fortress was originally called Ross, it was also often called Fortress Ross, the settlement of Ross, the colony of Ross, and the name Fort Ross it has already received from the Americans since the middle of the 19th century.
The population of the colony was predominantly Russian, Aleuts and Indians; children born in mixed marriages were called Creoles, they made up one third of the population of Fort.
All the people living in the Fort worked for the Russian-American Company. The settlement was led by a manager, in total there were three of them from 1812 to 1841. The colony was inhabited by clerks who oversaw the organization of the settlement and work, industrialists, carpenters, blacksmiths and other artisans. Everyone signed a working agreement, according to which they had to work for 7 years, refuse to trade with the indigenous population for personal gain and not get carried away with alcoholic beverages.
By 1820, the house of the governor of the settlement (Kuskov's house), houses of other officials, barracks for workers and various other necessary offices and shops appeared inside the fortress. Outside the fortress there was a windmill, a barnyard, a bakery, a cemetery, several baths, vegetable gardens and a greenhouse. On the coast of the bay there were shipyards, forges, tanneries, a pier and warehouses for storing boats.
By 1836, the population of Fort Ross was 260 people: in addition to the Russian population, Indians and Aleuts lived on its territory. At the same time, friendly and peaceful relations were maintained with the indigenous Indian population around the Fort. While choosing a place for a settlement, Kuskov was concerned about how relations with the indigenous population would develop. However, everything was calm, interaction was built on trust, equality and freedom.
Good relations also developed from the fact that many indigenous people partially learned Russian, and were also inclined to accept Christianity. In the mid-20s. In the 19th century, a chapel was built on the territory of the settlement, which was popular among the population.
Initially, the main task of Fort Ross was to supply food to the settlements of Alaska. First of all, they were engaged in fishing for fish, birds and fur seals. However, by 1816, the fur seal population began to decline rapidly, so more attention was paid to agriculture. The natural conditions of the area allowed Fort Ross to become a food base for the settlements of Alaska. A large number of food products were produced in the vicinity of Fort Ross, which were then delivered to other regions of Russian America. The Fort also experimented with different crops, such as fruit trees. However, agriculture here fell short of the required level, and several agricultural lands were organized further inland. Cattle breeding was more successful. At Fort Ross they kept cows, horses, mules,sheep. Accordingly, they received such products as meat, milk, wool, produced soap, and some of the products were even exported.
In addition, industry developed at Fort Ross. The woodlands around provided a lot of material for the construction of houses, ships and other wood products. A lot of money was invested in shipbuilding, but due to the structure of the wood, it began to rot already during the construction of the ship, so the ships built in Fort Ross were used only for local voyages. Also in the Fort, the manufacture of bricks, foundry and blacksmith production, and leatherwork were successfully carried out. The difficulty was that there was no opportunity to trade with neighboring colonies, however, after Mexico declared independence in 1821, trade went in full swing, but competition with the United States and Britain also appeared.
Fort Ross was the subject of interest of many scientists and researchers who came there to study the flora and fauna, as well as the lifestyle and customs of the locals. Both writers and artists came to gain new impressions, to create their works based on what they saw.
By the end of the 1830s. the authorities began to think about the abolition of the colony in California. Fort Ross production fell short of expectations and the trade did not cover the costs of shipbuilding and other industries. The settlement gradually fell into decay.
At the same time, Mexico began to lay claim to the lands of Fort Ross, claiming their historical belonging to Mexico. They refused to recognize the Fort as Russian property, if only in exchange for recognition of the independence of Mexico, which Nicholas I categorically refused to do, and in 1839 supported the decision of the Russian-American Company to liquidate the settlement.
The sale of the settlement was carried out by Alexander Rotchev. Despite his personal reluctance to sell the colony, he made an offer to Britain, which she refused. He then proposed the colony of France, which also stated that it did not need the Fort. In Mexico, these lands were already considered their own, so it was not possible to conclude a deal with them either. In the end, Fort Ross was sold to John Sutter, a Mexican, for $ 30,000.
In January 1842, Rotchev and the rest of the colonists sailed on the last Russian ship to Novo-Arkhangelsk.
However, the deal between Rotchev and Sutter was invalidated by the Mexican authorities, and Fort Ross passed into the possession of Manuel Torres. California subsequently separated from Mexico and became part of the United States.
In 1906, the fortress became the property of California and became one of the regional attractions. Now Fort Ross is one of California's national parks, which, being a reconstruction of a Russian settlement, attracts a large number of tourists every year interested in the Russian way of life of that time.
The period of oblivion lasted for many years, until the Russian people, who turned out to be emigrants by the will of cruel fate, breathed life into the Fort Ross, or rather, into what remained of it by the mid-1930s. An initiative group was created to recreate Ross as a historical monument, and fundraising began, often from the more than modest income of those Russian people who saw in this step their patriotic duty to Russia.
Let's remember their names: G. V. Rodionov, A. P. Farafontov, M. D. Sedykh, V. N. Arefiev, L. S. Olenich, T. F. Tokarev, Lebedev, Fr. A. Vyacheslavov, and later S. I. Kulichkov, A. F. Dolgopolov, V. P. Petrov, N. I. Rokityansky, curator of the California Parks Department - John McKenzie and many, many others.
Among the Russians who have made a significant contribution to the study of Fort Ross and have contributed much to the warming of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States since the pre-perestroika times are the writer S. Markov, researchers N. Kovalchuk-Koval, A. Chernitsyn. V. Languageless.
These are our contemporaries - scientists N. Bolkhovitinov, S. Fedorova, A. Istomin, fellow countrymen of Kuskov, Totma residents S. Zaitsev, Yu. Erykalova, V. Prichina.
We also note the tireless work of building "bridges of friendship" between the American Fort Ross and the old Totma - the activists of the Moscow Historical and Educational Society "Russian America", including the Totma residents G. Shevelev and V. Kolychev, the architect and consultant of Fort Ross I. Medvedev, the writer V. Ruzheinikov, sculptor I. Vyuev.
As part of the participants of the I-st Russian-American Expedition "To the Origins of Russian America" conducted by the Russian America Society across the expanses of the Russian North (May, 1991), I was able to visit the blessed Fort Ross for the first time. And, as if, he found himself in his native Vologda region! The beam of the fortress buildings scorched by the sun reminded me of my home in Totma …
The "corner of Russia", lovingly revived by our compatriots, is now under the tutelage of the State Parks Department California and under the watchful eye of specialist scholars and volunteers from the Fort Ross Historical Association.
On Christmas Eve 1997, at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco, the icon "John the Baptist" was handed over, a gift from the Society of Russian America and Yu. A. Malofeev for the Fort Ross chapel (Project "Icon from Russia"). In the same year, at a reception at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco, held in honor of the "Day of Russia", employees of the California Department of Parks and Recreation presented representatives of the Society Vladimir Kolychev and Grigory Lepilin with the state flag as a token of gratitude - "For the preservation of the historical heritage of the State of California ".
"For the preservation" of Fort Ross, the cultural heritage of Russia in America, which has already become a part of the history of the United States of America, had to come out in August-September 2009, when Fort Ross was threatened with closure and, in fact, subsequent destruction. Supporting the warm appeal of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, "to preserve the symbol of the rich history of California and the United States, as well as a memorable milestone in Russian-American relations" … "The Russian America Society issued a joint address with the newspaper Russian America (New York, publisher and editor-in-chief Arkady Mar) and vice-president of the Fort Ross Historical Association, Knight of Friendship D. Middleton "Save Fort Ross", organizing a collection of signatures in Russia and the United States in defense of Fort Ross. This is how Mary Eisenhower signed the petition,Metropolitan Hilarion - Head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Academician Valery Tishkov …
The alarming chime of the bell that connected Fort Ross, Totma and Moscow on September 9 seemed to be heard everywhere … A flurry of appearances in the press and on television followed … an appeal of the Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev to his colleague in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger …
On September 26, the Governor of California overturned the decision to close Fort Ross!
In the summer of 2010, after the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to California, we held a number of meetings with representatives of the Renova group of companies, which resulted in the decision of the Renova management to restore a windmill in Fort Ross - a symbol of the Russian presence in California at the beginning of the 18th century …
Indeed, the Ross colony was started as the granary of Russian America!.. We hope that the fundamental issue of improving the Bratsk cemetery at Fort Ross will soon be resolved …
Fort Ross painting (unknown artist 1817)
Fort Ross is a California State Museum Preserve. The California Department of Parks and Recreation and the voluntary non-governmental organization Fort Ross Interpretive Association (FRIA) play a significant role in its conservation and maintenance. Fort Ross is a favorite place to visit for many Americans, including our compatriots.
Fort Ross welcomes its old and new friends not only on big holidays. On weekdays, you can see children and adults in traditional Russian costumes, who are happy to “play in the Russians of the 19th century”. They have an inscription on their chests with Russian or Indian names. A cauldron of porridge is boiling on a small fire, guards with guns from the museum's storerooms are guarding the fortress, various household utensils are being made and painted, and even a small "unicorn" cannon shoots towards the azure ocean.
In April of this year - during our stay in Bodega Bay, where the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Russian settlers in Rumyantsev Bay (Bodega Bay) was celebrated - I and Yulia Erykalova, as guests of honor of this town, had a chance to visit Fort Ross. And here, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, I shook hands with Ivan Kuskov - he was a dark-skinned schoolboy who "served" along with classmates and parents - just like 200 years ago, the founder of Ross, a native of the Vologda region, Ivan Aleksandrovich Kuskov.
Fort Ross is associated with another curious page of the Russian presence in the Pacific Ocean, which few people know about today: once the Russians were provided with land plots in the Hawaiian Islands - now the 50th US state. One of the three Russian fortresses, Fort Elizabeth, has survived to this day … But that's another story.
In 1976, in honor of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Fort Ross and the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States, at the initiative of Professor N. I. Rokityansky (De Anza College, California) a commemorative medal was issued, on the obverse of which a portrait of its founder, Totmich Ivan Aleksandrovich Kuskov, was engraved.
“Her Majesty The world history of Fort Ross and Totma has made relatives for centuries …” In 1990, the Kuskov house-museum was opened in Totma. Here are collected attributes and copy materials representing a time that has gone into history, but unforgettable in our memory: engravings, guns, the medal "Allied to Russia" awarded to the elders of American tribes, portraits of Catherine and Ivan Kuskov. The hospitable staff of the museum treat local schoolchildren and guests from Italy, Sweden, Japan, and the USA with strong tea from a samovar.
In 1996, the Museum of … sailors was opened in Totma. And none of the Totma residents is surprised by this: after all, the city's coat of arms depicts a black fox, which local merchants-hunters hunted as much on the Aleutian Islands!
Friendly partnership has been established between the Totem Museum of Local Lore and Fort Ross. With the assistance of the Russian America Society, Totma is related to the small town of Bodega Bay, which is 20 miles from Fort Ross. March 15 this year For the first time, the bell-ringing connected the twin cities.
The call of the church bells of the cities of Russia and America, twinned by history, has been carried out since 1991, and since 2010 Totma residents and their American friends have been actively communicating in real time via the Internet.
In the days of the anniversary - July 28-29, 2012 - a bell chime in honor of the 200th anniversary of Fort Ross will unite many cities of Russia, as well as the former Russian empire with twin cities in Alaska and California.
The history of the fort is an excellent example of the development of Russian settlements on lands new to them. It is all the more interesting because it largely repeated the circumstances of rooting in the Siberian territories in the 17th - 18th centuries, but in the "enlightened" 19th century. In this article, an attempt is made to trace information about a Russian fortress located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean from works published in the USA.
It should be noted that there was little interest in the history of Fort Ross in American historiography; from the end of the 19th century to the present, there are hardly a dozen publications on this topic. In terms of information richness and content, they are heterogeneous - from an anniversary album to a serious ethnographic study.
In 1893, an article by Charles S. Greene [Greene, 1977] was published, which in the 1970s. was also included in a collection dedicated to Russians in America. Charles S. Greene collected a wealth of information about Fort Ross, fitting it into the historical background of the first decades of the 19th century on the American continent. He reported on the activities of the Russian-American Company, on Russian-Spanish relations, and gave his impressions of visiting the fort. The author notes that the settlement had a significant impact on the history of California, writes that "here for thirty years there was the strongest Russian fortress in California with a large, well-armed garrison"
According to C. Green, the foundation of Fort Ross looks like this. In 1808 Lieutenant Ivan Kuskov undertook a sea voyage for a preliminary survey of the area, and at the beginning of 1809 dropped anchor in Bodega Bay. Then, during the second campaign in 1811, he conducted a survey of the surrounding area. He especially liked the site 20 miles from the bay. This small open plateau overlooking the sea was separated from the rest of the area by several deep gorges running in different directions, so that it was easy to defend. Moreover, there were pastures here, timber was growing, there was running water - the Slavyanka River (later called by the Americans Russian) and the best climate on the coast. Although this site, later named Fort Ross, was formally under the jurisdiction of the Spaniards, Kuskov bought it from the Indians, paying three blankets.three pairs of pants, two axes, three hoes, several strands of beads. The settlement was founded in 1812, when Kuskov arrived with 95 Russians and 80 Aleuts. They arrived in March or April, and by September the fortress and the village were built. The reason for the construction of the settlement was the foundation of a collection point for furs and a transshipment base for the Sitka colony.
Green writes that quite friendly relations were established between the Spaniards and the Russians, for several reasons. Spanish dominion in America was shaken. The Spanish troops did not receive sufficient supplies and wages, which forced them to buy everything on the spot, and not carry it from overseas.
The Russians and the Spaniards each had what the other did not have. The Russians needed Californian furs and wheat, and they could offer for exchange wood, iron, and leather goods produced in Sitka and Fort Ross. The Spaniards did not have a single light ship until they bought several built by the Russians at Fort Ross. Despite the mutual benefit of the emerging relations, almost every year the Spanish and then the Mexican authorities expressed their protest to the Russians about the occupation of lands that did not belong to them, warned them about the need to leave the Fort. To which Kuskov did not agree, answering that he was only a subordinate and that in order to resolve the issue, it was necessary to contact Baranov. But the appeals to Sitka also did not work, since Baranov redirected them to the government in St. Petersburg. The Spanish governor reported to his government, enclosing estimates of the number of infantry and artillery troops needed to evict the Russians, but never received a sufficient number of them. Negotiations over Fort Ross were in the nature of weak altercations, especially amid the fierce battles of the war with Napoleon in Europe and the Spanish-American clashes on the American continent.
Interesting details about the head of the fort, the type of buildings of the fortress and the surrounding area attract attention. Thus, Ivan Kuskov, the former chief of the fort in the first nine years of the colony's existence, as Ch. Green writes, left most of all memories of himself. The Spaniards called him Pi de Palu - "wooden leg", because he had a prosthesis. He was a cocky, angry, but honest old man who could perfectly receive distinguished guests, surprising them with the achievements of civilization, unexpected in such a wild place, but ruled subordinates with an iron hand. All structures of the fort were built under his leadership and are evidence of his exceptional knowledge of the art of fortification, unexpected for him, since he was a merchant and not a professional soldier (Greene, 1977). In the last remark, the author contradicts himself,because a page earlier indicates the rank of Kuskov - lieutenant.
With sincere admiration Ch. Green writes about the skill of the Russian settlers: “The ax resembling a poleaxe was used both for cutting trees and for pulling out wood products, the skill of the people was amazing. After all these years, the logs of the bastions adhere so tightly to each other in the corners, where they have not rotted, that even the blade of a penknife will not pass, and the surfaces are pristinely even. Great detail is inherent in all their work. " The author also mentions a huge, once well-groomed apple orchard, where Russian officers and their wives loved to walk. A 1937 publication by AP Farafontov, an American of Russian descent, chairman of the business committee for the creation of a monument to Russians in America from Fort Ross, even states that "the California apple tree came from Fort Ross."
In 1896, a small book by RA Thompson appeared, titled "A Russian settlement in California known as Fort Ross, founded in 1812, abolished in 1841, or Why the Russians Came and Why They Left" [Thompson, 1896]. In many respects repeating the information of Green's article, the author provides more complete and extensive information on the political and economic situation on the American continent, indicates the reasons for the abolition of the fort. An interesting detail is the information on the toponymy of the settlement, which was originally named Ross by the Russians, the Spaniards called it El Fuerto de Los Rusos or Fuerto Ruso, and the Americans, who later settled in California, began to call it Fort Ross. Somewhat alarming is the name given by the Russians, according to the author, by the unusualness of its form. But in the book N. Eubank (N. Eubank) can be found clarification,that the name given to the settlement by I. Kuskov sounded like Fort Russ or Fort Russky [Eubank, 1973], unfortunately, this is the only mention of a Russian fortress in the named book.
F. Hatch's publication is devoted to the presence of Russians in California, and there are pages on Fort Ross [Hatch, 1922]. The author, in addition to historical descriptions, gives sketches of the current state of the surroundings and buildings of the fortress.
The already mentioned edition of A. P. Farafontov, which is an album published with great love for the 125th anniversary of the Russian fortress, contains photographs and drawings showing the appearance of the fort's buildings, some of which are very rare. Of great value are drawings by an unknown author, which depict the fortress in its original form [Farafontov, 1937].
In 1976, an English translation of the notes of Kirill Khlebnikov, a clerk of the Russian-American Company who worked with the leadership of Fort Ross, was published. Most of the notes are devoted to such Russian settlements as Novoarkhangelsk (Sitka) and Pavlovsk, but he also pays some attention to Fort Ross. Basically, the author describes the relationship of Russians with the Aleuts, Creoles and Indians, provides extensive statistical information about the population, available property, harvest. The book contains an unfinished drawing by I. Voznesensky, depicting a view of the fortress (1840s) [Khlebnikov, 1976].
In the early 1990s. a study by a group of authors devoted to the archeology and ethnic history of Fort Ross is published [Lightfoot, Wake, Schiff, 1991]. Scientists set the goal of studying the cultural mutual influence of the Russian and local populations, for which they used information collected both by their predecessors and by themselves. They manage to show that some types of work, about which it was believed that they were performed by the Russians, who were attributed to exceptional skill, could be performed by both Aleuts and Creoles. These works include, for example, foundry and blacksmithing. The authors examined the role of the local population in the multiethnic community created in the 19th century, identified the areas of predominant residence of representatives of certain ethnic groups, their role in the social division of labor.
So, in the historiography of the United States, publications about Fort Ross began as a collection of personal impressions and information of various kinds, and only in the 1990s. a serious scientific study of one of the problems of the existence of the multiethnic community of the settlement was carried out. At the same time, many issues remained unclear, for example, the architecture and structural features of the fortress buildings, in particular the watchtowers, outbuildings and the chapel.
This work was supported by grants from the Russian Foundation for Humanities No. 02-01-00329a. Problems of studying the ethnic culture of the Eastern Slavs of Siberia in the 17th – 20th centuries. and the Kennan Institute's Woodrow Wilson International Center, G-3-0346, Minority Culture in Multinational Countries, Washington, USA, 2002.