The agreement on the sale of Alaska to the United States was signed in Washington 150 years ago. Flaming debates have continued on the reasons for this sale by Russia and how to perceive this event.
History Doctors Alexandre Petrov and Yuri Boulatov help us to see more clearly.
Alaska was ceded (at the time it was said precisely ceded and not sold) 150 years ago in the USA. Since then, we have had time to reflect on the facts. Different views have been expressed on both sides of the ocean, sometimes diametrically opposed.
This immense territory currently occupies key positions in the Asia-Pacific region, mainly through the production of oil and other mineral resources. The deal was not only for the USA and Russia: England, France and Spain were also involved.
The cession of Alaska began with the famous letter of the Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich, brother of the Emperor Alexander II, to the Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov indicating that it was necessary to cede this territory to the USA. Unbelievable but true: the letter of Constantine Nikolaevich was written exactly ten years before the sale of Alaska.
Today we are paying more attention to the sale of Alaska. Researchers, but also the general public, are interested in this subject.
The problem is that there is no documentation to find out what really happened. We can speak of the special meeting of December 16, 1866, but the expression “special meeting” always has a bad connotation in Russian history – they were all illegitimate, as were their decisions.
One must also discover the reason for the mysterious sympathies of the Romanov dynasty for America and the mystery of the sale of Alaska. The sales document stipulated that all archives that existed at that time in that Russian territory in America would be transmitted to the United States in their entirety. The Americans obviously had things to hide and wanted to secure their backs.
In 1857, Constantin Nikolaevich sent a letter to Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov, who informed Alexander I. The emperor wrote, concerning his brother’s message, that it was necessary “to reflect on this idea”.
The arguments in the letter were very strange. Constantin Nikolaevich, president of the Geographical Society of Russia, suddenly seemed to discover that Alaska was very far from the main centers of the Russian Empire. Hence the question: why sell Alaska precisely? There was Sakhalin, Chukotka, Kamchatka, but for some reason the choice was made of Russian America.
Second argument: the treasure was empty. It was true. But the $ 7.2 million of the transaction (just over 10 million rubles at the time) did not change anything. At that time the Russian budget amounted to 500 million rubles. In addition, the debt of Russia was 1.5 billion rubles.
Third point: Russia would have been unable to keep this territory in case of military conflict. The Grand Duke had an evil spirit: in 1854 the Crimean War was not only in the Crimea, but also in the Baltic and Far East. In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky the fleet has parried an attack by the Franco-British squadron. In 1863 two squadrons were sent by order of the Grand Duke Constantine Nikolayevich: one in New York and another in San Francisco. Thus Russia prevented civil war in the USA from degenerating into international conflict.
The last argument is disarming of naivete: the sale to America was to lead to excellent relations with Russia. It was, however, more beneficial to conclude an agreement with the United Kingdom because at the time Russia did not have a common border with the United States.
However, relations between the two countries were certainly not friendly – as evidenced by the facts and the speed of the transaction.
The Romanov dynasty had many mercantile relations with the USA, but not friendly ones. And society was unaware of what was going on. The Prime Minister, Duke Gagarin, Interior Minister Valuyev, Minister of Defense Miliutin had no idea of the deal and read it in the newspapers. They had been left in ignorance because if they had known, they would certainly have opposed this transaction.