Some Russians Are Bitter About Selling Alaska To US
Thursday marked the 150th anniversary of Russia’s sale of Alaska to the US—and in honor of the occasion, the New York Times takes a look at Russian attitudes toward the sale. Turns out some Russians are pretty bitter about it, claiming that Russia would be even stronger today if the country had kept hold of Alaska and its vast natural riches; the Times notes that the issue is an especially sensitive one given the current battle for influence over the Arctic. Even Vladimir Putin recently weighed in on the matter, saying Thursday that “what the US does in Alaska, it does on the global level.” He said he’s especially concerned about the US developing a missile system there.
The Russians, who started to settle Alaska in 1784, sold it less than a century later amid fears that Britain might seize it or Americans might overrun it if gold were discovered there. For the US, the deal meant a closer trade position with China and increased protection of the West Coast from the British, although of course there were some who called the $7.2 million purchase ($125 million in today’s dollars) “Seward’s folly.” (William H. Seward, then-US secretary of state, signed the deal with Russia.) For the indigenous people of Alaska, the anniversary brings mixed emotions; Alaska’s Native peoples were mistreated by both the Russians and the Americans. Professor William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, a descendant of Inupiaq Eskimos, takes an extensive look at the deal and its impact on Alaska’s Native peoples at The Conversation.