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The Federal Republic of Alaska, or just Alaska, is a sovereign state located in North America. Alaska is a federation composed of 9 oblasts, one territory, and one federal district. The nation is bordered by Louisiana to the south and Canada to the east.
The earliest written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. In 1648 Semyon Dezhnev sailed from the mouth of the Kolyma River through the Arctic Ocean and around the eastern tip of Asia to the Anadyr River. Dezhnev's discovery was never forwarded to the central government, leaving open the question of whether or not Siberia was connected to North America. In 1725, Tsar Peter the Great called for another expedition.
As a part of the 1733-1743 second Kamchatka expedition, the Sv. Petr under the Dane Vitus Bering and the Sv. Pavel under the Russian Alexei Chirikov set sail from Petropavlovsk in June 1741. They were soon separated, but each continued sailing east.
On July 15, Chirikov sighted land. He sent a group of men ashore, making them the first Europeans to land on the northwestern coast of North America.
On roughly July 16, Bering and the crew of Sv. Petr sighted Mount Saint Elias on the Alaskan mainland; they turned westward toward Russia soon afterward. Meanwhile, Chirikov and the Sv. Pavel headed back to Russia in October with news of the land they had found.
In November, Bering's ship was wrecked on Bering Island. There Bering fell ill and died, and high winds dashed the Sv. Petr to pieces. After the stranded crew wintered on the island, the survivors built a boat from the wreckage and set sail for Russia in August 1742. Bering's crew reached the shore of Kamchatka in 1742, carrying word of the expedition. The high quality of the sea-otter pelts they brought sparked Russian settlement in Alaska.
From 1743, small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of the Russian Pacific coast to the Bering Islands. As trips from Asiatic Russia to America became longer expeditions (lasting two to four years or more), the crews established hunting and trading posts. By the late 1790s, some of these had become permanent settlements; Unalaska was permanently settled in 1774. Approximately half of the fur traders were Russians from various European parts of the Russian Empire or from Siberia. The others were indigenous people from Siberia or Siberians with mixed indigenous, European and Asian origins.
Rather than hunting the marine life, the Russians forced the Aleuts to do the work for them. As word spread of the riches in furs to be had, competition among Russian companies increased and the Aleuts were enslaved. Catherine the Great, who became Empress in 1763, proclaimed goodwill toward the Aleuts and urged her subjects to treat them fairly. On some islands and parts of the Alaska Peninsula, groups of traders had been capable of relatively peaceful coexistence with the local inhabitants. Other groups could not manage the tensions and perpetrated exactions. The growing competition between the trading companies, merging into larger and more powerful corporations, created conflicts that aggravated the relations with the indigenous populations. Over the years, the situation became catastrophic.
Though the Alaskan colony was never very profitable because of the costs of transportation, most Russian traders were determined to keep the land for themselves. In 1784 Grigory Ivanovich Shelekhov, who would later set up the Russian-Alaska Company that became the Alaskan colonial administration, arrived in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island with two ships, the Three Saints and the St. Simon.
Government & Politics
Alaska is a federation composed of 9 oblasts, one territory, and one federal district.