Military Review

Russians in California


Russian colonies in Alaska, a territory with a harsh climate, suffered from food shortages. To improve the situation, expeditions to California were organized in 1808-1812 to search for land on which an agricultural colony could be organized. Finally, in the spring of 1812, a suitable place was found. 30 August (11 September) 25 Russian colonists and 90 Aleuts founded a fortified settlement, called Ross.

At that time, the Spaniards owned California, but the territories were practically not colonized by them, since the time of Spain's past power had already come to an end. So, San Francisco, located in 80 km south of the Russian colony, was just a small Catholic mission. The real owners of the territory in which the Russians settled were the Indians. Lands were bought from them.

Thus, Fort Ross became the most southern Russian settlement in North America. Russian names began to appear in the vicinity: the Slavyanka River (now Russian River), the Rumyantsev Bay (present-day Bodega Bay). For all its existence, the fortress has never been attacked: there were almost no Spaniards, and since 1821, there were practically no Mexicans nearby, and more or less peaceful relations were maintained with the Indians.

The appearance of the Russians in California

The penetration of Russians into California began with fishing expeditions. In the waters of California, there was an abundance of sea otter (sea otter, "sea beaver"). Moreover, the coast to the north of California, due to geographical conditions, was poor in ryean, which made California a distant southern oasis, a new “eldorado” for dealers in precious fur.

The Spaniards started the fur trade here, but already at the beginning of the 1790-s, this trade monopolized by the colonial authorities fell into disrepair. The skins of otters were smuggled by the British, then the Americans. The opposition of the Spanish authorities and the small amount of booty by local residents pushed one of the American captains, Joseph O'Kane, to the idea of ​​independent fishing by the forces of the natives, provided by the Russian-American company, but transported on an American ship. The prey was supposed to be divided equally. In October, 1803 at Kadiak O'Kane concluded a contract with A. A. Baranov. O'Kane was provided with paddle boats with “Aleuts” (usually Kadiaks figured under this name) under the command of Russians Athanasius Shvetsov and Timofey Tarakanov.

The servant Shvetsovu Baranov, who was sent with the expedition, ordered to study all the “countries” where they would take notice of all countries, collecting information not only about the otters ’habitat, but about California residents, products of this area, trade of Americans with Californian Spaniards and natives. Thus, it is obvious that Baranova was interested not only in fishing. This was not only a fishing mission, but also a reconnaissance mission related to the plans for the expansion of the RAC to the south.

One of the main reasons for the interest of cancer in the southern regions was the problem of food supply. The scattered settlement of the natives, which provided a relatively uniform load on natural resources, was disrupted after the arrival of the Russians. The concentration of industrialists and natives in the places of permanent Russian settlements led to the impoverishment of natural resources in the vicinity. Hunting and fishing could not feed the colony. This often caused hunger and exacerbated the already intractable problem of the food supply of the Russian colonies in America. “We don’t need gold here as provisions,” Baranov wrote to the owners of his company.

The use of foreign ships for expeditions to the south was due to the lack of their own ships and people at RAC, as well as the desire to reduce the risk of long hikes to a little-known region. Under the cover of "Bostonians" (Americans), it was possible to avoid direct conflict with the Spaniards, since formally these lands belonged to Spain. At the same time, Baranov limited the commercial expansion of the “Bostonians, withdrawing them from the borders of Russian America. The contract system allowed to temporarily replace competition for mutually beneficial cooperation. Also, thanks to the smuggling mediation of the “Bostonians” during joint expeditions, the channel for supplying Russian colonies with food from California was provided. The American captain O'Kane promised Baranov, "if where he happens to stick in places where there are supplies (actually in California), he will allow the prikashchik to buy them in favor of the company, without participating in them". As a result, several barrels of flour, vital for the Russian colonies, were brought. Thus, Shvetsov was the first to enter into contacts with the Californian Spaniards, initiating Russian-California trade relations, and the first joint expedition showed the importance of such enterprises for the supply of Russian Alaska.

Having left the 26 Kodiak on October 1804, O'Kane aboard the O'Kane ship with kayaks and Aleuts on board, under the command of Shvetsov and Tarakanov, arrived in the San Diego area on December 4 1803, and then proceeded further south to San Bay. - Quintin in Baja California. There, in accordance with the usual practice of American captains, he pretended to be in need of help, he received permission to stay for several days. In fact, the American ship stayed in the Gulf of San Quintin 4 for a month and, despite the powerless protests of the Spaniards, was successfully engaged in the sea otter business. Thus, Shvetsov and Tarakanov were the first Russians to visit California, albeit aboard a foreign ship.

Mission Rezanov

The first Russian ship that reached the 1806 of the California shores in June was the “Juno” from N. P. Rezanov, first established diplomatic contacts with the Spanish authorities.

All the prerequisites for making the round-the-world voyage by the Russian ship existed as early as the 18th century. However, none of the projects was implemented. This was facilitated by the fact that after the death of Tsar Peter I, a period of palace coups began, and the new rulers were more involved in personal affairs, at this time the fleet fell into decay, and it was overcome only in the reign of Catherine II. It was under Catherine II that the idea of ​​sending an expedition from Kronstadt to the northwestern shores of America received approval. 22 December 1786 was followed by the edicts of Catherine II of the College of Foreign Affairs, the Admiralty Board, and the Irkutsk Governor I.V. Jacobi, which were designed to protect the open lands of Russia and islands in the Pacific North. Accordingly, the Admiralty Board appointed GI Mulovsky, captain of the first rank, as commander of a circumnavigation, and assigned four ships to it, as well as a transport vessel loaded with guns, rigging and other things necessary for the equipment of the ports. The Mulovsky expedition was supposed to go around the Cape of Good Hope, go through the Sunda Strait and along Japan, reach Kamchatka, and then the shores of America, all the way to Noutka. The purpose of the voyage was primarily to preserve “the right to the lands opened by the Russian navigators on the Eastern Sea, to approve and protect the bidding on the sea between Kamchatka and the western American shores lying”. In the newly discovered lands, "which have not yet been conquered by any European power," Mulovsky was authorized to "solemnly raise the Russian flag across the curvy." Thus, under Catherine the Great, the importance of land in the Pacific was well recognized.

By the autumn of 1787, the expedition preparation was fully completed, but it was not possible to carry it out because of the complicated international situation (war with Turkey). In the future, the project of a world expedition began to be promoted by I. F. Kruzenshtern. Kruzenshtern served under the command of G. I. Mulovsky and was well aware of the preparation of the 1787 round-the-world expedition. Later, he gained a lot of experience in long voyages on British ships off the coast of North America, and went to South America and East India. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was Kruzenshtern who actively spoke about the organization of round-the-world expeditions from Kronstadt to the shores of Kamchatka and North America. Considering that Okhotsk, Kamchatka and Russian America suffered a great shortage of the most necessary goods and supplies, instead of the long and expensive delivery of necessary goods by land, Krusenstern offered to send them from Kronstadt by sea. In turn, using their ports in the Far East and North America, the Russians could take an important place in trade with China and Japan, in particular, supply fur goods to Canton. Like its predecessors, Kruzenshtern believed that one sea trip to Kamchatka would bring more benefits to seafarers than the “ten-year cruise in the Baltic Sea”, and foresaw significant benefits from shipping goods to the Far East by sea and from opening trade with East India and China.

It is clear that the idea of ​​sending a marine expedition from Kronstadt to the Russian colonies in America received support from the Russian-American company. Regular communication with the Baltic allowed to solve a lot of tasks: the supply of food, clothing, weapons, sea supplies, etc. (the way through impassable and sparsely populated Siberia, Okhotsk and Kamchatka was difficult and complicated, demanded enormous costs); trade development with neighboring countries; development of a shipbuilding base in Kamchatka and Alaska; strengthening the security of the eastern possessions of the Russian Empire, etc.

Trade with China, Japan and other Asian countries was interested at that time not only by the leadership of the cancer, but also by the government. New commerce minister N. P. Rumyantsev, who later became (since September 1807) and became the head of the department of foreign affairs, became an active propagandist of this idea. Significant benefits Rumyantsev saw from the opening of bargaining with Japan "not only for American villages, but also for the whole northern edge of Siberia" and offered to use a round-the-world expedition to send embassies to the Japanese court. The embassy was to be headed by Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, it was envisaged that the envoy, after the end of the Japanese mission, was to survey the Russian possessions in America.

26 July 1803 “Nadezhda” and “Neva” left Kronstadt. Through Copenhagen, Falmouth, Tenerife to the shores of Brazil, and then around Cape Horn, the expedition reached the Marquesas and by June 1804 of the Hawaiian Islands. Here the ships were divided: "Nadezhda" went to Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka, and the "Neva" went to the island Kodiak, where 13 arrived in July. At this time, A. A. Baranov had already gone to the Sith to restore his power on the island, establish a new fortress and punish the Tlingit for the destruction of the Russian settlement. Therefore, the Neva in August went to his aid. Attempts to resolve the conflict peacefully ended unsuccessfully, and on October 1, A.A. Baranov, with the support of a detachment of sailors led by Lieutenant P. P. Arbuzov, launched an assault on an enemy fortress. Soon the Tlingit fled. The commander of the Neva, Captain Lisyansky, was perhaps the first to appreciate all the benefits of the location of a new fortress based on an inaccessible mountain on the shore of a vast bay. According to Lisyansky, Novo-Arkhangelsk "should be the main port of the Russian-American company because this, excluding all the above-mentioned benefits, is at the center of the most important trades ...".

Russians in California

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

Rezanov, apparently due to a conflict with Kruzenshtern, could not go to study the Russian possessions in America on the "Hope". At that time, the brig RAC "Maria" turned out to be in Petropavlovsk harbor, which allowed Rezanov to go to America. Krusenstern went to Sakhalin Island "to research and describe its shores." 14 June 1805 The ship Maria left Petropavlovsk Harbor. Rezanov reached the Kapitan harbor on Unalaska, then he visited the island of Kodiak and Novo-Arkhangelsk on the island of Baranova (Sith) and carefully read the state of affairs.

In Russian America Rezanov was noted by a number of reasonable orders. While on Kodiak, he instructed Father Gideon, together with the company's employees, to compile a census of the population of the colonies, including the natives of America, to take care of teaching juveniles to read and write. The work of Rezanov and Gideon on the dissemination in the colonies of education was very active. Taking into account the acute need of Russian America in military courts, Rezanov ordered the construction of a 16-gun brig in Novo-Arkhangelsk, with a payload of up to 200 and led by Lieutenant N. A. Khvostov and tender under the command of midshipman GI Davydov. Rezanov ordered the construction of the shipyard to begin, “so that every year from elengs two ships could be lowered”.

However, the most acute problem was the supply of Russian America with food. In the fall of 1805, the colonies faced the threat of a real famine. To solve this problem, Rezanov signed a contract with the American merchant John D'Wolfe about acquiring the ship "Juno" with weapons and cargo for 68 thousand Spanish piastres. So, telling Emperor Alexander I about his stay on the Sith, Rezanov wrote that he “found Russians and more 200 Kadiak Americans without any food and supplies before 300 ... Anticipating a disaster, he decided to buy a three-masted ship from Boston people with all his cargo and some the remnants of life supplies, which ... with our moderate food until spring, made everything easier ... and as the prospect of starvation is ahead, then I have to go to California and ask the Gishpansky government in purchasing life supplies for help. "

25 February 1806 on the ship "Juno" under the command of Lieutenant N. A. Khvostova Rezanov set off from Novo-Arkhangelsk to California "at risk in order to either - save the Areas, or - die" and a month later reached the San Francisco Bay . Calling himself the "chief commander" of the Russian colonies in America, Rezanov entered into negotiations with local authorities. The governor of Upper California, José Arilaga, came to meet him in April in San Francisco. “I will sincerely tell you,” said N. P. Rezanov to the governor, “that we need bread, which we can receive from Canton, but as California is closer to us and has surpluses in it that cannot be sold anywhere, I came to talk with you, as the head of these places, assuring that we can preliminarily decide on measures and send for the consideration and approval of our courtyards. ”

It should be noted that the task facing Rezanov was extremely difficult. Madrid carefully protected its colonies from all external relations and strictly prohibited any contact with foreigners, while maintaining a monopoly on trade. The local Spanish authorities in the colonies, although they experienced great difficulty from this ban, did not dare to openly violate it. However, during his stay in California, Rezanov managed to display outstanding diplomatic skills and won the favor of the local Spanish leadership. The Russian envoy and the proud Spaniards quickly found a common language. Rezanov sympathetically reacted to the Spaniards' complaints about the impudence of the “Bostonians”, who practically openly poached in the Spanish possessions. For his part, the Californian governor “with great pleasure” listened to the reasoning of his Russian dignitary about the development of “mutual trade” between the American regions of both powers, as a result of which “the colonies will flourish”, and “our banks, making a mutual connection, always powers will be equally protected and no one will ever dare to settle between them. ”

In addition, Rezanov actually became “his” for the Spaniards. He met a fifteen-year-old Concepcion Arguello (Conchita) - the daughter of San Francisco commandant Jose Dario Arguello (Arguello). She was known as the beauty of California. After a while he made her a marriage proposal. This story became the basis of the plot of the poem "Avos" by the poet A. A. Voznesensky.

At the same time, friendship with the Spaniards helped Russian America survive one of the most difficult periods in its history. After the engagement of Rezanov, a variety of food products, and above all bread, flowed into the holds of “Juno” in such abundance that they had to ask to suspend delivery, since the ship could not take more than 4300 pounds. Thus, the first trading experience with California was very successful. As Rezanov noted, “every day” this trade can be carried out “at least a million rubles. Our regions of America will have no shortage; Kamchatka and Okhotsk can be supplied with bread and other supplies; The Yakuts, now burdened with a cart of bread, will get peace of mind; the treasury will reduce the costs, the food used by the military officials ..., the customs will give the new income to the crown, the domestic industry in Russia will receive a sensitive encouragement ... "

Before his departure from San Francisco, Nikolai Rezanov addressed a special letter to the Vice-King of New Spain, José Iturrigarayu, in which he substantiated in detail the mutual benefits from the development of trade: “New California, which produces all sorts of grain and cattle in abundance, can sell its products only in our settlements, - wrote Rezanov to the viceroy in Mexico City, - she can find help most quickly, getting everything she needs through trade with our regions; The best way to achieve the prosperity of the missions and lead the country to prosperity is to exchange the surplus of its products for goods that do not need to be paid in cash and whose import is not difficult ... In the same measure, the proximity of traffic will facilitate the existence of our settlements in the North, which are now imported from afar everything that the severity of climate denies them. ” These ties, according to N. P. Rezanov, are predetermined by “nature itself” and are called upon “to preserve forever the friendship between the two powers owning such vast territories”.

Thus, Rezanov turned out to be a real Russian statesman who, following Peter I, saw tremendous prospects for Russia in the Far East, in North America and in the entire Pacific North. Like G. I. Shelikhov, N.P. Rezanov was a real builder of the empire, one of the last (along with the main ruler of Russian America A. A. Baranov) who tried to implement his program in this region in practice. Unfortunately, his premature death destroyed many plans for the development of the Russian colonies in the Pacific.

11 June 1806, Rezanov left California, taking a large load of food for the Russian colony in Alaska. A month later, the ships arrived in Novo-Arkhangelsk. Before leaving for St. Petersburg, Rezanov, anticipating his possible death, left instructions to A. Baranov, the Chief Ruler of the Russian colonies in America, in which he touched "many items so that our successors could see the mortal of you and me, that was about beautification it is conceivable, and when they received the methods they did not lower the lead to the execution of those proposals to which we do not have sufficient forces this time ”.

Rezanov was notable for his strategic vision and noted very important steps for the development of Russian America. First of all, he drew attention to the importance of creating a permanent population in the colonies and recommended encouraging the contracted persons to accept permanent residence. To encourage the construction of houses, garden establishments, etc., it was proposed to transfer land to them "in perpetual and hereditary possession." Thus, the growth of the Russian population in America had to permanently secure these lands to the Russian Empire. With the same purpose, Rezanov proposed the formation of a permanent military garrison in the colonies. To this end, the envoy planned to “send out for the first time” 57 cannons and 4 martyrs with a decent number of military shells, and then annually with all weapons and ammunition coming from St. Petersburg. The leadership of the Cancer Agency was to develop production and infrastructure. In particular, Rezanov proposed the establishment of a sawmill, hospital, church, etc. in the colonies. Rezanov also proposed to establish contacts with California, Japan, the Philippine Islands and other places. "The most reliable means" to supply Russian settlements in America with bread, he considered the "settling" of Russians on the shores of New Albion, that is, on the territory of the Pacific coast of North America north of Mexico.

At the beginning of 1808, the general director of the Cancer Society, M. M. Buldakov, addressed Emperor Alexander I with the request "to expel ... the consent of the Madrid court" to open a company with Spanish possessions in America and permission to send two ships to California ports every year: San Francisco, Monterey and San Diego. 20 April 1808 Minister of Foreign Affairs and Commerce N. P. Rumyantsev gave instructions to the Russian envoy in Madrid, GA A. Stroganov, to seek permission from the Spanish government to send two, and if possible more, Russian ships to California ports each year. It was proposed to conclude an appropriate convention. For its part, Petersburg was ready to give permission to the Spanish ships to enter the Russian colonies and Kamchatka in order to develop mutually beneficial trade. However, the turbulent events in Spain in the spring of 1808 (the Spanish-French war began) prevented Stroganov from following Rumyantsev’s instructions. Thus, hopes to establish trade with Spain did not justify themselves.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Lost Russian lands

Lost Lands of Russia: Russians Hawaii
How Westerner Nesselrode ruined the project "Russian Hawaii"

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. parusnik
    parusnik 17 June 2016 07: 49
    So good, it seems, it all began .. Thank you ..
  2. Mikhail Matyugin
    Mikhail Matyugin 17 June 2016 08: 21
    Quote: Alexander Samsonov
    “I will sincerely tell you,” NP Rezanov told the governor, “that we need bread that we can get from Canton, but as California is closer to us and has surpluses in it that cannot be sold anywhere, I came to talk with you, as the head of these places, assuring us that we can preliminarily take measures and send for the inspection and approval of our yards. ”

    Unfortunately, neither Spain was able to preserve its colonial empire in the New World, nor Russia to expand its own - all were taken to themselves by the capricious and assertive British and their overseas "brothers" - the Americans.
    1. reservist
      reservist 17 June 2016 12: 22
      well, not really like that ...
      Americans fought for these lands with Mexico, and not with Spain
      1. Mikhail Matyugin
        Mikhail Matyugin 17 June 2016 14: 03
        Quote: reservist
        Americans fought for these lands with Mexico, and not with Spain

        So Mexico is the former Spanish Viceroyalty that gained independence.
        1. reservist
          reservist 17 June 2016 15: 06
          Quote: Mikhail Matyugin
          So Mexico is the former Spanish Viceroyalty

          In Mexico, Creoles and Spaniards had equal rights, which was not the case in New Spain
          I don’t know how then, but now mestizos are 60% of the population, and there are several times more Indians than whites ...

          gained independence.

          for their independence, they fought with the Spaniards for ten years ...

          Santa Anna, the most famous of the Mexican presidents of those years - Creole
    2. Arkadiusz
      Arkadiusz 19 June 2016 02: 59
      That is, the Anglo Saxons are guilty of that - they could?
  3. iouris
    iouris 17 June 2016 10: 48
    It is necessary to return Little Russia. California let it wait.
  4. Gomunkul
    Gomunkul 17 June 2016 10: 55
    Thus, Rezanov turned out to be a real Russian statesman who, following Peter the Great, saw enormous prospects for Russia in the Far East, North America and the entire Pacific North.
    Like modern Russia, there are not enough such people, especially in the government. crying
  5. reservist
    reservist 17 June 2016 12: 01
    In addition, Rezanov actually became “his” for the Spaniards. He met the fifteen-year-old Concepcion Arguello (Conchita) - the daughter of San Francisco commandant Jose Dario Arguello (Arguello). She was known as the "beauty of California." After a while, he made her an offer of marriage. This story became the basis of the plot of the poem "Avos" by the poet A. A. Voznesensky.

    and rock opera by Alexei Rybnikov
  6. Nubia2
    Nubia2 17 June 2016 12: 59
    It was necessary 70-80 thousands of peasant families to transport there. And 1,5-2 thousands of troops. It would be much easier to hold and master it later.
    No Tlingit would be scary.
    1. reservist
      reservist 17 June 2016 14: 06
      only probably not peasants, but Cossacks
      with the Indians, it might still be possible to somehow agree, but with the "cowboys", sooner or later it would have been possible to sort things out ...

      but Russia then began to enter the Caucasus, and even in Napoleonic wars were already in full swing in Europe ...

      and how then it was to transport such a mass of people, if the Far East had not yet been mastered, a military post was founded on the site of present Vladivostok only in 1860 ...
    2. Kenneth
      Kenneth 17 June 2016 14: 09
      Yeah. Moved one such. Siberia was not populated. It's the same circumnavigation on rather uncomfortable ships
      And in the Far East there is no piece of iron yet. And the inventory is a family. And you need food bases on the way. It’s another matter, according to the type of Cossacks, to send people who want them to come to the local squaw and actively bring the locals under the tricolor. What actually did. But the distance was not allowed to provide the necessary scale.
      1. Mikhail Matyugin
        Mikhail Matyugin 17 June 2016 14: 36
        Quote: Kenneth
        Yeah. Moved one such. Siberia was not populated. It's the same circumnavigation on rather uncomfortable ships

        By the way, the situation is similar to the settlement of Australia, which also began to develop. Although the climate is better there.

        But England had a fleet — military, commercial, and military support — unlike Russia, and she was completely successful in the process of colonizing Australia.
  7. reservist
    reservist 17 June 2016 14: 22
    Quote: Kenneth
    And in the Far East there is no piece of iron yet.

    TransSib began to be built only in 1891 ...
  8. Mikhail Matyugin
    Mikhail Matyugin 17 June 2016 14: 23
    Quote: Nubia2
    It was necessary 70-80 thousands of peasant families to transport there. And 1,5-2 thousands of troops. It would be much easier to hold and master it later.

    Yes. apparently so. But there were two problems (in general, all-Russian) - first, the roads - Russia did not have a fleet to transport such a mass overseas and ensure a strong connection with the metropolis. And secondly, yes, yes, fools (or vice versa?), There was no desire among the aristocracy and bureaucracy to "push the boundaries of the Russian world", everything that was done was mainly at the initiative of small initiative people "from below", and their initiatives were often suppressed, instead of support (i.e. the situation was DIAMETRAL to the one in the English colonial empire).
    1. Nubia2
      Nubia2 17 June 2016 19: 00
      Quote: Mikhail Matyugin
      Russia didn’t have a fleet to transport such a mass overseas and ensure a strong connection with the mother country

      so no one says that at a time.
      this process could well be stretched for 5-10 years.
      everything is quite feasible.
      I agree on the aristocracy.
  9. Robert Nevsky
    Robert Nevsky 17 June 2016 15: 39
    May God again California be Russian!
  10. Pavel1
    Pavel1 17 June 2016 16: 21
    people react to falsifications the same way, they simply are not interested in the topic.