Russian-American Company: Wikis


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Russian-American Company
Founded 8 July 1799[1]
Headquarters Saint Petersburg
Key people Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov and Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov

The Russian American Company (Under His Imperial Majesty's Highest Protection (patronage) Russian-American Company)(Russian: Под высочайшим Его Императорского Величества покровительством Российская Американская Компания)[2]was a state-sponsored trading company formed largely on the basis of the so-called Shelikhov-Golikov Company of Grigory Shelikhov and Ivan Larionovich Golikov (after Shelikhov's death managed by his widow Natalia Shelikhova, with heavy involvement from Shelikhov’s son-in-law Nikolai Rezanov until the latter’s death in 1807).[3]

Chartered by Tsar Paul I in 1799[1], it was Russia's first joint-stock commercial enterprise, and came under the direct authority of the Ministry of Commerce of Imperial Russia. The Minister of Commerce (later, Minister of Foreign Affairs)N.P.Rumiantsev was a pivotal influence unpon the early Company's affairs. In 1801 the Company's headquarters were moved from Irkutsk to St.Petersburg and the merchants who were initially the major stockholders were soon replaced by Russia's nobility and aristocracy. Count Rumiantsev funded Russia's first naval circumnavigation under the joint command of Ivan Kruzenstern and Nikolai Rezanov in 1803-1806, and was instrumenal in the outfitting of the voyage of the Riurik's circumnavigation of 1814-1816, which provided substantial scientific information on Alaska's and California's flora and fauna, and important ethnographic information on Alaskan and Californian (among others) natives. Rumiantsev (Bodega) Bay in northern California was named in his honour during the Russian-California period (1812-1842)of Fort Ross.



The 20-year renewable charter and accompanying ukase (edict) granted the company monopoly over trade in Russian America, which included the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and the territory down to 55° N latitude. Under the charter, one-third of all profits were to go to the emperor. A further ukase (edict or proclamation) by the Tsar in 1821, asserted its domain to 43° N latitude but this was quickly challenged by the British and the United States and was revised to 51° N, and ultimately resulted in the Russo-American Treaty of 1824 and the Russo-British Treaty of 1825 which established 54°40′ as the ostensible southward limit of Russian interests; a later lease to the Hudson's Bay Company of the southeastern sector of what is now the Alaska Panhandle, as far north as 56° 30' N, followed in 1838 as part of a damages settlement due to treaty violations by the Company's governor, Baron Wrangel, in 1833.

Under Alexandr Baranov, who governed the region between 1790 and 1818, a permanent settlement was established in 1804 at Novo-Arkhangelsk (today's Sitka, Alaska), and a thriving maritime trade was organized.

The company established Fort Ross in Sonoma County, California in 1812.

The company constructed settlements in what is today Alaska, Hawaii, and California. Fort Ross, on the California coast in Sonoma County just north of San Francisco, was the southernmost outpost of the Russian-American Company. Though on supposed Spanish and then subsequently Mexican territory, the legitimacy of these claims was contested by both the Company and the Russian Government until the sale of the settlement in 1841, basing the legitimacy of their claims on prior English (New Albion) claims of territorial discovery.[4] It is now partially reconstructed and an open-air museum. The Rotchev House is the last remaining original building. Fort Elizabeth was built in Hawaii by an agent of the company.

But from the 1820s onwards the profits from the fur trade began to decline. Already in 1818 the Russian government had taken control of the Russian-American Company from the merchants who held the charter. The explorer and Naval Officer Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel, who had been administrator of Russian government interests in Russian America a decade before, was the first president of the company during the government period. The company ceased its commercial activities in 1881. In 1867, the Alaska Purchase transferred control of Alaska to the United States and the commercial interests of the Russian American Company were sold to Hutchinson, Kohl & Company of San Francisco, California, who then renamed their company to the Alaska Commercial Company.

Chief managers of the Shelikhov-Golikov Company

Prior to 1799, the Shelikhov-Golikov Company held a charter in Alaska and were founded by Grigory Shelikhov and Ivan Golikov (1729-1805). Baranov served both under the Shelikhov-Golikov Company and the Russian-American Company, but he is not generally called a governor, as that title began to be used by foreigners only after the company was transferred to the rule of the Russian Navy on January 11, 1818.

# Name Term
1 Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov (1747 – 1795) 1784-1786
2 Konstantin Alekseevich Samoilov 1786-1787
3 Evstrat Ivanovich Delarov 1787-1791
4 Aleksandr Andreyevich Baranov (1746 - 1819) 1791-1799

Sources: Piotr A. Tikhmenev: A History of the Russian-American Company (1978); Lydia T. Black: Russians in Alaska, 1732–1867 (2004).

Chief Managers of the Russian American Company

Below is a list of the general managers (or chief managers, usually known in English as governors) of the Russian-American Company. Many of their names occur as place names in Southeast Alaska. Note that the English spelling of the names varies between sources.

# Name Term
1 Alexandr Andreyevich Baranov (1747 — 1819) July 9, 1799 — January 11, 1818
2 Captain Leonty Andrianovich Gagemeister (1780 — 1833) January 11, 1818 — October 24, 1818
3 Lieutenant Semyon Ivanovich Yanovsky (1788 - 1876) October 24, 1818 — September 15, 1820
4 Matvey Ivanovich Muravyev (1784 — 1826) September 15, 1820 — October 14, 1825
5 Pyotr Igorovich Chistyakov (1790 — 1862) October 14, 1825 — June 1, 1830
6 Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel (1797 — 1870) June 1, 1830 — October 29, 1835
7 Ivan Antonovich Kupreianov (1800 — 1857) October 29, 1835 — May 25, 1840
8 Adolf Karlovich Etolin (1798 — 1876) May 25, 1840 — July 9, 1845
9 Vice Admiral Mikhail Dmitrievich Tebenkov (1802 — 1872) July 9, 1845 — October 14, 1850
10 Captain Nikolay Yakovlevich Rozenberg (1807 - 1857) October 14, 1850 — March 31, 1853
11 Aleksandr Ilich Rudakov (1817 - 1875) March 31, 1853 — April 22, 1854
12 Captain Stepan Vasiliyevich Voyevodsky (1805 - 1884) April 22, 1854 — June 22, 1859
13 Captain Ivan Vasiliyevich Furugelm (1821 — 1909) June 22, 1859 — December 2, 1863
14 Prince Dmitri Petrovich Maksutov (1832 — 1889) December 2, 1863 — October 18, 1867


Source: Russian American Company in Hawaii

See also


  1. ^ a b Records of the Russian-American Company National Archives and Records Administration
  2. ^ Pierce, Richard A.:The Russian-American Company: Correspondence of the Governors; Communications Sent:1818.
  3. ^ Piotr A. Tikhmenev: A History of the Russian-American Company (1978) (the original Russian work is from 1861).
  4. ^ I.F. Kruzenstern, "Notes on ports and Ross and Franchesko" 4th October, 1825. Russia in California 2005.
  5. ^ Benjamin Levy (August 1978), National Register of Historic Places/National Historic Landmark 1978 Update: Russian FortPDF ( 491 KB), National Park Service 
  • Pierce, Richard A.:The Russian-American Company: Correspondence of the Governors; Communications Sent:1818

The Limestone Press Kingston, Ontario, Canada 1984.

  • I.F. Kruzenstern: Notes on ports and Ross and Franchesko 4th October, 1825.

Russia in California. A.I. Istomin, J.Gibson, V.A.Tishkov, Nauk, Moscow 2005

  • Tikhmenev, Piotr A.: A History of the Russian-American Company, translated and by Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1978. (Original title in Russian: Istoricheskoe obozrenie obrazovaniia Rossiisko-Ameriskanskoi kompanii. Vol. 1 published in 1861 and vol. 2 in 1863.)
  • Black, Lydia T.: Russians in Alaska, 1732–1867. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, Alaska, 2004.
  • Vorobyoff, Igor V., trans. (1973) "Adventures of Doctor Schäffer in Hawaii, 1815-1819," Hawaiian Journal of History 7:55-78 [1] (translation of Bolkhovitinov, N. N., "Avantyura Doktora Sheffera na Gavayyakh v 1815-1819 Godakh," Novaya i Noveyshaya Istoriya 1[1972]:121-137)

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