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Most exotic colonies of the Russian Empire

Most exotic colonies of the Russian Empire

Cossacks and Indians


Russian colonies were once in America and Africa, and at the present territory of Germany. There was New Moscow in Somalia and the River Don flowed in California. However, the big politics prevented Russian colonists.

Hawaii
In 1815 Russian-American Company (RAC), which controlled Alaska and Kamchatka, had made an agreement with the leader of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. According to the contract he and the population of the island came under the protection of Russia. Georg Anton Scheffer was a colony manager. In 1816-1817 three forts were built by the local people and they were named in honor of Alexander I, his wife Empress Elisabeth and Barclay de Tolly. Only remains of Elizabethan fortress’ stone foundation have survived. Hanapepe River was renamed the Don. Local leaders received Russian names (Platov, Vorontsov). Unfortunately, the central government didn’t appreciate the importance of the new acquisition.

russian colony hawaii

Russian expedition led by Otto Kotzebue in Hawaii (by Louis Choriso, 1816)


The following verdict was received from St. Petersburg: “The Emperor believes that acquisition of the islands cannot bring Russia any significant benefit, but, on the contrary, in many aspects, is associated with a very significant inconvenience”. So the Russian colony was abandoned to its fate. Unlike Tsar Alexander I, the Americans appreciated the importance of the islands. In the village of Waimea American sailors attempted to pull down the Russian flag, but Hawaiian warriors defended it. On June 17 (29), 1817 after an armed clash in which three Russians and several Hawaiians were killed, Russian colonists were forced to leave Hawaii and return to Alaska.

Fort Ross

Fort Ross

Fort Ross


Russian colony in Alaska – areas with harsh climates – suffered from lack of food. To improve the situation, in 1808-1812 expeditions to California were organized in order to find fertile land. Finally, in the spring of 1812 a suitable location was found. On August 30 (September 11) 25 Russian colonists and 90 Aleuts established a fortified settlement called Ross. At that time California was owned by the Spaniards, but the territory was not colonized by them. The real owners of the territory where the Russian settled were Indians. It was they who sold the land for three pairs of pants, two axes, three hoes, and some threads of beads. Fort Ross was the southernmost Russian settlement in North America. Russian names began to appear in the surrounding area: Slavyanka River (modern Russian river), Rumyantsev Bay (modern Bodega Bay). During its existence the fortress had never been attacked. But the colony was unprofitable for the Russian-American Company, and in 1841 it was sold to Mexican citizen of Swiss origin John Sutter.

Russian Somalia

Russian Somalia

Cossacks in Abyssinia


On December 10, 1888 the ship with 150 Cossacks volunteers on board sailed from Odessa. Nikolai Ashinov was the leader of the adventurers. The purpose of the expedition was to support the spiritual mission in Christian Abyssinia (Ethiopia). On January 6, 1889 Ashinov’s squad landed on the shores of French Somaliland (modern Djibouti). The French believed that the purpose of the Russian expedition was Abyssinia, and did not interfere with Russian troops. But, to their surprise, Ashinov found the abandoned Egyptian Sagallo fort and began to settle there. The fort was renamed the New Moscow or Moscow village and land was declared Russian territory. The French officer arrived to the fortress and demanded to leave Sagallo as soon as possible. Ashinov refused. France was then in alliance with Russia, and local authorities couldn’t kick uninvited representatives of a friendly power. So the correspondence between Paris and St. Petersburg began. Emperor Alexander was angry with Ashinov and informed the French government that Russia would not mind if France would take steps to expel Russian detachment from its territory. So the French received carte blanche from the Russian government and sent a squadron of cruisers and three gunboats to Sagallo. Several Russians were killed and wounded. Ashinov had to return home.

Jever

Fountain Cossacks in Jever

Fountain Cossacks in Jever


There is a small German city of Jever on the shores of the North Sea, where Jever Pilsener beer is produced. Once Jever belonged to the Russian Empire. In the XVII century the city was in the possession of the princes of Anhalt-Zerbst. Augusta Frederica Sofia, better known as the Russian Empress Catherine II, was a princess of Anhalt-Zerbst. So when in 1793 the last prince of Anhalt-Zerbst died, his only sister, Queen Catherine, inherited Jever. The city became a part of the Russian Empire. In 1807 it was occupied by Napoleon. In 1813, French troops were driven away from the city, and it became Russian again. But in 1818 Alexander I gave it to his relatives – Dukes of Oldenburg.