View of the harbour in Sitka, Alaska, USA
© Blaine Harrington III/Alam
When Russia owned Alaska…. Sitka shines on Alaska Day
Welcome to the Alaskan city of Sitka which, more than a century and a half ago, was known as Novo-Arkhangelsk and was the capital of Russia’s colonial possessions in North America. But on 18 October 1867, the Russian Empire formally transferred the Territory of Alaska to the United States, selling it for $7.2 million (about £5.5m).
It might sound like a bit of steal these days, but it wasn’t seen that way back then. Critics called the deal ‘Seward's Folly’, after the then-US Secretary of State who negotiated it. Few Americans moved to what was known as the ‘last frontier' at first. But, when gold was discovered in Alaska and Yukon, the Canadian territory it borders, in the 1890s, a rush of prospectors and others began a wave of settlers into the territory.
Ever since, this most northerly US state, with its vast natural resources and staggering beauty, has been a prized American domain and 18 October has been celebrated as Alaska Day.