Russian Claims

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RUSSIAN CLAIMS. Tsar Paul I first defined Russia's claims to North America in his 1799 charter to the Russian-American Company, which established the territorial limits of the company's monopoly on Russian-American trade. These extended from the fifty-fifth parallel to the Bering Strait, but also empowered the company to explore south and north, and to trade with neighboring or attainable peoples, such as the Japanese. The company learned that the great market for furs was at Canton, China, and planned a great trade route to embrace the Asian islands and Alaska.

The Russians looked south to secure supplies for their Alaskan establishments. After some exploration, in 1809, the company established Fort Ross on the northern California coast as a supply station for meat and grain. The company never traded with the Spaniards and in 1841 abandoned the settlement.

In 1821, upon renewing the Russian-American Company's charter, the Russian government claimed authority over the coast to fifty-one degrees north latitude, alarming Great Britain and the United States, both of which claimed territory there. The two countries succeeded in limiting Russia's exclusive claim to the southern line of 54°40', and the British-Russian treaty of 1825 delimited Russian claims from the coast inland, thus establishing the basis for the boundary of Alaska as granted by Russia to the United States in 1867.


Pomeroy, Earl. The Pacific Slope: A History of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Tikhmenev, Petr Aleksandrovich. A History of the Russian-American Company. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978.

JosephSchafer/c. w.

See alsoExplorations and Expeditions: Russian ; Hudson's Bay Company ; Russia, Relations with .