Playing out Russian history: Russia selling Alaska to the U.S.

Natalya Nosova
There are many complex events and stories in Russian history. Instead of (sometimes) boring analysis, we decided to retell a few of these stories as short plays with countries, historical figures, and people as characters.

Cast:

Russia👑 – an Eastern European empire, powerful, always short of money, and full of corrupt officials.
U.S.🇺🇸 – a young mighty state, but dealing with inner political problems. An enemy of Great Britain.
Great Britain🇬🇧 – “ruler of the seas.” Enemy (sometimes ally) of Russia and the U.S. Wants to cut profits for both of them.
Russian-American company – a Russian state-funded company established for trade with America.
Russian explorers – different Russian explorers, sailors, and merchants.
Count Muravyov-Amursky – Governor-general of Eastern Siberia.
Officers of the Russian-American company – naval officers, young Russian noblemen, as arrogant as they are stupid.
Russians👩‍🌾👨‍🌾
Americans
Aleuts – Alaskan locals
Tlingit indians – violent Alaskan locals

1732

Russian explorers (officially discovering 🗺️ Alaska): Ohh! A new land to explore and conquer! 😀 New people to trade goods with!


Aleuts:  {|”|}*&()!*#%^&%!&! (Welcome, shiny, amazing white people! 🤩)


Russian explorers: Oh hi there! In our worldview, you’re not people at all, you’re barbarians 👹 (Start killing 💀 sea otters and walruses, depriving 💢 Aleuts of their food and upsetting their traditional way of life).


Aleuts: !?***(?*) {|”|}*&()!*#%^&%!&! (Go away, pale-faced devils, we’ll kill you and burn your ships! 🔥).


Russian explorers: Huh? Have you seen our firearms? 🔫 (Take some Aleut towns by force 💣).

Aleuts have no choice but to start trading 🛶 with the Russians. In the next 30 years, the Aleut population of Alaska is diminished by 70 percent because of provision shortages.

1763

Aleuts: *(!I*)*(!^&%&$%!%^$%! !?***(?*) {|”|}*&()!*#%^&%!&! (We’ve had enough. Go away, pale-faced devils, we’ll kill you and burn your ships!) 
Russian explorers (newly arrived ones)


Russia👑: Let’s cut the crap, guys. You’re just killing each other and as a result I’ll have no trade with the American continent.

1799

Russia👑: May you govern Alaska and may I profit from it, because the tsar is one of the main shareholders of your stock!


Russian-American company (upon arriving in Alaska): Holy bananas! Take a look at this shindig! 💎 Walrus ivory! Sea otter fur! Tea and silk from China! Great gold deposits underground! 🏆 We’ll become stinking rich! 🤑


Tlingit Indians: “Hokaaaaaaaaahey!”! 🏹


Russia👑: Oh God, you can’t even fight Indians in goddamn canoes! I’m sending reinforcements ASAP. 🐎


Russian-American company: <Reinforcements arrive and destroy almost the entire population of Tlingit Indians ⚰️, take back Sitka>


Russia👑: At last! I already thought I should have raised Suvorov from the dead to help you guys. Come on, let’s earn some dough. 💸💸💸

1819

Officers of Russian-American company: First, we’re changing the statute – now only naval officers can control the company! 💰 Also, let’s make our salaries as high as the salaries of imperial ministers! 🎉 Throw a party! We’ll shake them ol’ glaciers!


Russian-American company: Guys, now we’re short of money.
Officers of Russian-American company: We’ll just make the Aleuts kill more sea otters – from now on, we’re buying them at half price!


Aleuts: !?***(?*) {|”|}*&()!*#%^&%!&! (dirty swearing in Aleutian 🤬🤬🤬)

Russian-American company: Well, it’s going down the drain, anyway. Our new managers can’t even organize sea trade properly. 🤦‍♂️ It seems they are always out drinking 🍻and dancing 🕺. Russia, I’m close to bankruptcy. 📉


Russia👑 (assigns a 200,000-rubles annual stipend to save the Russian-American company from bankruptcy – equivalent to an annual salary of two imperial ministers): God damn these frail officers! I’m losing a fortune! Ooops! A war! ⚔️ Now, this is just awesome.

1853 (Crimean War ⚔️ starts in Europe)

Count Muravyov-Amursky (📜 writes a letter to Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia):

Your Imperial Majesty 🤴,
The U.S.🇺🇸 has built a railroad – soon, they’ll be at the Alaskan border. Sooner or later we’ll have to surrender our Northern American lands to the U.S…


Great Britain🇬🇧: May I borrow a minute of your time to kindly 🧐 inform you that your garrisons in Alaska are few and ill-numbered. Oh hey! Looks like your Far East is unprotected as well! Our Majesty and France are sending the fleet to conquer your easternmost town, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky! 💂


Russia👑: Not as unprotected as you think! 💪

(Garrison of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky gloriously defends ⚔️ the port and defeats the British fleet)

Russia👑: In your face, Mother England!


Great Britain🇬🇧: God forsake these mad Russians! You lost the Crimean War, anyway, and your Emperor has just died! Also, I’ll block Alaska from the seas! 😤


U.S.🇺🇸: Well, you have very few options here, so here’s $7 million… (appr. $123 million in today’s value).


Russia👑: $7 million? 😩 Could you then throw in a beer or two, maybe? What can I buy with this money? A ship? ⛵ Okay, two ships? ⛵⛵ That’s approximately 11 million Russian rubles – just as much as I spend every year on the Ministry of Imperial Court. That’s peanuts, guys!


U.S.🇺🇸: Well, all we can do is give away part of this sum in railroad equipment 🛤️ you now need so desperately. 🚂

Russians👩‍🌾👨‍🌾: Hey! Up there on the throne! Are you nuts? 💢 Americans just found gold mines in Alaska! Why are you selling land still wet with the blood of our soldiers? 😠


Russia👑: I can’t protect this land, anyway. 🤷‍♂️

Great Britain🇬🇧: 🧐
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

Russia👑: Hear that? Eager to fight ⚔️ the Crimean War again? Against one of the best armies in Europe?


Russians👩‍🌾👨‍🌾: (inconsistent mumbling. Swearing can also be heard). 🙁😡


Russia👑: Now, that’s better.


U.S.🇺🇸: (Starts mining gold ⛏️ in Alaska. The Gold Rush starts 🏆): My preciousssss... 💍


Russia👑: Oh! These pathetic imperialist states. Well, I’ve got my own country to run, we’ve just abolished serfdom. Didn’t need that American icebox anyway – my favorite sea otters are gone. ☠️

Disclaimer: This text is a fictional account of the complex relations between European states from the 18th to 19th centuries. Historical accuracy here is sometimes being sacrificed in favor of dramatic composition, but the core facts are true.

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