History of Alyeska

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Early History

Indigenous peoples occupied Alaska for thousands of years before the arrival of European peoples. Linguistic and DNA studies have provided evidence for the settlement of North America by way of the Bering land bridge. Alaska was home to many indigenous groups. The Tlingit people developed a society with a matrilineal kinship system of property inheritance and descent in Southeast Alaska. Also in the southeast were the Haida, well known for their unique art. The Aleutian Islands are home to the Aleut people, a maritime society. Other groups include the Yup'ik and Alutiiq in Southcentral Alaska, the Gwich'in of the north, and the Inupiat of the east.

European Exploration and Settlement

Historians generally agree that the first Russian settlement in Alaska was established as early as the 1600s. However, it was during the 1800s that substantial Russian exploration efforts began in Alaska.

European Claims

Siberian hunters in early Alyeska

The first European power to explore the region were the Russians in the 18th and 19th centuries, who sailed from the Russian Far East to Alaska. In 1788, the private Kurile Island Company, originally founded to explore the business opportunities in the Kurile Islands, was given by the Russian Czar a permission to explore the region of what is now modern-day Alaska. A few years later, the czar proclaimed the Ukase of 1790, which detailed the initial claims of Russia on the American continent. The Kurile Island Company was given a charter to the Aleutian Islands and eventually other parts of Alaska.

In 1805, the Dana-Pieters expedition resulted in the Dutch claiming parts of the Pacific Northwest, including parts of Russia's claimed territory, most notably Kolchak Island.

Kolchak Expedition and the Port Alexander Colony (1816-1832)

To further strengthen their presence and activity to counter the Dutch explorations, the Kurile Island Company hired the explorer and surveyor A. Kolchak in 1815 to explore the southernmost parts of the Russian Claims. Kolchak sailed from Novo-Arkhangelsk, along the Pacific Northwest coast and into the Salish Sea. The region which Kolchak sailed upon was claimed by both the Russians and the Dutch. Following the successful expedition, the Kurile Island Company established the short-lived Port Alexander Colony in 1816 on the present-day Kolchak Island (now part of the modern-day Westerzee Province, Tussenland). The colony soon proved to be mismanaged and unprofitable. In 1832, the settlement was abandoned and the Russians dropped their claims in the Pacific Northwest region (Russo-Dutch Treaty of 1832). Remnants of the old Russian rule in the region is evident in the surviving Saint Sofia church, now in present-day Westerzee Province of Tussenland.

Russo-Dutch Treaty of 1832

The Russo-Dutch Treaty of 1832 was a treaty signed between Russia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, detailing the borders between their colonies. In the treaty, the Russians agreed to give their southernmost claims up to the Dutch in exchange for other concessions. The treaty forms the basis for the modern-day border between Tussenland and Alyeska.

Russian Colonization

Early Colonization by Private Russian Trade Companies

Novo-Arkhangelsk in 1837

The Kurile Island Company

During the colony's early years, it was largely ignored by the state. Most colonization efforts were done by multiple private companies (such as the First Kurile Island Company (1786-1832), Antsiferov-Kuchin Company (1816-1821), and the Second Kurile Island Company (1841-1861). Only a few of their colonization efforts were successful. The Kurile Island Company was the most successful of these early companies, establishing the settlement and soon-to-be capital of Alaska, Novo-Arkhangelsk, in 1803 under the auspices of the Tsar. The Kurile Island Company built the Saint Michael Cathedral in Novo-Arkhangelsk, the oldest cathedral in Alyeska in 1828. Financial trouble soon struck the First Kurile Island Company, and declared bankruptcy in 1832, which became a factor in the signing of the Russo-Dutch Treaty of 1832. The company was briefly revived in 1841 as the "Second Kurile Island Company," but was less successful than the first company. The revived company lasted until 1861. Lesser known companies such as the Antsiferov-Kuchin Company were established but were unsuccessful in their colonial and business efforts.

Renewed colonial enthusiasm, and the Russian Pacific Company

Alyeskan prospectors in 1893

The Russian Pacific Company was a state-sponsored company established in 1865 and operated in the Russian Far East. In the 1870s, after realizing the geopolitical importance of Alyeska to Russian interests, the Tsar granted a monopolistic charter to the Russian Pacific Company to oversee the colonization and management of the territory. Since the company was state-funded, the Russian Pacific Company was able to pour more development into Alyeska than its private company predecessors.

1890s Alyeskan Gold Rush

In the 1890s, gold was discovered in the Alyeskan territory. This resulted in an influx of immigrants from Russia and East Asia to Alyeska. The Russian Pacific Company quickly established regulations on the gold trade in response.

20th Century

As the population in Alyeska grew, the Russian Pacific Company enacted several reforms to the governance of the colony. Some power was devolved to the local population to make the management of the colony more efficient. After the Russian monarchy was dismantled in 1926 by republican forces, the Russian Pacific Company swore allegiance to the First Russian Republic. However, after the fall of the Russian Republic and the civil war between the Liberals and the National-Republicans, Alyeska enjoyed de facto independence. After the Nationalist-Republicans emerged victorious in Alyeska, General Mikhail Orlov sent an emissary to Alyeska in 1929 to negotiate with the Russian Pacific Company. In 1930, the Treaty of Novo-Arkhangelsk was signed, officially declaring Alyeska to be a special territory of the National Republic of Russia. In addition, a commissar appointed by Moscow and would play a minor role in the administration of Alyeska.

Autonomous National Republic of Alyeska

In 1940, a decree from the Russian Committee of National Affairs elevated Alyeska's status from a special territory to an Autonomous National Republic (ANR). Under the new system, the partially democratic institutions put in place by the Russian Pacific Company were dismantled, conforming to the ANR structure. Dimitri Abramov was appointed as the chairman of the new autonomous republic. This change brought about protests throughout Alyeska in varying degrees, which were eventually put out by 1944.

The next decades were marked by tense relations between Alyeska and the mainland Russian government. Dimitri Abramov, was seen by many Alyeskans as a puppet of the National Republicans, placed to enforce their policies and serve their interests at the expense of the local populace. Abramov's administration started a campaign to replace the partially democratic institutions previously put in place by the Russian Pacific Company with National Republican structures. These changes were widely unpopular, with many Alyeskans viewing them as eroding the local decision-making power and imposing a mainland culture that was alien to them.

While Alyeska was rich in natural resources, particularly timber and mineral wealth, the local population saw little benefit from this wealth. Russian government corporations were the primary beneficiaries, with revenues siphoned off to the mainland.

Meanwhile, a distinct Alyeskan identity was emerging. Alyeskans began to take pride in their unique cultural heritage, a blend of traditional Russian, American, and indigenous influences. This identity was reinforced by a shared experience of feeling neglected and exploited by the Russian government, helping to unite disparate communities across the region.

Path towards independence

Arctic Lights oil spill (1968)

In 1968, a tanker operated by the Russian state-owned oil corporation experienced a catastrophic failure, leading to the release of millions of gallons of crude oil into the North Pacific Ocean, a hundred milliaria away from the coasts of Novo-Arkhangelsk. The oil spill resulted in extensive damage to the local ecosystem. Innumerable marine animals and seabirds perished, critical habitats were destroyed, and vast stretches of coastline were contaminated. The Russian government's response to the disaster was broadly criticized. Despite initial promises of immediate and comprehensive cleanup, the efforts were marked by slow progress and a lack of coordination. The state failed to mobilize sufficient resources or personnel to effectively manage the crisis, exacerbating the environmental damage.

Further controversy arose when the Russian government declined international assistance for cleanup operations. This decision, widely regarded as an attempt to minimize international scrutiny and control the narrative, prolonged the ecological damage and hindered recovery efforts. The fishing industry, a critical sector of the local economy, was severely impacted, resulting in widespread job losses and economic hardship. The incident also led to a significant decline in tourism, a major revenue source for the region. Protests and demonstrations became commonplace, fueled by growing resentment towards the government's perceived negligence and exploitation of Alyeskan resources.

Alyeskan Independence War

Novo-Arkhangelsk coup (March 1978)

In early 1978, members of the Alyeskan National Militia led a coup in Novo-Arkhangelsk, declaring the nation's independence. Upon receiving news of the uprising, Sergey Gromov, the Chairman of the Russian National Republic, sought a diplomatic resolution and promptly dispatched a delegation to negotiate with the insurrectionists. However, these efforts were rebuffed when the coup's leader, Nikolaj Tryndin, held clandestine discussions with representatives from the ANAN, further straining relations.

Gromov's diplomatic approach turned to military action following the failed negotiations and the revelation of ANAN's involvement. He commanded the Russian military contingents stationed in Alyeska to retake the government buildings seized by the rebels. Despite the swift crackdown on the initial uprising, the militia transitioned into a guerrilla warfare campaign, continuing their fight for independence in the weeks that ensued.

Alyeska's entry into ANAN (April 1979)

In March 1978, ANAN publicly entered negotiations with Nikolaj Tryndin to facilitate Alyeska's accession to their bloc. This move was met with stern criticism from Sergey Gromov, who stated "a responsible member of the international community would recognize the folly of intruding into the sovereign affairs of others."

Despite Gromov's rebuke, ANAN countered that Alyeska met the criteria for membership and, as a North American entity, had the right to join the alliance. On March 18, 1978, ANAN officially welcomed Alyeska as its eleventh member, asserting that Russia had no jurisdiction over American soil and over ANAN affairs. This declaration further escalated tensions between ANAN and the Russian National Republic.

ANAN intervention (May 1978 - October 1979)

In a surprise move, ANAN launched an incursion from Tussenland to liberate Alyeska from the Russians, overwhelming unprepared Russian forces in Alyeska, swiftly gaining control of key areas, including Novo-Arkhangelsk. By July 1978, Russian forces are pushed westward, yielding interior positions. By September 1978, ANAN was able to establish dominance over Alyeska, except for the Aleutian Islands. This led to an island hopping campaign in the island chain, eventually culminating in a brief invasion of Kamchatka Harbor. The conflict came to a stalemate, and a ceasefire was negotiated by the International League in October 1979.

Post-independence (1979-present)

Following the independence of Alyeska from Russia in 1979, the nation was ruled by a military junta, before transitioning to democratic governance in 1985.

Military junta (1979-1985)

For the first few years of independence, the ANAN allowed the nation to be ruled by a military junta led by independence leader Nikolaj Tryndin, on the condition that Tryndin would eventually navigate the fledgling nation towards democracy. Tryndin would foster a more creole national identity as part of his nation building campaign. The first party, the Democratic Party of Alyeska, was formed in 1981. In 1982, the administrative divisions of Alyeska were created.

By July 1985, the first elections held successfully, with Konstantin Alkhimov becoming the first president of Alyeska. Nikolaj Tryndin would serve under Alkhimov's government as the minister of defense.

See also