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Alaska State Government & Politics (Alaska Historical by Gerald McBeath

By Gerald McBeath

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Page 5 From about 1745, Russian fur hunters harvested off the Aleutians and gradually moved east toward Kodiak Island and southeast Alaska. Russian America had many weaknesses, including labor shortage, natural climatic severity, inadequate transportation, and most critically, insufficient food supply. Also, fur bearers were becoming depleted, there was fierce competition between Russian fur traders, and British and American entrepreneurs were beginning to offer strong competition. Despite all these problems, the Russians established the first permanent settlement in 1784 on the southwestern coast of Kodiak Island at Three Saints Harbor.

Russian Rule Between 1790 and 1840, Russia effectively rivaled Great Britain, Spain, and the United States for control of the resources of the northwest coast of Page 4 North America. Russian occupancy of Alaska from the late eighteenth century was the latest and farthest phase of a protracted and extensive eastward expansion the Russians had launched in the mid-sixteenth century. Their advance across northern Asia was speeded by the taiga's abundance of furs, Europe's ready markets, and a lack of foreign competition.

The Great Northern Expedition was to be vast in scope. Bering proposed to explore and chart the western coast of America and establish commercial relations with that country, visit Japan and the Amur, and chart the Arctic coast of Siberia. By 1733, detachments of the expedition left St. Petersburg. Bering had the ships St. Peter and St. Paul built. Bering founded the settlement of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, wintered there, and departed from there in May 1741. Bering and Chirikov, his second-in-command, became separated almost immediately, and the latter returned to Kamchatka that same year.

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