How many ethnic Russians, or inhabitants with recent roots in Russia, were there in Alaska when US bought it? Were they hunters, farmers, traders? How many stayed and became Americans?


2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article on the Alaska Purchase discusses the population of Alaska before the purchase:

Seward told the nation that the Russians estimated that Alaska contained about 2,500 Russians and those of mixed race (that is, a Russian father and native mother), and 8,000 indigenous people, in all about 10,000 people under the direct government of the Russian fur company, and possibly 50,000 Inuit and Alaska Natives living outside its jurisdiction

This population of Russians were part of the Russian American Company, which was mainly invested in gathering furs. The treaty of the transfer allowed for any Russian who wished to remain to to so.

From History of Alaska by Bancroft:

...treaty provides that with the exception of the uncivilized native tribes the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty property and religion

These individuals, however, were essentially homeless and jobless in what rapidly became a classic 'frontier' region, and with many disadvantages.

The natives were not slow to take advantage of their opportunity and refused to sell the Russians game or fish at former rates while the Americans refused to accept the parchment money which formed their circulating medium in payment for goods except at a heavy discount

So most were relocated by the Russian American Company. Again according to Bancroft:

Within a few weeks or perhaps months after the transfer there were not more than a dozen Russians left at Sitka the remainder having been sent home by way of California or round the Horn

  • 2
    Around the Horn? Why not direct to Vladivostock?
    – user207421
    Apr 6, 2017 at 1:20
  • 12
    Unless you lived in the Far East, you really don't want to go to Vladivostok. Not until this showed up. Apr 6, 2017 at 1:32
  • 2
    Only a dozen stayed. But there might be some American families around today who trace back to pre-American Russian Alaska?
    – LocalFluff
    Apr 6, 2017 at 8:51
  • 2
    @LocalFluff Definitely is possible. A lot of questions on this forum have focused on the Russian American Company and their Fort Ross colony site. The same author I quote, Bancroft, discusses the Russians in his History of California as well. If there were 2500 Russians living in Alaska its not unreasonable to think some emigrated into the US after leaving.
    – justCal
    Apr 6, 2017 at 12:21

Apparently, the vast majority of Russian settlers went home. However, some remained and preserved their culture. Several years ago, I've read an article about a peculiar dialect of the Russian language which managed to survive in a remote Alaskan area, a village named Ninilchik.

Russian sources (https://www.gazeta.ru/science/2013/07/09_a_5417937.shtml) indicate that the village population never exceeded 200 - 300 persons.

Here's a couple of English versions of the same story:



The settlement was founded in 1847. Ethnic Russians who had settled in Alaska and intermingled with the locals were much of its population. When the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, links between Ninilchik and Russia broke off. Up until the 1960s, the locals had next to no contact with other Russian speakers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.