The Russian discovery of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands by Vitus Bering (1681-1741) and Aleksiei Chirikov (d. 1748) in 1741 was inspired by Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725). For half a century thereafter, adventurous frontiersmen and fur traders, the promyshlenniki, ranged from the Kurile Islands to southeastern Alaska, often exploiting Native seafaring skills to mine the rich supply of sea otter and seal pelts for the lucrative China trade.

One of these daring traders, Grigorii Shelekhov (1747-1795), encouraged by Tsarina Catherine the Great (1729-1796), established the first colony in Alaska, in 1784, at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island. Shelekhov's colonial administrator, Alexandr Baranov, ruled so long (1790-1818) and effectively that he came to be known as "Lord" of Russian America. In 1794, the Tsarina fulfilled Shelekhov's pleas to establish an Orthodox mission in Alaska, and in 1799, Tsar Paul I (1754-1801) awarded Shelekhov's Russian American Company monopolistic control over trade and government, thus inextricably entwining the Company and the Church. The Company financed the Church in its missionary and educational work, while the Church became the custodian not only of the colony's morals -- often in opposition to Company practices -- but also of the spiritual and intellectual nurturing of the Native Alaskans.

Although the initial confrontation of Russians and Alaskans was sometimes bloody, with the coming of the Orthodox priests relations generally became more harmonious and mutually beneficial. Before long, however, in 1867, Alaska was taken over by the Americans, for whom gold was, initially, a primary concern. Despite the radical changes wrought by Americans, the deep impression of Russia and Russian Orthodoxy remain to this day in Alaska.

Engraved map. Map of the Marine Discoveries of Russian Navigators in the Pacific and Icy Seas, Accomplished in Various Years. Compiled at His Imperial Majesty's depot of charts, corrected by the latest observations of Foreign navigators, and engraved in the year 1802. G4371.F35 1802 .M Vault Oversize, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (1)

  • Photograph of a lithograph. [Catherine II]. Biographical File, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (2)
  • Photograph of a lithograph. [Grigorii Shelikov]. From, General Collections, Library of Congress (3)
  • Manuscript document. Order to the Citizen of Rylsk and Companion of the Northeastern American Company Mr. Shelekhov, from Her Imperial Majesty Catherine II, May 12, 1794, p.7. Box 1, Yudin Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (4)
  • Color photocopies. [Ainu Woman and Man]. From the facsimile edition of Atlas to the Voyage around the World of Captain Kruzenshtern, 1813. Tokyo: Tenri Central Library, 1973, pls. 77, 78. G1036.K7 1813a Vault, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (5a,b)
  • Manuscript report. On the report of the Kamchatka Ecclesiastical Consistory with a presentation on the agreement made with the Toen, June 29, 1794, p.1. D27, Alaskan Russian Church Archives, Manuscript Division (6)
  • Photograph copyprint, from a lithograph, die cut. Nikolai Petrovich Resanov. Biographical File, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (7)
  • Photograph from a lithograph. Alexander Baranov. Biographical File, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (8)
  • Holograph document. This copy of secret instructions left by me upon departure from America to Mr. Baranov, signed by Nikolai Resanov, July 20, 1806, Article 17, pp.34,35. Box 1, Yudin Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (9)
  • Holograph chart. Confessional list of the Kurile Islands, Simusira and Urup, for 1846, compiled by Fr. Andrei Miloradovskii on August 30, 1846, pp. 2,5. D27, Alaskan Russian Church Archives, Manuscript Division (10)
  • Broadside. St. Petersburg current price no. 76, published by the Ministry of Finance at the Department of External Trade every Tuesday and Friday during times of navigation..., December 29, 1811, pp.l,4. Box 2, Yudin Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (11)
  • Manuscript letter. To his Reverence, the Very Reverend Lavrentii Salamatov, Atka St. Nicholas Church, from Toen of the Andreanov Aleuts Feodor Didiukhin, confidential letter, October l, 1863, p.1. D35, Alaskan Russian Church Archives, Manuscript Division (13)
  • Color-lithographed map. Colton's Map of the Territory of Alaska (Russian America) ceded by Russia to the United States. San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft & Co., 1868. TC Alaska 1868 Colton, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (14)
  • Color-printed map. The Klondike Gold Fields Map of Alaska and a Portion of the Northwest Territory, Showing Routes to the Gold Fields. Chicago: Poole Bros., 1897. TC Alaska 1897 Klondike Region Poole Bros., Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (15)
  • Chromolithograph. Map of the Klondike Region Showing Routes, Distances, etc. by Rail and Water. New York: Brown, 1897. TC Alaska 1897 Brown, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (16)
  • Manuscript memoir. The Harriman Expedition: Chronicles and Souveniers, May to August 1899, by Edward H. Harrison, et al, pp.70,7l. Box 1034, Vault, Harriman Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (16a)