About this Collection
The Russian-American Company records, once part of the personal library of Gennadiĭ Vasilʹevich Yudin (1840-1912), date from 1783 to 1830 and include 166 items (1,369 images), ranging in length from one to more than one hundred pages. Yudin was a wealthy merchant and distiller from Krasnoiarsk, Siberia. He was also an amateur bibliographer who built a library numbering approximately 80,000 volumes documenting every aspect of Russian history and culture with a particular focus on Siberia. In 1906, Yudin sold his collection to the Library of Congress. Alexis Babine (1866-1930), the Library’s specialist in Slavic literature, met with Yudin in Krasnoiarsk and arranged for the purchase of the collection and its shipment to the Library of Congress. When the Yudin Collection arrived at the Library of Congress it was housed in the Slavic Section. Today it is spread across many divisions of the Library. The records of the Russian-American Company, 1783-1830, the focus of this website, are in the Manuscript Division.
The Russian-American Company
The Russian-American Company was a joint stock company chartered in 1799 by Paul I of Russia, the son and heir of Catherine the Great. The company resulted from a consolidation of several Russian companies founded earlier in the eighteenth century to trade in Alaskan furs. Gregorii Shelikhov (1747-1795), a founder of the Russian-American Company, had been a principal in several of these predecessor companies, including the partnership he founded in 1781 with merchant Ivan Golikov. Shelikhov’s widow, Natalia Alekseeva Shelikhova, took over management of the company after his death and obtained the charter from Paul I.
The Company, based in Irkutsk, Siberia, established a headquarters at New Archangel (today Sitka, Alaska), from which it traded in furs with the local people, established religious missions, and sought to establish Russian colonial settlements on America’s northwest coast. The company also had an interest in trade with the Far East, including Japan.
The records of the Russian-American Company include correspondence of Gregorii Shelikhov, Natalia Shelikhova, and other company officials, ships’ logs, expedition records, company reports, and lists of the goods the company traded. They document the operations of the company and its predecessors in Siberia and Alaska, the lives of company personnel and the native people they encountered in Alaska and Siberia, Russian colonization and missionary efforts in Alaska and the Pacific coast of North America, including California, and trade and diplomatic relations between Russia and Japan. The records are mostly in Russian, with some in English, German, and French. The manuscript of a brief autobiography by Yudin is also included here.
“Meeting of Frontiers,” 2002-2021
The digital images of the Russian-American Company available here were previously part of a 2002 Library of Congress website titled “Meeting of Frontiers.” That site included a selection of digital collections from the Library of Congress and Russian libraries documenting the history of the Russian expansion across Siberia to the Russian Far East and the Pacific, the American expansion westward, and the meeting of the Russian-America frontier in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.