Did Russia Have Colonies?

Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867.
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Beginning in the 16th century, European countries created colonies all across the world. While Britain, Spain, Portugal, France and others quickly colonized North America, Russia created colonies that are less well known. Russia's form of colonization primarily involved expanding eastward from its capital territory in Eastern Europe into Asia and Siberia. By the 18th century, however, Russia jumped across the Pacific Ocean and founded settlements in Alaska and California.

1 Alaska and California

By 1639, Russian explorers reached the Pacific Ocean after passing through Siberia; this Siberian expansion created the large Russian nation that exists today. Within a century, Russian explorers sailed across the Bering Strait in 1728, and by 1741, they moved into the Aleutian Islands of modern-day Alaska. The Russian settlements in Alaska were used primarily for exporting fur. To facilitate improved trade, Russia later established a fort in California to trade with the Spanish colonies there. By the mid-1800s, however, Russia's maintenance of Alaska was becoming expensive because of the British presence in Canada, which caused the costs of defending Alaska to rise. In addition, Russia wanted to focus more on its territories north of China. With profits in Alaska declining, Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867.

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.