Russian-American historical and cultural heritage
Российско-американское историческое и культурное наследие

Форт Росс, 1828
Fort Ross, 1828
Церковь в Форте Росс
Fort Ross Chapel

ФОРТ РОСС
Русское поселение (1812)

Распространение российского влияния в Северной Америке и Тихоокеанском регионе начинается с середины XVIII в. В 1741 г. предпринимается первая крупная научно-торговая экспедиция на Аляску. К началу XIX в. Русско-американская компания уже могла успешно конкурировать с английскими и американскими торговцами мехом до самых южных берегов Калифорнии.

Из-за непродолжительного вегетационного периода на Аляске колонистам было трудно добывать пищу на территории своих новых поселений. Поэтому было принято решение основать колонию на побережье Калифорнии – в районе с более умеренным климатом.

В 1808 г. Иван Кусков закладывает русское поселение к северу от того места, где сегодня находится Сан-Франциско. Первоначально оно именуется Румянцевским фортом и отмечает самую южную границу русских поселений в Северной Америке. Главная цель колонистов − поставлять на Аляску продовольствие и охотиться на каланов.

13 августа 1812 г. над российским аванпостом был поднят государственный флаг – с этого момента он именуется Форт Росс. Это не только торгово-промышленная база, но и оборонительная крепость с 41 пушкой. Впрочем, Форт Росс никогда не принимал участия в военных действиях. В течение трех десятилетий русские колонисты мирно сосуществовали с коренными американцами, занимались сельским хозяйством, охотой и судостроением, торговали с Испанией и Соединенными Штатами.

В 1820-1840-е гг. рентабельность колонии постепенно снижалась – ее упадок был в целом обусловлен ослаблением позиций Русско-американской компании. В 1841 г. Форт Росс продается американцам.

Сегодня здания форта бережно реконструированы, здесь находится открытый для посетителей Национальный исторический парк, где сохраняется русское культурно-историческое наследие.

FORT-ROSS
Russian settlement (1812)

As a growing empire, Russia played an important, leading role in the development of the Western hemisphere. The expansion into the North American continent started with a massive scientific and trade expedition to Alaska in 1741. The Fur trade between Russians and natives was established, and first permanent settlements began to appear. By the early 19th century, The Russian-American Company successfully competed with British and American fur-trading interests.

Due to the very short growing season in Alaska, Russian colonists could not produce their own food in their new settlements. Thereby the officials of the Company insisted on establishing the settlement along the more temperate shores of California, because it could serve both as a source of food and a base for exploiting the abundant sea otters in the region. To that end, a large party of Russians and Aleuts sailed for California where they established Fort Ross on the coast north of San Francisco.

Founded by Commerce Counselor Ivan Kuskov of the Russian-American Company in 1808, Fort Ross (originally known as Rumyantsev Fort), marks the southernmost boundary of Russian settlements in North America. For the first time, the main goal of the settlement was to supply the Alaskan colonies with food and hunt fur-bearing sea otters. Kuskov needed to send highly profitable otter furs to Russia and he had to plant crops to feed the Alaskan colonies that were starving.

Later on Fort Ross began to function as a defensive fortress with 41 cannons. The flag over the fort was raised on August 13, 1812. Although the fort had the appearance of a military installation, it was never involved in warfare. For three decades, Russian colonists lived and intermarried with Native Americans, traded with Spain and the United States, and made a living through agriculture, otter-hunting and shipbuilding.

In 1820s, however, Fort Ross proved unable to fulfill either of its expected functions for very long. The American history of the site began in 1841, when Russians sold the fort to John Sutter of Gold Rush fame. The area served as ranch land for more than 60 years, until California designated it as a state historic park in 1906. By that time, the colony’s remaining structures had fallen into disrepair, and most of the buildings visitors see today are 20th-century reconstructions.

Speaking of the fort structure, on the perimeter it is defended by a stockade built redwood timber. The inner part consists of barracks, officers’ quarters, and a small, unadorned Russian Orthodox chapel with a simple belfry. The only original building from the Russian era is the home of the colony’s last manager, Alexander Rotchev. It has survived a patchwork of additions, a second life as a hotel and a 1971 arson fire.

Although it is thousands of miles from the motherland, for many of California’s Russian-Americans it feels like a link to their native soil. It was these devotees who struck up a call to preserve Fort Ross. Thanks for the efforts of the officials, Fort Ross was reconstructed several times and still stands his ground. It is now a part of Fort Ross State Historic Park, open to public. The park attracts thousands of visitors annually.