For some reason, many Russians are sure that Catherine II sold Alaska to the Americans. Perhaps, the influence of the popular song of the group "Lube" - "Don't play the fool, America!" But, in fact, Catherine has nothing to do with the sale of Alaska. Alaska was sold in 1867, during the reign of Emperor Alexander II. Why did Russia decide to abandon this vast territory?
A huge number of myths, rumors, legends circulate around this event. But one circumstance is obvious: Russia in the sixties of the nineteenth century was in dire need of money. The Crimean War of 1853-1856 devastated the empire's treasury. In 1866, secret negotiations began between the tsarist government and the US leadership on the possible sale of Alaska.
The sales agreement was signed on March 30, 1867 in Washington. The deal amounted to $ 7, 200, 000. Until now, everyone is surprised - how could such a huge territory be sold for a small amount? But we can say that Russian diplomats were able to achieve some success during the negotiations. Initially, only $ 5, 000, 000 was considered.
There is a version that Alaska was not sold, but just leased out for a period of 100 years. However, no documentary evidence of this could be found. By the way, there was no sales agreement in Russian; the document was drawn up in English and French, the main diplomatic languages.
On October 18, 1867, a flag-changing ceremony took place in front of the house of the ruler of Alaska. An interesting fact: the flag of the Russian Empire stubbornly did not want to leave the flagpole, being confused at the very top. One of the sailors had to climb up to remove the flag. Since 1917, October 18 has been officially celebrated in the United States as Alaska Day.
The Russian envoy to Washington, Edward Stekl, who actively participated in negotiations with the United States on the sale of Alaska, received from the emperor a one-time bonus of 25, 000 rubles, plus an annual pension of 6, 000. True, in 1869 he resigned and went to Paris: in Russia Stekl became an extremely unpopular figure; he was reproached for conspiracy with the Americans and "behind the scenes" machinations.
The total area of Alaska was more than 1.5 million square kilometers. It turns out that for each kilometer Russia received $ 4 73 cents. The amount is more than modest.
But, there is another mystery - where did the money for Alaska go? There were persistent rumors that these same 7 million dollars never arrived in Russia. There was an assumption that the same valuable cargo was on board the Orkney ship, which sank in 1868 near St. Petersburg. But, this is just a guess.
A document was found in the State Historical Archives, which stated that almost all the money was spent abroad on the purchase of equipment for the railways. Perhaps it is so. It is much more pleasant to think that the money for Alaska did not disappear, but was invested in railway construction.