Alaska is one of the 50 states that make up the United States, known worldwide. Most people are unaware of how a piece of territory that was once connected to Canada joined the United States.
The treaty transferring control of Russian America to the United States was signed early on March 30, 1867, between Russian Minister Edouard de Stoeckl and Secretary of State William Seward of the United States.
Although many individuals are familiar with the general plot of this narrative, very few are aware of the sale’s global implications.
The purchase was viewed as a crucial step in the creation of a Russian-American alliance, and many governments were afraid of the potential consequences. We’ll give a quick overview of the region’s history and discuss why Alaska is a state.
Why is Alaska Part of the United States?
An important step in the United States rise to become a great power in the Asia-Pacific area was taken with the acquisition of Alaska in 1867, which put an end to Russian aspirations to establish trade and colonies along North America’s Pacific coast.
Russia had a significant interest in this area, which was rich in natural resources and poorly populated, starting in 1725 when Russian Czar Peter the Great sent Vitus Bering to explore the Alaskan coast.
Americans quickly found themselves in conflict with Russian explorers and commerce as the US pushed westward in the early 1800s.
However, St. Petersburg lacked the financial means to maintain substantial settlements or a military presence along North America’s Pacific coast, and the number of permanent Russian inhabitants in Alaska was never more than 400. Russian interest in this area was further diminished by their defeat in the Crimean War.
Who Else Has Inhabited Alaska?
The Greater Anchorage-Kenai Peninsula area is home to more than three-fifths of Alaska’s population (including the Matanuska-Susitna borough north of Anchorage).
That area is well-known for its more comfortable temperatures, close proximity to the ocean, ice-free ports, and production of natural gas and petroleum.
The main banks, corporations, and federal and state administrative organizations with headquarters in Alaska also use it as the hub for air, land, and train transit.
The Greater Fairbanks region, which includes the town of Delta Junction, which was formerly the epicenter of gold mining and the terminal of the Alaska Railroad that runs from Seward to Fairbanks, is home to more than one-eighth of the population.
A sizeable amount of Alaska’s population is also found in the bigger fishing and tourist hubs of Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, and Juneau, which are located in the Gulf of Alaska islands and the southern coastline archipelago. Additionally, a large number of Alaskans reside in small towns that are located on rivers, roads, or the shore.
The majority of those are in western and the Arctic regions of Alaska, in the large towns of Barrow (near Point Barrow), Kotzebue, Nome, Bethel, Dillingham, Kodiak, and Unalaska, all of which saw rapid population expansion in the final quarter of the 20th century.
As the largest town on the North Slope and the northernmost in the country, Barrow has benefited significantly from taxes collected from Prudhoe Bay oil.
What Was the Reaction to the Purchase of Alaska?
The abrupt news that Russian America had been given to the United States in the midst of this global upheaval sparked a range of responses across Europe. Several American diplomats stationed in Europe said that everyone was utterly thrown off guard by the news.
Rumors circulated that as part of the Alaska agreement, America pledged to support Russia’s territorial aspirations in Europe and the Middle East.
When the Alaska Purchase was announced, France showed the most anxiety. Napoleon was particularly concerned about Russian plans in Europe, but the news of the purchase also terrified the French populace.
The announcement of the Alaska Purchase also caused some alarm in Prussia. Some Prussians also used the announcement of the Alaska Purchase as a forum to discuss the Luxembourg Crisis between Prussia and France.
Members of several North German parliaments spoke enthusiastically about the recent American annexation and emphasized how it perfectly exemplified the Monroe Doctrine.
The news of the Alaska Purchase concerned Constantinople’s politicians as well, who feared that a Russian-American alliance would result in the US siding with Russia in the Eastern Question.
So many critical issues were developing in Europe in the spring of 1867, and every country was working to manage both home and foreign dangers. The American purchase of Alaska was noted by officials and residents in European countries, who, for the most part, responded to the news with worry.
Responses to the Alaska Purchase in Europe show a developing understanding of both American and Russian might. Many people in Europe were concerned about the possibility of a true Russian-American alliance, the implications of this new alliance for the Near East, and the role that Russia might play in the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
When Did Alaska Become a State?
In 1859, Russia made the United States an offer to buy Alaska in the hopes that the latter would counter Great Britain’s plans to become its main Pacific adversary.
The transaction was postponed due to the impending American Civil War, but Secretary of State William Seward immediately accepted a fresh Russian offer and on March 30, 1867, agreed to a Russian Minister in Washington’s plan to buy Alaska for $7.2 million.
Alaska officially became a part of the United States on October 18, 1867, after the treaty of purchase was ratified by the Senate on April 9 and signed by President Andrew Johnson on May 28. This acquisition assured U.S. access to the Pacific northern rim while ending Russia’s presence in North America.
Following its purchase, the United States paid little attention to Alaska for thirty years while it was under military, naval, or Treasury control, or occasionally under no control at all. In order to enforce American mining regulations, the United States established a civil government in 1884.
The acquisition of Alaska had been nicknamed “Seward’s Folly” by critics, but the former secretary of state was justified when a significant gold deposit was found in the Yukon in 1896, making Alaska the entry point to the Klondike gold fields.
In World War II, the strategic significance of Alaska was first acknowledged. On January 3, 1959, Alaska was admitted as a state.
What Were the Alaska Gold Rushes?
The Russian Tsar Paul I was concerned that Britain was encroaching too closely on the Russian territory because of its growth over what was then known as British North America in Canada’s North.
He enacted a law making it unlawful for foreigners to profit from trade in the area and increased support for Russian colonies there.
Russian colonies in Alaska were finally sold to the United States as part of the Alaska Purchase, commonly known as Seward’s Folly since many Americans thought the territory was essentially useless after years of upheaval in the area.
But they couldn’t have been more mistaken. In the Canadian Yukon, gold was found in the late 19th century. Thousands of people migrated north in search of riches even though it was uncertain whether Alaska would also contain gold. When gold was eventually found outside of Nome, a constant flow of gold rushers swarmed the area.
What Other Significant Events Have Happened in Alaska?
Since becoming a state, Alaska has been in the news for a number of different reasons. The Prince William Sound was devastated by the greatest earthquake to ever occur in North America in March 1964. On the Richter scale, it registered as a 9.2.
Fortunately, there weren’t many people living there. Although 130 people died, this number is sadly low for an earthquake of this size. However, it resulted in the destruction of numerous buildings and a tsunami that struck Hawaii and California.
On Alaska’s North Slope, in a place called Prudhoe Bay, oil was discovered in 1968. Over the ensuing ten years, a pipeline network was constructed, permanently altering the state’s economic landscape. The biggest oil field in North America is Prudhoe Bay.
The majority of jobs in Alaska before this discovery were seasonal jobs in construction and fishing. Between the oil field’s discovery and 2003, employment in Alaska increased. In 2007, the oil industry in Alaska accounted for more than one-third of all employment.
Sadly, as the industry grew, 11 million gallons of oil leaked into Prince William Sound in 1989, causing a significant oil spill. The local animals were wiped off by this. It took more than three years to clean up.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which was passed in 1980, was created. More than 100 million acres of land were set aside for preservation and protection as a result.
These properties now make up a portion of Alaska’s federal park system. Alaska is the state with the largest percentage of national park acreage.
What Does Alaska Look Like Today?
Many people may imagine a sparsely populated tundra or small communities devoid of modern conveniences when they think about Alaska. There are still places like this, but much of Alaska has grown in a similar way to the rest of the United States.
There are now towns and cities spread out across the state. Anchorage, which has a population of 300,000, is the biggest city. Larger Alaskan cities have access to the same restaurants, theaters, shopping malls, and parks as other American cities.
The majority of the public schools look quite similar to those in the lower 48 states, and residents have access to TV and the internet. Of course, some Alaskans continue to want to live in isolated places and lead solitary lives.
The state has 156 state parks, 17 national parks, and 16 national wildlife refuges. Forests, lakes, glaciers, fjords, and mountain ranges are among the natural landscapes. The largest mountain peak in North America, Mount Denali, is perched atop one of these ranges, the Alaska Range.
In the summer, the sun never sets in the state’s northern regions. These same places receive no sunlight during the winter. Alaska is home to a wide range of species. Depending on the season, brown and black bears can be seen in forests and close to rivers.
The state’s most northern regions are also home to polar bears. In the parks and woods of Alaska, moose are frequently seen. Divers may spot whales, walruses, otters, and other marine life close to the shore. Wolves, foxes, owls, and elk are among the other species that call the state home.
What is There to Do in Alaska?
Alaska has amazing recreational activities in its stead. Tourists move all around the world to participate in recreational activities not found in other places.
Skiing in all of its varieties is a well-liked hobby in the state. Within 45 minutes of Anchorage, numerous resorts cater to alpine skiers. Cross-country skiing is possible on tens of thousands of miles of trails. Ice climbing is an extreme sport where athletes ascend ice walls using picks and special footwear.
Alaska, which has a lot of ice, has knowledgeable experts who may accompany beginners on these outings. While instructing climbers in good technique and showcasing the region’s stunning views, the guides ensure their safety.
Alaska is renowned for its dogsledding as well. Participants in this activity stand on a sled as it is being pulled across the snow by a pack of sled dogs, usually huskies or malamutes.
Nome, Alaska hosted the inaugural dogsledding competition. The world-famous Iditarod, a race that starts in Anchorage and concludes in Nome, is now held in the state.
There, dog sledding is so common that Alaska has made it the official state sport. A popular Alaskan pastime is seeing the Northern Lights.
Even while many individuals walk out on their own to witness the phenomenon, tourists can hire guides to help them locate the finest viewing area.
What are Popular Destinations in Alaska?
There are numerous things to view in Alaska, depending on where in the state you go. The seaside village of Seward is a well-liked tourist resort.
The community has a dock and a few little stores. A three-mile footrace to the summit of the 3,000-foot hill is held in the town each summer as part of the Mt. Marathon race.
The Silver Salmon Derby, the biggest fishing competition in the state, is a further well-liked occasion. Kenai Fjords National Park is also within a short distance from the town.
The second-largest city in Alaska is Fairbanks. It is situated close to the state’s center and is known for offering spectacular views of the Northern Lights.
There, the aurora borealis can be seen on 243 evenings on average per year. The Gold Rush gave birth to the town, and its legacy may still be felt today. The Chena and Tanana rivers offer riverboat rides and gold panning for tourists.
The city is a well-liked stop on Arctic excursions because of its location just below the Arctic Circle. The state’s main city, Anchorage, has both indoor and outdoor activities. You may discover dining options, shopping malls, and nightlife downtown.
It also has a number of theaters, concert halls, museums, and cultural centers. Visitors can take flightseeing trips of Mt. Denali to escape the bustle of the city. This is the greatest route for tourists to see Denali because it is 140 miles from Anchorage.
There are also bear-viewing excursions and day cruises to explore Alaska’s famed glaciers close to the city.
What Else is There to Know About Alaska?
Out of the 50 states in the US, Alaska is the largest. Its area is equivalent to that of the contiguous United States in size. Its 663,300 square miles make it bigger than Texas, California, and Montana put together.
Only Vermont and Wyoming have lesser numbers, whereas Alaska, with a little over 730,000 citizens, is ranked 48th in terms of the state population. Alaska, however, has the lowest population density of any state due to its enormous landmass.
Less than two individuals per square mile would exist if the state’s population were distributed equally. Alaska has more significant peaks than Denali. Alaska is home to 17 of the United States’ top 20 peaks.
Additionally, the state is home to more than 70 volcanoes, some of which have erupted within the previous two million years. Along the Alaskan Peninsula, a major volcanic eruption that lasted the entirety of the 20th century took place in 1912.
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes in Katmai National Park was created after the three-day eruption of the Novarupta volcano. There are numerous earthquakes that frequently occur in the region. Alaska experiences more than 5,000 earthquakes annually.
In Alaska, three of the top 10 earthquakes ever recorded occurred. The group of islands extending from southwest Alaska is known as the Aleutian Islands. They extend all the way to Russia, across the International Date Line.
Attu Island, the last U.S.-owned island in the chain, is located more than 1,000 miles from the Alaskan mainland. Alaska and Russia are only 50 miles apart at their closest locations. Alaskans celebrate Seward’s Day every year to remember when they bought the area from Russia.