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Russian America

Following the heroes of "Juno and Avos"

Russian America

The history that formed the basis of the cult rock opera is two hundred years old. Everything is mixed in it: love and business, adventure and cold calculation, past and present, East and West. However, the real circumstances of the voyage of the actual chamberlain Nikolai Rezanov and his romance with the daughter of the commandant of the Spanish fort are very different from what they sing and tell us about from the stage. Love really was. But before that, much more happened, leaving an indelible "Russian trace" on the west coast of North America.


An energetic and decisive man who had great connections and enjoyed the highest patronage, Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov decided to take up the "overseas territories" in earnest. He began by equipping and leading the first Russian round-the-world expedition. At the end of 1803, two ships - "Nadezhda", under the command of Ivan Kruzenshtern, and "Neva", whose captain was Yuri Lisyansky - left St. Petersburg.

As an official goal of the enterprise were the search and exploration of sea routes to Russian colonies in the Pacific Ocean - in Alaska and adjacent islands. However, there were other tasks. One of the most difficult was the establishment of trade and diplomatic relations with Japan and China. Particularly interesting was the country of the Rising Sun, which in those days did not allow foreigners to their land.

In September, the Rezanov 1804 arrived at Nadezhda in Nagasaki, but the Russian diplomatic mission was kept locked up for six months, and then, not accepted by the emperor, expelled from the country. The disappointment of such treatment was so great that Rezanov decided to take revenge. He sailed to Alaska, where he bought the frigate "Juno" and built the Avos sailing ship, commanders of which were appointed Lieutenant Tails and midshipman Davydov. The officers received precise instructions from the graph regarding behavior in Japanese waters and succeeded so well in carrying them out that in Japan they still remember “Juno” and “Avos”.

Only after a year of outright piracy, Rezanov felt quite avenged and decided to go further, to hot California. This choice was determined primarily by the lack of provisions in cold Alaska. According to rumors, the southern American lands were rich in game, arable land and paradise fruits - not for nothing on the Californian coast, the inhabitants of the then very young United States looked desperately. The true masters of the "wild" California at that time were the Spaniards, who held numerous garrisons in well-fortified forts.

Love in Russian

At the end of March 1806, Yunona came up from the Spanish fort of San Francisco. Foreign ships were barred from entering Spanish ports, but the Russian embassy accepted, and the Russian commander even won the friendship of the commandant of the fort Seignor de Arguello and earned the favor of his daughter Maria Concepcion (Conchita).

Then everything was as described in the play. With the only difference that the Avos sailboat, which, although it actually existed, did not go to San Francisco with Rezanov. The fifteen-year-old Spaniard could not resist the charm of the forty-year-old St. Petersburg cavalier, who was ready to go with her to the altar. However, in order to unite ardent lovers before God, it was necessary to obtain permission from his representatives on earth. Don Arguello undertook to seek permission from the Pope, and Rezanov - Emperor Alexander. Earl expected to return to California in two years and get married with his lover. But everything turned out differently ...

In June, "Juno" set off on the return journey. Rezanov, who reached Okhotsk, despite the good advice, decided not to wait there for the autumn mudslides and the severe Siberian winter. He went to the capital on horseback, somewhere in the Yakutsk region fell through the ice, fell ill with pneumonia and 1 March 1807 died in Krasnoyarsk.

And Conchita, having given birth to a dead child, waited for the betrothed not two - or even twenty, - but thirty-five years, not knowing anything about his death. When the news of the death of the graph in a circle way reached the shores of California, Conchita took the veil and took the name of Maria Domingue, becoming the first Catholic nun of California. Her grave is located in the cemetery of the Dominican nunnery in the small town of Benicia - the first capital of California.

Russian Footprint in California

One of the main attractions of San Francisco is the Russian hill. Where did he come from in the American city next to the famous bridge across the Golden Gate Gulf, the skyscraper-pyramid of the Bank of America and the island-prison Alcatraz? And, it's not some kind of supernumerary hill in the city, which all represents one giant sinusoid. Just on the Russian hill there is an unforgettable serpentine of the most crooked street in the world - Lombard Street, and from there also offers an amazing view of the bay, the bridge and the picturesque fishing shipyard. "Russian Footprint"? He is!

During the gold rush, the first settlers who founded the city of San Francisco on the site of the Spanish fort came across this hill to a small cemetery where the remains of Russian fur traders from the nearby Russian fort rested. The cemetery has long been moved to another place, but the name remains. And this is only the beginning. Enough to scour the nearest neighborhood of San Francisco, and the places of "parking" of our compatriots can be considered dozens.

If you leave the city through the Golden Gate Bridge along the famous federal highway 101, then before reaching Santa Rosa, you must turn left and drive a dozen more miles to a small and unremarkable town called Sevastopol. At this place there used to be a settlement that appeared in the same era of the gold rush. In Sevastopol, it was renamed 1850 – ies after a major fight with a stabbing and shooting at a local saloon. Apparently, the dismantling came out really notable, since the city authorities had associations with the Crimean War that was on the other side of the world.

Today the town is famous for others. Firstly, it is the main apple center of America - the organizers of the annual Blossoming Apple Tree Festival and the Apple Fair in Gravenstown proudly call their events the largest in the world. Whether this is really so, it is difficult to check. But the fact that the American Sevastopol - one of the main strongholds of the "green" in California - is an indisputable fact.

Around the city - solid walls of fir trees and giant sequoias, which provide a traveler with a shade saving in the southern heat. The bends of the river are lost in thickets of moss and wild grapes, on the shores - rare tents for extreme rest lovers. To the north and west are the reserves, and from the south all this splendor of the pristine nature is propped up by the glistening sea surface sparkling in the sun and leaving behind the horizon. All the delights of Northern California seemed to converge on one patch of land, which is called "the recreation area" Russian River "in the district of Sonoma." Previously, the river was simply called Slavyanka. Along one of its coasts, parallel to the 116 highway, a small highway winds, called quite unexpectedly - by the Moscow road.

The Russian trail will also be found in the nearby sleepy little town of Santa Rosa, where the sight of the Orthodox Church of St. Helena, "The Street of Tsar Alexander" or "Sevastopol Boulevard" is unlikely to hide from the look of the tourist.

Paradise sold

The most important historical monument to the presence of the first Russians in Northern California remains wooden Fort Ross. For the first time, Russians landed in these places two years before arriving in San Francisco Rezanov - in 1804. The expedition under the command of Ivan Kuskov arrived here with the aim of creating a breadbasket for supplying Russian possessions in the cold Alaska. Comfortable for protection from the weather bay, the Russian sailors dubbed Bodag, and the river rich in fish ten miles to the north - Slavyanka. Later the name of the bay was transformed into Bodega Bay, and Slavyanka into the Russian River.

In March of 1812, just one more ship to the north of the Gulf anchored another ship under the St. Andrew's flag. The ship arrived from Alaska. Two dozen Russians and Aleuts broke a temporary camp, and then built a fortified wooden town with a small chapel, living quarters, a high fence and towers with loopholes, in which vents of quite convincing guns could be seen. The Russians decided to stay for a long time in these parts. They hunted, grew wheat and vegetables, traded on occasion with the Spaniards, the border of their possessions passed just to the south. And the fortress, later named "Fort Ross" - "Russian", was erected in order to avoid any surprises from the neighbors-colonists.

However, then nobody cares about Russian expansion in California - in Europe there was a war with Napoleon. And when the Spaniards realized it, they were already facing a well fortified fort. And close to it, often, the Russian military vessels anchored. In addition, the Russians managed to redeem "for three blankets, three pairs of men's trousers, two hammers and several beads" all the surrounding territory from local Indians from the Kashayi tribe. So at that time it was "business in Russian" in America.

Our colonists have begun to heal in the paradise region - not to compare with the previous cold and famine in the settlements in Alaska. In 1824, the temporary chapel was rebuilt into a real church, and a normal life began to flow. From time to time ships came into the bay bringing necessary tools and gunpowder. Back in the northern colony of the court left loaded with grain, meat, vegetables and fruits.

And then what happened was to happen: residents of the United States came to California and declared their rights to this blessed land. At first, the Americans ousted the Spaniards from California, and then the Mexicans. The Russians in 1841 left on their own, selling Fort Ross to the Swedish adventurer John Sumter for a pittance. Nor did Russia's attempts to colonize Alaska lead to anything. As you know, the government of Alexander II sold it to the United States for seven million dollars, and most of this amount went to bribes to US congressmen, who never wanted to buy "no one needs a block of ice." Russia abandoned its colonies in America for many reasons. The role played and lost the Crimean War, and the inability of the empire to control the distant overseas territories, and their insignificant economic returns. Who could have foreseen that in two states acquired by Americans there would soon be found rich deposits of gold and oil!

"But still not Russia ..."

As the former Russian Alaska is doing, I do not know, I have not been. In any case, this severe northern region is not listed as a resort. Americans go there on vacation exclusively on board luxury cruise liners - to admire in comfortable conditions the majestic glaciers and the nature of the coasts and islands that have not changed in the past two centuries. But here's the former Russian California I had a chance to see. About the recreation area on the Russian river, I already said, Fort Ross was not badly preserved either. Ancient fortress, several times changing owners, now - a national historical monument. By the way, one of the oldest in the United States.

Now tourists are coming there. Carefully and with interest listen to the guides, telling absolutely Hollywood love story "Russian Count Rezanov", whose portrait adorns the local museum, to the young Spaniard. With genuine amazement inspect the ancient ship's bell and cannons, Russian stoves and a wooden bathhouse. As well as objects of the mysterious Russian life, like a wooden tub for pickling cabbage or a cradle hanging under the ceiling. All this, by the way, is perfectly restored.

In winter, when gray whales make seasonal migration, and in the spring, during the appearance of offspring at sea otters, sea excursions for all comers are organized from the nearby bay.

In Fort Ross itself, the "aborigines", visiting the church, looking at the icons, and taking pictures with the Orthodox priest (the services here did not stop for two hundred years) are located on specially prepared nearby lawns for a traditional American picnic. They sing under guitars, fry barbecue, drink it with excellent local wine. This wine, by the way, is made from grapes grown on the famous Sonom vineyards of the Napa Valley Valley. And under the curtain admire a completely incomprehensible spectacle: the dome of the Russian church against the backdrop of giant sequoias and scarlet Californian sunsets.

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