On Oct. 18, 148 years ago, at the Governor’s House in Sitka, Russia formally transferred possession of Alaska to the United States. Soldiers marched, sabers flashed and, oh yeah, the double-eagle flag of Imperial Russia got stuck on the flagpole. Several soldiers had to shimmy up the flagpole to get it loose, only to have the flag flutter down and get impaled by Russian soldiers’ bayonets.
Holy Vlad Putin! That ended the Russian reign, although it turns out the $7.2 million owed Russia didn’t get paid out for a while, the United States being occupied with stuff like the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
As Homer writer Tom Kizzia noted in an Anchorage Daily News article a few years back, the purchase price apparently included $200,000 in “expenses” paid to the Russian ambassador, Edouard de Stoeckl, known as “The Baron.” In the old Soviet Union, this was called “blat,” the price paid to secure favors. The Baron also paid money to some American lobbyists who in turn bribed journalists for good coverage of what everyone at the time considered a really stupid idea — all that “Seward’s Folly” chatter.
Alaska wasn’t even called Alaska then and Sitka wasn’t Sitka, but Novoarkhangelsk. Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts had the idea of calling Russian America “Alaska.” It’s a good thing someone from Ohio didn’t name us, or we’d probably be known as something like “Johnson,” the president at the time.
Oh yeah, in 1867, Alaska was in the Russian time zone and a day ahead of American time. In one ginormous time switch, we didn’t just fall back an hour, but a whole day, which must have made for one epic long weekend.
Well, we’ll have an epic weekend ourselves, especially state workers who have Monday off, so celebrate with these Best Bets:
BEST DINE AND DONATE BETS: Saturday evening you can choose among several fine fundraising dinners. At 5 p.m. the Anchor Point Senior Center hosts an Oktoberfest to benefit the public library there. At 6 p.m. The Cook Inlet Fishermen’s Fund holds a dinner at Inlet View Lodge. Then at 6:30 p.m., Kachemak Heritage Land Trust begins its annual auction party at Wasabi’s; tickets to that event cost $60 via the trust at 235-5263.
BEST BEAR BETS: To keep tabs on our big bruin neighbors, go to the Pratt Museum on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. John Morton from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will talk about brownie population studies.