Russians Invade California

fort ross california russian outpost

Somewhere around Feb 2, 1812,  a group of 25 Russians and 80 Alaskans came ashore and set up camp in what would become Fort Ross, California.

The Russians had come to hunt sea otter and grow crops for Russian settlements in Alaska, as well as to trade with Californians.

At the time, Spain, which occupied California, was so involved in fighting Napoleon, they didn’t realize the Russians had built the Ross settlement until several months had passed.  By then, there was little they could do, as the fort was well-fortified.

According to historians, the buildings were constructed of redwood, with a Russian-American Company flag, sporting a double-headed eagle, flying over the stockade. Most of the sea otter hunting was done by the Alaskan natives who traveled with the Russians.  Hunting was done from a kind of primitive kayak, and use of an atlatl (throwing board).

By 1820, the sea otter population was so depleted, that the main industry became farming.  However, their attempts at producing the amount of produce desired was unsuccessful, and in 1841, they reached an agreement to turn the property over to John Sutter.  Later, it was turned over to the California Historical Landmarks Committee.  Today, the remains of the old Russian cemetery can still be seen.

Learn more at the Fort Ross Interpretative Association

Visit the Fort Ross State Historic Park

If you want to explore the Russian culture in California, we recommend:

Fort Ross: California Outpost of Russian Alaska, 1812-1841

Fort Ross and the Sonoma Coast

Fort Ross (novel)

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