Russian exploration of the New World was limited to alaska and California Vitus Jonassen Bering was commissioned by Czar Peter the Great to determine whether Siberia was connected to North America. On July 15, 1741, He landed in Alaska but later met his death when his ship was wrecked on Bering Islands. The surviving explorers returned to Russia with otter pelts.
The pelts brought back by Bering's expeditions influenced other russians to continue the explorations. The Alaskan fur trade increased and there was fierce competition over the furs. In 1799 a monopoly was given to the Russian American Company, which established a center at Sitika, set up a shiyard, and expanded the company's operations to the south. In 1809 the Russians sent a fur-trapping expedition to Bodega Bay, California. On March 15, 1812, thirty miles north of Bodega, Ivan Kuskov led an expedition ashore to build a permanent settlement. The enclosure was named Fort Rossiya, now known as Fort Ross.
When the Spanish governor of California asked the Russians to leave Fort Ross, the Russian commandant refused to do so without orders from the Czar. They remained until 1841, and then left only because the area had been over-trapped.
simultaneously, American seamen were whaling in Russian wateres. Although the Russian objected, there was little that could be done about it without substantial military effort, which the Czar was unwilling to make. The start of the Crimean War in 1854 led the Russian to consider their exposed position in the New World, and the possibility of the sale of Alaska to the United States was broached. Negotiations were undertaken in 1859, but they were interrupted by the Civil War.
In February 1867 the Russian minister to the United States again suggested the sale. After hasty negotiations, a treaty was signed on March 30 providing for the sale of Alaska for the sum of $ 7,200,000. It provides to be one of the most valuable land acquisition in American history.
The transfer of authority from Imperial Russia to the United States took place at Sitika on October 18, 1867. Most of the Russian colonists returned to their homeland.
The flag shown on the ingot is the Russian national ensign flown on state vessels, such as the one picture in the waters off Sitka. The saltire cross is the emblem of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Russia. The Russian-American had its own flag, a tricolor banner with the royal coat-of-arms and a ribbon bearing the company's name. This flag was in use in Alaska until 1861, when the company's charter was allowed to expire.
When the Russian flag was lowered in 1867 at Sitika, it was the last Old World flag to fly over land that is now part of the United States.