Russians Want Alaska Back (from Jewish Russian Telegraph)
Moscow (CNSNews.com) - It may have been a joke, but some media organizations and politicians in Moscow appear to have taken half-seriously a satirical suggestion that the United States should sell Alaska back to Russia for $1 trillion.
The tongue-in-cheek proposal published in a U.S. newspaper raised the vague notion still present here that Russia could one day retrieve the territory it sold to the U.S.
The return of Alaska would be marked by a great national holiday, said Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an outspoken nationalist politician.
Russia would then have a presence on three continents -- Europe, Asia and America -- noted Zhirinovsky, who is deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament.
Last Wednesday, the Washington Post ran a satirical commentary entitled, "Alaska Would Be More at Home in Russia."
Business columnist Steven Pearlstein came up with what he called a "dynamite plan -- one that would cut the federal deficit and the debt, heal a major rift within the body politic, and restore some sanity to the annual appropriations process."
According to Pearlstein, "The timing couldn't be better ... as Russia is flush with $50 billion in petrodollars it doesn't know how to invest." The commentary added that "with the Kremlin still smarting about losing all those unpronounceable republics, Alaska would be just the sort of strategic acquisition to appeal to President Putin's imperial instincts."
Pearlstein wrote that Alaskans, free from the political grip of environmentalists, would finally be able to drill and fish to their heart's content.
Russia's state-run Channel One television described the idea as a "plan to solve American problems" in exchange for Russian money.
The network conceded that the article was a joke, but even so, it dispatched staff to interview New Yorkers about the "dynamite plan."
Some Russian media outlets appeared to have taken the article half-seriously. The Novye Izvestia daily headlined its report, "The U.S. has drafted a plan: to sell Alaska back to Russia."
Alaska has become a burden for the U.S., wrote the centrist daily, Trud.
The fate of Alaska, nicknamed Russian America, has long been an affront to Russian national pride.
Vitus Bering, a Danish sea captain serving in the Russian Fleet, and captain Alexey Chirikov claimed Alaska after discovering it in 1741.
The Russians established a commercial entity, the Russian-American Company, to capitalize on their new possession.
During the Crimean War, British and French fleets attacked and burned Petropavlovsk, the Alaska colony's supply point. As Russia's hold on the territory was threatened, Russian diplomats opted to sell it to friendly Americans than risk having it seized by British foes.
Another reason for the sale was that in the 1860s the Russian-American Company was making significant financial losses, thus becoming a burden for the Russian state coffers. After Alaska was sold to the U.S., the company holdings were liquidated.
The U.S. bought Alaska in 1867 for $7.2 million -- or two cents an acre. The move drew criticism in Russia over the loss of territory, and also in the United States, where the wisdom of public spending on an "ice box" was questioned.
During the Soviet era, rumor persisted here that Alaska had not been sold at all, but was instead leased to the U.S. for a 99- or 150-year period -- a theory not backed up by any historical evidence.
The speculation was partly based on the fact that following the 1917 Russian Revolution, the communist government renounced all previous laws and international treaties concluded by the Czarist government, including the Alaska sale.