When looking at the United States map, do not expect to locate Alaska among the other states. This is despite Alaska being the largest US state by landmass. Alaska does not touch other states.
Canada is right in the middle of Alaska and the rest of America. So if Alaska does not border any US state, why isn’t it part of Canada instead?
Alaska is not part of Canada because Russia sold it to the US in 1867. Previously, Alaska was a Russian territory while Canada was a British colony.
Despite Alaska being closer to Canada than the US, Russia decided that the US should have it because Great Britain, Russia’s old rivals, had Canada.
After the sale, border disputes between the US and Canada were resolved later in 1903. You have to go through Canada if you want to access Alaska today by land.
We have to back in history to understand better why Alaska is not part of Canada. Alaska became a Russian territory in 1741, and Russia established colonies in the area in the years that followed.
Russia’s main focus was to exploit the natural resources in Alaska, which was mainly fur by then. The fur trade was booming at that time, and Alaska had abundant fur-producing animals.
As Russia was spreading its roots in Alaska, in North America, another world power, Britain, was coming up. Britain had established colonies that later became the US and others in Canada’s far north. Britain had taken over areas such as Hudson Bay and Nova Scotia.
The two empires had comprehensive policies that made them rivals. British and Russia wanted control of the Pacific Ocean and had previously gone to battle over the same. By the mid-19th century, the US had established itself as independent, and Britain had established the Dominion of Canada.
As Britain and the United States increased their power in North America, Russia slowly lost its grip on the continent. Furthermore, the fur trade decreased, making it no longer reasonable for Russia to hold on to Alaska.
Alaska Border Dispute
In 1825, Russia and Britain appended the Anglo-Russian Convention intending to define a border to separate the territories. However, the phrasing of the convention by then was more of a moral agreement than a border demarcation.
Russia’s Russian-American Company and Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company were the two groups involved in this agreement.
When the US purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the border was not properly demarcated. In 1871, when the new Canadian Confederation came into being, Canada wanted to restart negotiations to determine the boundary. But, the US declined, citing the high costs involved in surveying a sparsely populated area.
However, the Klondike gold rush between 1897 and 1898 reignited the debate about the boundary. Gold was discovered in this area, which led to a rapid increase in population. This necessitated the need for a defined border.
Canada used the phrasing of the 1825 agreement and sent a convoy to occupy the area on its behalf. But, the Americans evicted the Canadians, and Canada responded by sending about 200 soldiers to the territory, which only made matters worse.
Sober negotiations started in 1898, but they failed. One of the main issues with the treaty signed in 1825 was that the wording was French, which posed a challenge.
As such, arbitration efforts were hampered by a failure to agree on a translation of a document that was seen to be vague in the first place.
In 1903, both parties decided to bring together a six-person tribunal. The tribunal has three Americans, two Canadians, and one Briton.
The agenda of the six-person tribunal was as follows:
- Determine the boundary starting point
- Defining the phrase “Portland Channel.”
- Establish the existence of mountain ranges
The other agendas involved the Portland Channel, and the last one involved the border, as stated in the 1825 agreement.
After lengthy talks, the tribunal agreed on the plan that’s in use today, which granted Canada and the US half-claim each of the disputed territories. However, the Canadians were not happy with the decision, and they felt betrayed by Great Britain.
Canada felt that Great Britain chose to advance Anglo-American relations at the expense of Canadian interest.
This sense of betrayal by Canada is one reason for Canada’s subsequent complete independence.
According to the Canadians, despite the decision being unfair, they eventually came to terms with it but still blamed the British.
Does Russia Regret Sell Alaska to the US?
Yes, Russia may regret the decision to let go of Alaska. The US gained a lot from the sale by discovering natural resources. Shortly after the US bought Alaska, they found rich gold deposits, which led to gold hunters flocking the region from America.
Fifty years after the transaction, the United States has recouped its investments by more than 50 times because of Alaska’s natural resources. Apart from gold, other natural resources in Alaska are natural gas, platinum, molybdenum, coal, and oil, with oil fields taking the largest share.
The United States produces oil to more than 80 million tons per year, which is twice the oil produced by both the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. In recent years, the US notified the international community about discovering an oil field in Alaska.
Newly discovered reserves are said to be extremely rich. If appropriately utilized, freshwater resources in the region can generate more revenue through seafood and fishing.
Can Russia Get Alaska Back?
In 2017, Konstantin Shugaev created a plan with an interesting fact. His company is re-examining historical documents and alleges to have noticed some interesting points when assessing the Alaska contract. According to their investigations, the powers of the US House of Representatives ended on the day of the Alaska sale.
The treaty has no legal foundation because the Senate did not authorize the accord according to the law. But, the fact remains that both parties consented to the sale. Today, the current Russian leadership considers the sale wrong.
On the other hand, buying Alaska from Russia is considered the most significant political decision ever made in American History. This decision altered the world’s geopolitical situation.