Monday, October 26, 2009

Visit Alaska: No Russian Visa Needed

On October 18th, Alaska celebrated the date on which the state officially became property of the United States in 1867. The day is known, quite fittingly, as Alaska Day.

Have you been to Alaska? Oh. . . you lucky globetrotter, you! Myself, I'm just dreaming of the day. . . (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis Kimball. Click image to enlarge.)

Alaska was once owned by Russia, of course. The two are separated by only 55 miles at Bering Strait. The map above would indicate that the Aleutians, that group of volcanic islands that strings west into the Pacific, are divided between the U.S. and Russia. But a big atlas here and other sources seem to indicate otherwise. Anybody have the definitive answer on that? Well, not to worry. . .

What majestic scenery, eh? What a place to explore, see exotic animals, mountains and enjoy the fresh air. What a place for a boy to build a seaworthy vessel. (Photo courtesy J.D.Kimbell)

Here's a copy of the canceled check, made out for $7.2 million or approximately 2 cents an acre. In today's dollars, that would be around $100 million. Or so they say. . .

The purchase of Alaska was originally dubbed Seward's Folly with a nod to William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State, second from left. Above is the treaty signing in 1867. In recent years, we've come to realize how absolutely wise was that purchase. Alaska finally was admitted as a state in 1959, nearly a century later.

Yes, the U.S. and Russia are closer than one might imagine, as noted in the booklet above, developed by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to celebrate 200 years of diplomatic ties with Russia.

It started with Thomas Jefferson and Tsar Alexander I who corresponded and exchanged books.

In the letter above, dated June 15, 1804, Thomas Jefferson addressed the tsar as "Great and good friend. . . " Eventually John Quincy Adams, pictured, became the first U.S. Minister to Russia in 1807. He lived and worked in St Petersburg from 1814 through 1819. Later, when he became president, Adams used his connection with Russia to establish a strong trading relationship.

In the letter above, from Tsar Alexander I to President Jefferson, I got a little puzzled trying to find even one familiar Russian word. Closer examination with a magnifying glass shows that it's written in French. Oui.

US and Russia: Closer than we think. Sometimes the waters are rough but always there are magnificent opportunities to learn and grow.

What a rich cultural heritage belongs to Alaska. What adventures await in the final frontier! But trust me when I say that we can be so very thankful that visiting Alaska does not require getting a visa to Russia. Thank you, Mr William Seward! (Photo courtesy J.D.Kimbell)

How about you, dear blog reader. Have you visited the land of the midnight sun? Seen a polar bear? Sailed across the tundra behind a team of huskies? Please share your special memories of Alaska! Have to admit that I haven't even made it past page 50 in James Michener's, Alaska. But I'm betting that you have!

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Oh and on a silly note, here's A Song for Sarah, written by Vlad and friend Boris: A Russian response to Mrs Palin.


Jeanette said...

Yes, I've been to Alaska and would return in a heartbeat. And Yes, I've read Michener's "Alaska" and enjoyed every page. Don't give up on will fall in love with the salmon...

We took a cruise through the Inside Passage in August of 2005. Photos cannot capture the glory of creation that Alaska contains. You MUST see it. You must.

~~anna~~ said...

Loved the video!
Bob's & my dream trip is Amtrak across the Northern States, then the Alaskan cruise, then into Canada! Maybe. Some day.

I love James Michener books. I just checked I have "Alaska" on my bookshelf, but haven't read it yet.
But I have read Hawaii, Caribbean, Centennial, The Covenant, Texas, Mexico, and Iberia.
I have Chesepeake, Poland and Alaska on my bookshelf for future enjoyment.

Thanks for the history lesson. I really enjoy it!

Jeanette said...

Just came back to see the video...good for a late-night laugh! The spelling of the subtitles...ahhhgh! You bet'cha.