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Russia on the Pacific Ocean

February 15, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Manoa Campus, Sakamaki A201 Add to Calendar

Professor Ilya Vinkovetsky (History, Simon Fraser University) will present "Russia on the Pacific Ocean: Indigenous Encounters in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" as part of the ongoing History Workshop series on "Human Rights and Historical Responsibilities." Expanding rapidly across northern Asia, the Russians reached the shores of the Pacific by 1639 but it was not until a hundred years later that they began to venture around the Pacific Rim and sailed deep inside the Pacific Ocean, an initiative that would stretch the Russian Empire as far as California and, briefly, even the Hawaiian Islands. The eighteenth and especially the nineteenth century would witness dramatic expansion, contraction, and realignment of Russia’s claims around the Pacific. This talk explores the impact of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian colonial activities on the Pacific. Specifically, it addresses how the interaction among the Russians, their fellow European-based colonialists, and some of the indigenous people reshaped the cultures, the ecology, and the political geography of the region.

The Russian venture on the Pacific was heavily dependent on the indigenous people they encountered – in Eurasia, on the Aleutian Islands, on Kodiak, and beyond. The main economic activity, at least until the middle of the nineteenth century, that drew the Russians here revolved around the marine fur trade: indigenous people were the indispensible workforce that made profit in this endeavor possible. The disappearance of the sea otter and other fur-bearing marine animals affected both Russian colonialism and indigenous lives. The talk emphasizes an important function that the Pacific Ocean served for the Russian Imperial Navy, which used such remote bases as Okhotsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii and New Archangel (present-day Sitka, Alaska) as Pacific ports for circumnavigating ships originating from the Baltic. When the Russian Empire, and thus its navy, gained Vladivostok, a much more promising port, these bases became expendable.

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History, Manoa Campus

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History Workshop, 956-7407,

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