History of Alaska

It is due to the extraordinary geographical location of Alaska that the state’s history differs greatly from that of most other parts and states of the US. In 1741, the Danish-born explorer Vitus Bering, working as an officer of the Russian Navy under Emperor Ivan VI, was the first to land on the Southern coast of Alaska, near or on Kayak Island. Russia quickly took control of the area and soon thereafter realized that this possession was a lucrative asset.

Alaska check

Shortly after Bering’s first trips to Alaska, trappers from all parts of Europe followed him to the unknown lands, so that a little later, around the turn of the century, it was de facto the Russian-American Company that administered Alaska. The USA slowly realized that Alaska could be of great value to the country and thus in 1867, on the initiative of Secretary of State William Seward they purchased the vast area for 7.2 million dollars from the Russians, paying by check (photo).

Despite the investment, large parts of Alaska remained unexplored and administration duties switched from Army to the US MInistry of Finance to the Navy. Only in 1884, Alaska was organized as a Territory, but still Washington DC paid little attention to their possession. However, this should change soon thereafter.

Gold was found at the Yukon River in Canada in 1897 and this made many people try their luck in Alaska. As it turned out, there was not only gold, but also a number of other natural resources could be found there, for example crude oil, which was discovered in 1968. Apart from this, natural gas, silver, coal, copper and a number of further resources can be distracted here and form the backbone of Alaskan economy. However, Alaska is at the same time a unique habitat, so that often ecological and economical concerns and interests clash in public.

In World War II, three islands off of the Alaskan coast, inhabited by Aleutians, were occupied by Japanese forces. The Americans won the islands back in May 1943, but paid a high price with more than 3000 fallen soldiers. The increased military presence led to a hike in population numbers in the 1940s. In 1959, Alaska became a US state.

On Good Friday of 1964, the Southwest of Alaska was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2. There were 139 casualties, mostly caused by the ensuing tsunamis. Another catastrophe struck Alaska in 1989, when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground and lost millions of liters of oil. Hundreds of thousands of animals died as a consequence and up until today, oil production remains a hotly disputed issue.



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