Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast is now a California state park, but US sanctions tensions are prompting some Russian lawmakers to reclaim the fort.
Fort Ross is an amazing place on 3,000 acres. There are stunning views of the Pacific just off Highway 1.
And then there’s the rich history, reminding visitors that there was a lot going on in Northern California before the Gold Rush.
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Most people don’t even know there were Russians in California in the 19th century,” said Fort Ross Conservancy CEO Sarah Sweedler.
“The Russian River, they named it for a reason,” said Rick Gonzalez of Sacramento.
Russian traders settled in Fort Ross in 1812. Their influence is everywhere, from the architecture of the chapel to the flag and the interactive field trips for school children where everyone plays a part, even the teachers.
“I play the commander of Fort Ross, he was in charge of running this outpost colony,” said San Francisco teacher Christine Armstrong.
The Russians stayed for 30 years, selling the fort to gold rush magnate John Sutter in 1841. Now some Russian lawmakers want it back.
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Last week, a high-ranking member of the Russian parliament suggested that his country reclaim US territories like Fort Ross as a reward for US sanctions.
This prompted a quick response from Sweedler.
“It reminded me that America doesn’t have a monopoly on crazy politicians. It’s not even worth talking about details, it’s just noise,” she said.
Visitors had their own opinion.
“It’s on American soil, so come get it, good luck,” Gonzalez said.
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“It’s like saying let’s get Alaska, they sold it to us, it’s ours now, sorry,” Armstrong added.
Fort Ross became a state park in 1906. It has hosted Russian festivals and a meeting with former Governor Jerry Brown and the Russian Ambassador in 2018.
The conservation says that in recent years less than 10% of donations have come from Russian companies. But because of the sanctions, they no longer work with these companies. Fort Ross remains part of California.
“Unless the skins industry comes back, there’s no reason for Russia to take back Fort Ross,” Napa’s Chad McComber said.
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