Writing on Oct. 2 for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Nikola Krastev reported that in recent weeks Russian government officials — including President Dimitry Medvedev — showed strong interest in protecting Fort Ross from closure, a move that was feared when California went into another budget crisis. Fort Ross (the name is derived from “Rossiya”) is a 19th-century settlement on the Pacific coast just north of San Francisco that was established by a group of hunters and traders from Russia. Krastev says that the fort has been “spared closure” but that some Russian officials are still eager to find benefactors who could “help maintain California’s first Russian settlement.”
Speaking on the sidelines of last week’s UN General Assembly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for Fort Ross to be preserved as a reminder that the United States and Russia enjoyed warm relations long before the start of the Cold War.
“I would like to ask our business community to help save this unique monument to the Russian participation in the development of America and the symbol of the long-standing Russian-American relations,” Lavrov said. “I can assure you that the Russian government is prepared to support this endeavor, and President [Dmitry] Medvedev, to whom I talked about this issue, supported it strongly.”
Fort Ross was founded in 1812 and functioned for 30 years as Russia’s southernmost settlement on American soil, supplying food and otter-fur pelts to Russian colonists in Alaska.
The grounds, which have been designated a U.S. national historic landmark, feature traditional wooden-beam houses and a Russian Orthodox Church modeled on those built by the fort’s settlers. Only one original building — a wooden home belonging to the fort’s last manager, Aleksandr Rotchev — remains on the premises.