Creole Policy and Practice in Russian America

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date

Spring 2017


Russian America was imperial Russia’s only overseas colonial enterprise, governed at great distance from state power and with a thin Russian population onsite. In order for the few to incorporate the many in Alaska, colonial officials lit upon the strategy of fostering and co-opting a hybrid colonial population, by which Native Alaskans could be transformed into the active agents of their own colonization. From its formation in the late 18th century, the Russian American Company (RAC) discouraged Russians from settling in Alaska, but permitted (and sometimes encouraged) their temporary employees to have children with Native Alaskans. The rapid growth of a mixed-heritage population, from some 200 people in 1818 to nearly 2,000 in 1863, was of considerable interest to RAC officials, who were struggling to recruit enough Russians for company work. The Creoles, as those of mixed Russian and Native Alaskan heritage were officially called from 1821, became a key component of the RAC, the imperial government, and the Russian Orthodox Church’s plans for maintaining and expanding Russian civilization in America.


This article was originally published in The Pacific Northwest Quarterly.


The Pacific Northwest Quarterly


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