Friday, September 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Duma Deputy Wants California and Alaska Back

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 26 – Mikhail Degtyarev, a LDPR Duma deputy, has asked the Russian foreign ministry to clarify the status of land that had belonged to Russia in what is now the US state of California because he believes that Washington did not pay for it as required by a nineteenth century bilateral agreement.


            As a result, Degtaryev is quoted by “Izvestiya” today as saying, “Russia as before has the basis to consider the territory of Fort Ross its own” and to seek either compensation via international courts or the return of that land to Russian control.  In that event, he says, Moscow should install Russian missiles there (


            The LDPR deputy said that after Moscow examined the details of the 1841 sale of Fort Ross to the United States, it would need to focus on the issue of Russia’s subsequent sale of Alaska to the US in order to find out whether the Americans lived up to that bargain as well. If not, then he said, Russia should seek compensation or the return of its property.


            Degtaryev is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party and like him has a reputation for outrageous statements which nonetheless sometimes capture the mood of Russians. In the past, the deputy has threatened Japan for its questioning of Russian sovereignty over the Kuriles, called for declaring the ruble an international reserve currency, and suggested putting pictures of Russian heroes in Russian passports (


Nonetheless, Degtaryev has received some support: Maksim Suraykin, the head of the marginal Communists of Russia party, says that Moscow must investigate the details of these long-ago sales because there is no “statute of limitations” in such cases. And the Russian Foreign Ministry has promised that it will get back to the deputy within 30 days.


            But most reaction to Degtaryev’s latest outburst has been dismissive of him and it if not of the Russian environment that allows such things to surface with increasing frequency.  In reporting the “Izvestiya” story, Anatoly Baranov, the editor of, said that it was easy to see why the LDPR deputy could think he is in the right.


            After all, he notes, the center of San Francisco is even now called “Russian Hill” and thus it is clear that “California is an inalienable part of ‘the Russian world’” given how Moscow now defines it. “True, there is the US Third Fleet, but what kind of an obstacle is that to our strategists?” (


            But there is a bigger problem, Baranov says. “It is difficult to explain to world public opinion that the LDPR in Russia is viewed not very seriously … For the rest of the world, it is a solid parliamentary party, the leader of which the great Pu has called the greatest Russian politician along with Zyuganov.”


            Consequently, the editor says, “headlines in the world media like ‘The State Duma begins the process of the annexation of California’ or ‘”Polite people’ are preparing to attack the US’ will be completely justified.”

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