There is a theory proposed by at least one Russian political scientist that the treaty by which the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the US is actually void, on the argument that the US subsequently violated some provisions regarding the Russian population in the region.

Gorodnenko says the US had promised former Russian nationals based in Alaska guarantees of “the enjoyment of freedom, property rights and the practice of their faith.” But after a short time, all Russian-language schools were closed, and teachers were punished for educating Russian-speaking children.

In 1927, the US authorities proclamated the American Orthodox Church in Alaska, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox Church and gave the American Church – considered schismatic by Russia the ability to introduce religious changes considered sinful by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Gorodnenko states that “The descendants of the inhabitants of Russian Alaska are discriminated against. The territory transferred to the United States has not developed. This means that the treaty between the US and Russia should be considered invalid. Russian Alaska is subject to return.”

Are there any polls on how widespread this type of belief is in Russia, i.e. practical ability to recover it notwithstanding, how many Russians say Alaska is rightfully theirs?

  • 4
    What needs to be considered is that the sale of Alaska happened in 1867 - a pre-historic time for Russians, where the big point of reference is the Socialist Revolution of 1917 (it is like talking to Americans about something that happened a few decades before the war of Independence). Unlike Crimea the issue has no chance to resonate neither with the Russian public, nor with the business, nor with the military. The arctic regions uncovered by global warming are by far more interesting.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 14:06
  • 1
    @RogerVadim not to mention some of the issues brought up were caused by the 1917 revolution. The churches outside Russia were directed by Tikhon of Moscow to operate autonomously after the revolution.
    – rtaft
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 15:27
  • 1
    When I was at school and probably in the first few years of university I truly believed that it was leased and must be returned to Russia as lease time was over. I thought that the USA holds it unlawfully. And this was a very common thing to think so. But it was before 2000, and internet coverage was low and now it is different. I believe now the percentage of people with this belief has dropped but still, it is not negligible.
    – Yola
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 16:59
  • 9
    "In 1927, the US authorities proclamated the American Orthodox Church in Alaska, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox Church and gave the American Church – considered schismatic by Russia the ability to introduce religious changes considered sinful by the Russian Orthodox Church" U.S. governmental authorities did no such thing and have no authority to do so.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 20:16
  • 7
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthodox_Church_in_America The OCA has its origins in a mission established by eight Russian Orthodox monks in Alaska, then part of Russian America, in 1794. This grew into a full diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 (...) After the Bolshevik Revolution, Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow directed all Russian Orthodox churches outside of Russia to govern themselves autonomously. Orthodox churches in America became a self-governing Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America in 1924...
    – jcaron
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 13:20

4 Answers 4


I've never heard the claims that you are describing; instead, what I've heard is that Alaska was not sold but leased, not unlike the northern territories of Hong Kong, and that lease has since expired.

Anyway, Russia arguably does not make good use of Chukotka so the interest in Alaska is very low. There's some folklore from both sides about Russian military suddenly popping in Alaska, but there's no real interest in the matter. For example, Sputnik & Pogrom's famous map of Russian claims does not include Alaska or any new territories east of Mongolia's westernmost point.

The population of Alaska is greater than that of Chukotka, Kamchatka and Magadan region combined, and it's entirely non-Russian, so it's obvious that Russia could not control that region politically in any way.

  • 3
    Interesting, but this doesn't quite answer my Q. Roughly how many people in Russia think Alaska belongs to Russia (regardless of how they justify that, "expired lease" or some other reason)? Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 22:43
  • 4
    I guess the Sputnik & Pogrom would be somewhat relevant, although it seems it was barely known outside Russia; the only news in English about it seems to be related to its closure. And that doesn't say anything about their map etc. Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 22:49
  • 2
    I managed to find an in-depth piece about Sputnik & Pogrom researchgate.net/publication/339719594_Sputnik_i_Pogrom I'm not surprised at all they were closed. They personally attacked Putin, declared the RF "even more ephemeral" than the EU etc. They hardly seem representative of Russian nationalism, imho, more like a performance art. And the map is not mentioned in this 22-page piece on them... Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 10:30
  • 6
    "Anyway, Russia arguably does not make good use of Chukotka so the interest in Alaska is very low." Usually this kind of debate relies more on the emotions ("they have stolen something from us") than on rational arguments ("how valuable is that chunk of land to us?"). For example, Spain and Morocco do a great fuss about certain uninhabited places in Morocco's coast, with some very tense moments when Morocco's did send security forces to the Perejil island.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 10:58
  • 2
    @SJuan76 Russia lost a lot of stuff since its height (at 1910 or 1950), and Alaska is too old and at the same time too legitimately transferred to really appear anywhere near the top of the list.
    – alamar
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 12:06

I don't believe the number is higher than 0.1% on average since the sale happened. No politician, or elected official, seriously brought up the question. At times of escalated hostility between US and Russia, it may be brought up, the way people call for using strategic nuclear weapons to "teach them a lesson". It's just a mechanism to vent public frustration, not a possible course of action. Russians they say stuff like that in a serious discussion are ether hardcore monarchists, or some other super fringe group. I doubt anyone would conduct a poll that included this question because the mere suggestion of this being an option is so outlandish. It would destroy the credibility of the poll, requiring carefully neutral formulation of questions to avoid influencing answers.

  • 8
    It might be slightly more than 0.1% right now, with all the agitation and priming about "Donbas genocide" and the like. But, yes, asked say 5 years ago, that would likely have been dismissed out of hand by a very high margin. For one thing, the place was pretty empty back at sale time: At the height of Russian America, the Russian population had reached 700, compared to 40,000 Aleuts. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 0:58
  • 3
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica - Indeed, if one were to return territories to political groups based on the antiquity of their claims, irrespective of the wishes of their current inhabitants—which, I emphasize, would not be moral—it would be more sensible to give governance of Alaska over to the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association than to the Russian Federation.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 12:17
  • 2
    @RogerVadim Emotional feeling turning a random piece of history into something to feel passionate about.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 14:11
  • 5
    @RogerVadim Russia has been agitating its population towards alleged mistreatment of ethnic Russians for at least the last 15 years (Estonia in 07 being the first hard case I know of), culminating in claims of genocide to justify their military intervention. That "primes" (psychological term) people to be more receptive to claims of "violated some provisions regarding the Russian population" because it alters their worldview. 5-20 years ago, almost everyone might have seen the OP's stated claim as BS. Now most still probably still do, but I am willing to bet the proportion has dropped a bit Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 15:56
  • 4
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica western nations (just like Russia l) has spent the last century agitating against Russia and Russians, which make people receptive to some outlandish claims, like that the majority Russians suddenly getting ready to fight about the issue they ignored for a century and a half.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 16:39

There are no solid polling data on how many Russians say Alaska is rightfully theirs. I was able to find the following results, indicating that between a quarter and a third of Russians say that Alaska should definitely be Russian. These results are highly suspect due to small numbers of respondents and no evidence of random sampling:

Poll #1983363
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All. Participants: 187
Should Russia own Alaska?

View Answers

52 (28.4%) Yes, Alaska should definitely be Russian (I am from Russia)
40 (21.9%) Maybe, if America falls apart, then Alaska will be reunited with Russia (I am from Russia)
37 (20.2%) No, Alaska is American (I am from Russia)
3 (1.6%) Yes, Alaska should definitely be Russian (I am from Alaska)
2 (1.1%) Maybe, if America falls apart, then Alaska will be reunited with Russia (I am from Alaska)
0 (0.0%) No, Alaska is American (I am from Alaska)
10 (5.5%) Yes, Alaska should definitely be Russian (I am neither from Russia nor from Alaska)
8 (4.4%) Maybe, if America falls apart, then Alaska will be reunited with Russia (I am neither from Russia nor from Alaska)
17 (9.3%) No, Alaska is American (I am neither from Russia nor from Alaska)
14 (7.7%) Other opinion (specify in comments)

Alaska is Russian territory? (Poll). September 25 2014: https://politichanka.livejournal.com/229306.html

The idea of the return of Alaska has been circulating both on Russian Wikipedia and in the Russian Parliament (Duma) at the top level.

Interestingly, a popular song "Uncle Vova, we are with you!" got 754,000 views on YouTube and features a call to return Alaska to Russia: "We will return Alaska into the harbor of our Fatherland!". The song is performed by a chorus of children led by an ex-Russian MP, now a vice-mayor of the city of Volgograd, Anna Kuvychko. Uncle Vova is a reference to Russian President Vladimir (Vova) Putin.

"Alaska is ours!" billboards (reminiscent of "Crimea is ours!") are also being put up across Russia.

The Speaker of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin threatened the US to return Alaska [to Russia], if that country continues to manage the international assets of Russia. He mentioned this at the plenary session of the lower chamber of the parliament.

"There is such a region, Alaska. And let America, when it tries to manage our resources, ponder that we too have things to return", said Volodin.

Volodin threatens the United States to return Alaska. Business Online. July 6, 2022: https://www.business-gazeta.ru/news/556111

Oleg Matveychev, a member of the Duma, told Russian state television earlier this year that Russia should seek the "return of all Russian properties, those of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union and current Russia, which has been seized in the United States, and so on."

When asked if that included Alaska, Matveychev responded that it did.

Putin Ally Warns U.S. Russia Could Start Military Fight Over Alaska. BY ZOE STROZEWSKI, 7/6/22: https://www.newsweek.com/putin-ally-vyacheslav-volodin-warns-us-russia-reclaim-alaska-1722342

A separate upsurge in the popularity of the topic of the return of Alaska occurred in 2014, immediately after the territorial expansion of Russia [to include Crimea], which was not recognized by the majority of the world community.

The Return of Alaska. Russian Wikipedia. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%92%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%B2%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82_%D0%90%D0%BB%D1%8F%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8

A popular song: "Uncle Vova, we are with you!": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZZJJ1k8xAE

The billboard "Alaska is ours!" in Russia:

Alaska is ours!

Tweet by NEXTA, "the largest Eastern European media". July 7, 2022: https://twitter.com/nexta_tv/status/1544997154204401666


As already mentioned in the answer by Timur Shtatland, there are defenetly people in Russia thinking that Alaska should be part of Russia but the exact number is unknown. Also an other polititian tallking about making Alaska part of Russia again was Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Here the link to an article with his claim and the translation:

Zhirinovsky told how to return Alaska to Russia

Russia must restore the borders of the USSR. This was called for by the head of the LDPR faction in the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, on the air of the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

According to the politician, Russia should strive to restore its former borders. In addition, Alaska, which today belongs to the United States, should also return to the Russian Federation.

According to Zhirinovsky, all this is quite real, and in the end, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, and other former Soviet republics will join the Russian Federation. “I'm talking about the end result: 2025, 2030, 2040.

As can be seen in the article Zhirinovsky claims some other teritories for Russia.

  • To provide context, Zhirinovsky is basically Donald Trump from the early 90-s who was operating a trolling branded party. Anything he says should be discounted by orders of magnitude.
    – alamar
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 20:09
  • @alamar And then Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, against all odds. When Vladimir Putin finally exits the stage there will be a void to be filled, and if recent history teaches us anything, in some situations people follow people with the most outrageous ideas...
    – jcaron
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 9:39
  • 2
    @jcaron If you are tallking about posibility of Zhirinovsky to become president, it´s imposible as he has died some month ago.
    – convert
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 9:59

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