The Russian Empire once extended deep into America: in 1818 Russia's furthest outposts were in California and Hawaii. The dreamer behind this great Imperial vision was Nikolai Rezanov diplomat, adventurer, courtier, millionaire and gambler. His quest to plant Russian colonies from Siberia to California led him to San Francisco, where he was captivated by Conchita, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Spanish Governor, who embodied his dreams of both love and empire.
From the glittering court of Catherine the Great to the wilds of the New World, Matthews conjures a brilliantly original portrait of one of Russia's most eccentric Empire-builders.
I shall never see you
I shall never forget you.
Andrei Voznesensky, Junona i Avos
Those of depraved minds go nowadays to America solely with the aim of growing rich and then upon their return journey fritter it away in a few days, scattering like dust the riches obtained by many years of other peoples' tears. Can such desperate people respect their fellow beings? The poor [native] Americans are, to Russia's shame, sacrificed to their debauchery. Nikolai Rezanov, quoted by Hieromonk Gideon>
I first heard of Nikolai Rezanov in the summer of 1986. I was fifteen years old and visiting my mother's sister Lenina in her cluttered apartment on Frunzenskaya Embankment in Moscow. I had no inkling that I was living through the old Soviet Union's last summer, the final months of calm before the winds of change that were to scatter the old order began to blow. Mikhail Gorbachev had come to power the previous year, and was just about...
While Glorious Misadventures isn't a fast read, it is entertaining and informative, and I can certainly recommend it to those looking for an in-depth book at late 18th century/early 19th century Russian history and exploration.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1160 words).
As Glorious Misadventures shows, the vast amount of money to be made in the Aleutian Islands and western Alaska drew many adventurers and speculators, including the primary subject of the book, Nikolai Rezanov. The Aleut Region is a string of over 70 volcanic islands stretching more than 1,000 miles across the very northern part of the Pacific Ocean and forming an arc between Alaska on the east and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula on the West (The National Parks Service has a large, clickable map). With the exception of the Commander Islands on the far western end of the chain, the territory is considered part of the U.S. state of Alaska. It was discovered by Europeans in 1741, when a Russian expedition led by Vitus Bering stumbled across ...
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In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advance parties to settle the wild, unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent.
Tells the stories of the great fortunes made and of great fortunes lost by hundreds now forgotten by history; and reveals the profound effect of the Gold Rush on the way Americans viewed their destinies, as the Puritan ethic of hard work and the gradual accumulation of worldly riches gave way to the notion of getting rich quickly.
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The Angel of Losses
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