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1867 Treaty Between
United States and Russia

        It is important to read the 1867 treaty between the United States and Russia, because it is
very specific about what territory is (and is not) ceded from Russia to the United States.  Popular misimpressions abound.

        1.  The word "Alaska" does not appear anywhere in the treaty.  The United States did not
buy "Alaska" from Russia.  The term "Alaska" at the time referred to a peninsula at the eastern
end of the Aleutian Islands.

        2.  The part of the treaty that explains what is being ceded is Article I:  "His Majesty the
Emperor of all the Russias agrees to cede to the United States...all the territory and dominion
now possessed by his said Majesty on the continent of America and in the adjacent islands,
the same being contained within the geographical limits set forth...."  In 1867 Russia possessed
very little actual land territory on the American continent, consisting mostly of some coastal and
river settlements with about 500 inhabitants.  The Russians had not even landed on the Arctic
Ocean side of modern-day Alaska.  The land that the Russians ceded constitutes only a small
part of the land mass that is now known as the State of Alaska.  Upon taking over the limited
Russian lands in 1867, the United States government expanded its domain greatly by
exploration, possession, and annexation of huge areas on the mainland, in the Bering Sea, and
in the Arctic Ocean, including several islands.

        3.  The last clause of Article I states, " the meridian of one hundred and ninety-three
degrees west longitude [167 degrees east], so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole
of the Aleutian islands east of that meridian."  The westernmost islands in the Aleutian islands
are Bering and Copper (with Sea Lion Rock and Sea Otter Rock nearby Copper).  This
clause was added in the last phase of negotiations to allow Russia to keep Bering Island.  The
meridian of 193 degrees west (167 degrees east) runs directly between Bering and Copper
Islands.  [See Map of Giveaway.