Does Russia Want Alaska Back?

We all want what we can't have.

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Image via @lisamurkowski Twitter page

In late February 2022, headlines started appearing that indicated a Russian official had demanded that the state of Alaska be returned to Russia, as “reparations” for the economic damage caused by sanctions over its attack on Ukraine.

“Alaska Gov. Reacts to Hearing Russia Wants It Back: ‘Good Luck With That,'” a headline on Newsweek read.

As of this writing, it might be a bit of a stretch to assert that “Russia,” as a nation state, wants Alaska back. Anchorage Daily News parsed the issue more specifically and accurately with the headline, “A Russian lawmaker wants Alaska back. ‘Good luck with that!’”

As the newspaper noted, it was one member of the Russian parliament, Oleg Matveychev, who on a Sunday news show in Russia included Alaska on a list of proposed “reparations” for the sanctions.

Anchorage Daily News reported that the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867, and that in 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated he has no interest in getting it back. Nevertheless, per the newspaper, Matveychev stated:

“Let’s think about reparations. The harm these sanctions caused us cost money. Return of possessions, including possessions of the Russian Empire, Soviet Union and even parts of Russia that are now occupied by the United States,” Matveychev said in the interview.

“What about the return of Alaska and Fort Ross?” the host asked, a reference to a former Russian outpost on the California coast north of San Francisco.

“This is my next point – recognizing Alaska, Fort Ross and Antarctica,” he said. “We actually discovered it, so it rightfully belongs to us.”

In other words, yes, one Russian legislator listed Alaska and Fort Ross, California, on a list of things he believes the U.S. should give Russia to make up for economic damage caused by sanctions, but that is not equivalent to the Russian government as a whole demanding Alaska back.

Nevertheless, the headlines about Matveychev’s comment drew a rather pointed response from Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavey, who tweeted, “Good luck with that! Not if we have something to say about it. We have hundreds of thousands of armed Alaskans and military members that will see it differently.”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, simply tweeted a gif (short video) of pop star Taylor Swift singing, “That will never, ever, ever, happen.”


Sources:

Samuels, Iris. “A Russian Lawmaker Wants Alaska Back. ‘Good Luck with That!’” Anchorage Daily, 17 March 2022,\, https://www.adn.com/politics/2022/03/16/a-russian-lawmaker-wants-alaska-back-good-luck-with-that/.