Teacher's Guide for COBBLESTONE ® Russian AmericansMay 2005
Teacher's Guide prepared by: Gloria W. Lannom, a frequent contributor to Cobblestone publications.
Map Work: Find the following:
Siberia ~ Alaska ~ Bering Straits ~ Baranof Island ~ Kodiak Island ~ Sitka ~ Canada ~ San Francisco/Fort Ross ~ Farallon Islands ~ St. Petersburg, Florida ~ New York/Brighton Beach "Alaska's Russian Roots"
"California, Here We Come"
- Why did Czar Peter the Great send explorer Vitus Bering north to find new lands in North America? (He wanted to acquire new territories rich in natural resources.)
- What profitable trade did the Russians finally establish? (They set up a flourishing fur trading company based on hunting, killing, and skinning sea otters and seals to obtain pelts to ship back to Russia.)
- In addition to those engaged in the fur trade, what other group traveled to Alaska and why? (Missionaries of the Russian Orthodox Church went to Alaska to convert the natives.)
"Deal of the Century"
- Why did Ivan Kuskov consider the location later known as Fort Ross an ideal place for a Russian settlement? (The bluff had fresh water, timber trees, flat farmland and grasslands, plus a wide view of the coast.)
- Why did the Russian American Company want to establish a settlement at Fort Ross? (The Russians wanted to expand their fur trade and the mild climate of northern California was better suited to producing food than in Alaska. They also wanted to establish trade with California's Spanish missions.)
- Why did the Russians finally leave Fort Ross? (They had killed off the sea otter and fur seal populations and they were not able to grow enough food to supply the Alaska settlements.)
"Escaping the Empire"
- Why did many contemporaries of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward call his purchase of Alaska "Seward's Icebox" and "Seward's Folly?" (They did not think Seward had made a good bargain at the price of $7 million dollars.)
- Why did the Russians want to sell Alaska? (It was too far from Russia. Living conditions were harsh. The fur business declined. Russian was involved in the costly Crimean War.)
- Write several sentences that prove Seward made the "deal of the century" when he purchased Alaska. (Rich deposits of gold and oil were discovered in the 19th century. Alaska is rich in natural beauty and wildlife or fish and game.)
"Brighton Beach: America's Little Odessa by the Sea"
- Why was it possible for large numbers of Russians to move to the United States in the 1870s? (The Russian government lifted emigration restrictions.)
- Why did so many people want to leave Russia for America? (They wanted a better life.)
- What were some of the problems they faced at home? (Living conditions were very harsh. People were forced to work very long hours and did not have enough food or housing. People were afraid of the secret police and of exile to Siberia.)
- What special restrictions were imposed on Jews in Russia? (They had to stay within the area called the Pale of Settlement and had to live in special communities. They could not own land and could only hold certain kinds of jobs.)
- What is a pogrom? (An organized massacre of a minority or helpless group with official approval)
- Which religious groups suffered from pogroms? (Jews, Mennonites, and Molokans)
- What kind of work did many Russians do when they arrived in America? (Heavy manual or dangerous labor and work in garment sweatshops)
- When did the next large Russian immigration take place? (From 1917 to 1920)
- What was the reason? (People wanted to escape from the persecutions of the new Communist government in Russia.)
- Despite the difficulties involved in leaving Russia and traveling to America, what were the advantages of starting a new life in the Unitied States? (They had religious and political freedom and the possibility of a better life.)
What are some advantages of living in Brighton Beach? (Russian speakers can speak their native language. Russian books and newspapers are readily available. Russian food products are sold in the local stores. English language courses tailored to the needs of Russian speakers are offered at the library and other locations. Living in a community populated with Russians helps keep the culture alive.) Vocabulary: Find the following words in this issue and make a sentence using each one.
czar ~ Tlingit ~ pelt ~ borscht ~ sweatshops ~ blini ~ babushka Summing Up:
- Look back at the articles and list some of the reasons Russians left their country for the United States. (escape from poverty and persecution in hopes of a better life, religious and political freedom, and better educational and professional opportunities)
- In what fields have Russian immigrants made rich contributions to American culture and life? (music, dance, art, film, science, business, literature, sports, politics, and cooking - you may think of more!)
- And remember how to say "How Cool!" (see Cartoon Connection) in Russian! "Kak ZDOrovo!"