Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Russian Heritage In Sitka

For sixty-three years Sitka, then known as New Archangel and the capitol of Russian America, was Russia's major Pacific port and headquarters of the Russian-America Company, once the most profitable fur trading company in the world.

Sitka's story is one of exchange between cultures, technologies and ideologies. Here, the cultural heritage of the Tlingit interacted with the traditions of the Russians and others who followed them. In many ways, the Russian Orthodox Church is the most enduring legacy of this little known chapter in U. S. history. There are many buildings and historical sites here.

 The Russian Bishop's House, one of only four Russian colonial structures remaining in North America, was completed in 1843 when the Orthodox Church was in full power. It was a symbol of the strength of the church in Russian America.

It is a prime example of Russian wooden architecture with tightly-fitted square logs that could be painted or papered to achieve a refined interior finish.

                Insulation included gravel, sand and sawdust.

After the sale of Alaska in Oct. of 1867, most Russians returned to their homeland, leaving many of their possessions in Sitka. In the Bishop's House are many items from around the world, including icons and fine furnishings from Russia, England, Germany and China.

                                     The chapel in this building is loaded with artifacts.

                    People just went back to Russia and left these things.

  The New Archangel Dancers are a local group of volunteers performing authentic Russian and Ukranian folk dances throughout the year.

They have helped keep Sitka's Russian heritage alive for the past 40 years.

               They occasionally perform throughout the U.S.--

                -and have danced in Russia, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

We had the good fortune to sit next to this wonderful gals mom, who also had been a New Archangel Dancer.

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