Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

From: Carl Olson <olson@lafn.org>
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003
Subject: Wrangell Debate on the Web

It was helpful for Mr. John Evans, Director, Office of Russian Affairs, U. S. Department of State, to compile following the web links regarding the status of eight islands in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea. (JRL7209 #5, June 4). I offer some commentary, and have added one link at the end:

> http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/fs/20922.htm Link to the State Department

> fact sheet on the Arctic/Bering islands in question including a map

> showing their position relative to the U.S.-Russia Maritime Boundary.


Comment: The map has omitted crucial items, such as the name of the island to the west of Copper Island (it is Bering Island) and the longitude meridian 193 degrees west (167 degrees east), which runs between Copper and Bering. This meridian is the dividing line in Article 1 of the 1867 treaty for which all the Aleutian islands (including Copper) to the east are conveyed to the U. S. The map also has a puzzling note at the bottom "Names are not necessarily authoritative."

> http://www.bartleby.com/43/43.html Text of the 1867 Treaty with Russia

> on the purchase of Alaska.


Comment: One would think that the treaty text would be on a Department of State webpage, instead of one by "Bartleby". The characterization of it as "on the purchase of Alaska" is misleading. The word "Alaska" does not appear anywhere in the treaty. (See next comment.)

> http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/gp/17662.htm A nutshell history of the

> Alaska purchase from the State Department Historian's Office.


Comment: Even the title of this webpage "Purchase of Alaska" is erroneous. "Alaska" was not purchased from the Russians. In 1867 the term "Alaska" referred only to a peninsula area near the eastern end of the

Aleutian islands. More than just this "Alaska" portion was ceded to the U. S. in the 1867 treaty. Modern day Alaska was accumulated by several acts from 1867 forward, adding more and more territory. With regard to legal terminology, the transaction involved a "cession" rather than a "sale", inasmuch as sovereignty was being ceded.


> -R US1990MB.PDF Text of the 1990 U.S.-USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement.


Comment: Still secret are the names of the negotiators from both sides, and the dates and locations of the approximately 10 negotiating sessions. It is noteworthy that this executive agreement purports to be able to accomplish the exact same thing that would require a treaty (i.e. establish a maritime boundary line).

> http://thomas.loc.gov/home/treaties/treaties.htm The Maritime Boundary

> Agreement is treaty number 101-22. By searching for that number on this

> page, you will find the Senate's advise and consent to the ratification

> of the Agreement.


Comment: Our group, State Department Watch, was the only group allowed to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the issue in 1991. We presented resolutions of opposition from the state legislatures of Alaska and California, plus numerous nationwide political, military, and patriotic groups. Hundreds of thousands of protests letters had previously been forwarded to the Department of State from Americans all across the country.

> http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/02/rubin.htm A somewhat amusing

> story about this whole flap in the February 2001 issue of the Atlantic

> Monthly.

Comment: This article is well worth reading. It also points out how the Department of State is giving away numerous other American islands in the Caribbean and Pacific (including hundreds of thousands of square miles of resource-rich seabeds) that were acquired as Guano Act islands. These giveaways are being accomplished without benefit of any executive agreements, treaties, or quid pro quo for the U. S.


> http://www.library.state.ak.us/hist/cent/020-0216.jpg For the true

> history fans: a link from the state of Alaska to an 1867 map from the

> U.S. Coastal Survey map showing the territory ceded to us by Russia.

> Even in 1867, the United States didn't claim any of these islands.


Comment: It is curious as to why the Department of State does not itself have an authoritative map. The U. S. Coastal Survey is not definitive as to what is included in the United States; only the Department of State has that power. There is a good reason that Wrangell, Bennett, Jeannette, and Henrietta Islands are not on the 1867 map. They were discovered in 1881 by Americans and made part of the United States. Wrangell Island was landed on by U. S. Revenue Marine (Coast Guard) steamer Thomas Corwin under the command of Capt. Calvin Leighton Hooper; and in the landing party was famed explorer John Muir who wrote about it in his book "The Cruise of the Corwin". Bennett, Jeannette, and Henrietta became American due to the expedition of USS Jeannette under the command of U. S. Navy Lieutenant George Washington DeLong. It was co-sponsored by the publisher of the New York Herald James Gordon Bennett. The islands were named after him, his sister, and his mother respectively, and the island group is called the DeLong Islands. An excellent account is presented in the book "Icebound" by Leonard Guttridge, published by the Naval Institute Press.

I would suggest interested parties to take a look at this website:


It is resolution HJR 27 of the legislature of Alaska which passed on nearly unanimous votes and was signed by Governor Tony Knowles in 1999. It recites numerous grievances of the state of Alaska, including the failure to be included in any of the negotiating sessions over the 1990 maritime boundary agreement or the subsequent discussions with the Russians over the loss of 300 million pounds of fish from U. S. ships annually. It complains about the secrecy from the state government and public involved. It notes, "Alaska has sovereignty and potential or actual property interests in the islands and their territorial seas and seabeds."

We believe there should be an open airing of all these matters of major consequence to the American public.

Carl Olson
State Department Watch

Top   Next