Historama, March 15

While Napoleon was conquering Europe, Russians had their sights set on America. Transatlantic as well as trans-Siberian journeys make up tonight’s Historama.

First Russians settle in America

On March 15, 1812, Fort Ross, the first Russian settlement in North America, was founded near San Francisco.

The first settlers were sent by the Russian-American Company to establish trade relations and hunt sea otters for Russian colonies in Alaska.

The land surrounding Fort Ross was bought from local Indians for three blankets, three pairs of breeches, two axes, and some beads.

The Russians left the settlement in 1842 as trade declined, and in 1906 the site was turned into a historical monument.

Read more about this episode in Russian history in our “Russia Now” section

New home of lazy peasants

On this day in 1822, Russian nobles were given the right to send lazy or misbehaving peasants packing to Siberia.

The area had long played host to prisoners and exiles whose forced labour helped to develop the far-flung Russian region.

By the end of the 19th century, there were around 310,000 such workers living in Siberia.

However, the high cost of prisoner camps and the low workforce efficiency led to Tsar Nicholas II suspending the practice of Siberian exile in the early 20th century.

­Mobile phone pioneer born

The man whose work made technology like mobile phones possible was born today in 1930.

Zhores Alferov got into physics at school.

He began his Nobel-prize winning research into hetero-transistors at 33.

His work is applied everywhere in the modern world, from bar-code readers to satellite communications systems.

Alferov is also into politics. He is a member of the Communist party and has been a Duma deputy since 1995.

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