Moscow: University Typ. 1865.
Octavo. 46 pp. Period style brown quarter sheep with marbled papered boards and gilt-lettered title on the spine. Title page and p. 3 with expertly removed stamps, occasional very mild foxing of the text, but overall a very good copy of this rare book.
Very rare Russian imprint with only three paper copies found in Worldcat (Yale University, University of Wisconsin, British Library St. Pancras).
An important rare Russian work defending the Russian American Company at the time of its crisis and reorganization in the early 1860s. The work was published just two years before the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Its author Dmitry Zavalishin, a talented Russian naval officer, explorer, political activist and writer, is known for his bold project of annexing California to the Russian Empire, which he authored during his stay in San Francisco in the winter of 1823-1824 (see more: Mazour, A.G. Dimitry Zavalishin: Dreamer of a Russian American Empire// Pacific Historical Review. Vol. 5, No. 1 (Mar. 1936), pp. 26-37). An offspring of an influential Russian noble family and a son of a prominent military commander of the Napoleonic Wars, Zavalishin took part in the 1822-1825 Russian circumnavigation on board frigate “Kreiser” under the command of the Antarctic explorer Mikhail Lazarev (1788-1851). During his 79-days stay in San Francisco in November 1823 – February 1824, Zavalishin attempted to convince the Commandant of the Presidio of Santa Barbara Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega (1779-1858) to declare himself the Governor of California, announce the region’s independence from Mexico and then to turn it into a Russian protectorate. To effectively administer the future Russian California, Zavalishin invented the international fraternity society, which he named the “Order of Recovery” (Orden Vosstanovleniya; the order’s manuscript statute and rules can be seen on the website of the State Archive of the Russian Federation: https://statearchive.ru/1075). Zavalishin offered the membership to several Russian and Spanish public figures in the Pacific Northwest, including Guerra y Noriega, the head of the Catholic Mission San Francisco Solano Fr. Jose Altimira, and the head of the RAC’s office in New Archangel Kirill Khlebnikov (1784-1838). The project eventually did not get the approval of the Russian Emperor and was abandoned. In Saint Petersburg, Zavalishin became connected with the future participants of the anti-government Decembrist Revolt of 1825 and was exiled to Siberia, returning to European Russia only in 1863. After the civic amnesty of 1856, he published numerous articles about Siberia, the Russian Far East and Russian America in major Russian magazines and newspapers (“Moskovskiye Vedomosti,” “Russkiy Vestnik,” “Dryevnyaya i Novaya Rossiya,” “Russkaya Starina,” and others). He remained highly interested in the affairs of the Russian American Company and California and publicly opposed the idea of the sale of Alaska.
His brochure “Rossiisko-Amerikanskaya Kompaniya” was issued during the time of growing opposition to the company’s independence and its sole existence in the Russian elite circles, led by Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich (then the Russian naval minister). In the interim period between the expiry of RAC’s charter in 1861 and its general meeting in September 1865, the company faced accusations in the factual creation of serfdom of the native population (similar to that in mainland Russia) and its pursuit of only commercial interests which resulted in the slow development of the colony and the wrongful sale of Fort Ross in 1841. Zavalishin refutes these statements, comparing the achievements in the Pacific Northwest of RAC and the Hudson’s Bay Company. He also talks about the history of Fort Ross, living conditions of the native population, discusses the famous report of Sergey Kostlivtsov (Doklad Komiteta ob Ustroistve Russkikh Amerikanskikh Kolonii. 2 vols. SPb., 1863), mentions the foundation of Vladivostok (p. 10), Fraser River Gold Rush (p. 28), gold discovery on the Stikine River (p. 37), etc.
Overall an important rare Russian work on the Russian American Company published shortly before the Sale of Alaska.
“Zavalishin wrote the present brief work preparatory to the R.-A. Co.’s stockholders’ meeting called for September 15, 1865, to discuss the principles underlying the proposed new charter worked out by the State Council. This new charter was to be substituted for the old one, which expired in 1861. Zavalishin’s objectives were to meet the criticism of the Company and to show that, on the whole, the affairs of the Company and its treatment of the natives were no worse than those which existed at the time in the less distant places of the empire, such as Kamchatka, Okhotsk, or even in the United States. His is an interesting and, to a considerable extent, justified defence of the R.-A. Co.” (Lada-Mocarski 156). Wickersham 6007.