Russian American History Contest

For three years Project Harmony Inc. administered the Fort Ross Quest Contest that helped spread the word about Fort Ross as a great example of Russian-American shared history. This year the contest introduced a format with a broader theme to reach an even wider audience.

We received nearly 50 entries this year from 36 different cities. This year we invited teams of up to three 8-10 graders and a teacher to create a video or a cartoon (“the video”) that captured a common historical element (person, event, place, etc.) uniting Russia and the United States and serving as an example of our shared history and values. Project topics ranged greatly from the life of Samantha Smith, to the Soviet pilot, Valery Chkalov’s, pioneer polar flight from Europe to the American Pacific Coast, to the creation of the International Space Station. In the end nine highly-qualified semifinalist teams were selected for to be interviewed. The Acorns of Peace, a St. Petersburg-based team, were the first finalist team. They created their own paintings and drawings to tell the story of George Sumner, a nineteenth-century American researcher and traveler, and his journey to Russia. When meeting with the Russian Emperor, he presented him with an acorn from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a symbol of respect and friendship between the two nations.

 

The Acorns of Peace, a St. Petersburg-based team, were the first finalist team.

The second finalist team, Soyuz-Apollo, is from Volgograd, and was inspired to name their group after their project topic, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. This mission marked the first joint U.S.-Soviet spaceflight, when the Apollo Command Module docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19.

Soyuz-Apollo Team from Volgograd

The winners will travel to the United States in July 2018 to visit New York City, Washington D.C., and San Francisco and will participate in the annual Fort Ross Festival!

The deadline for the Russian American History Video Contest in 2018 has passed. Details for future contest will be provided as available.

If you have any questions, please contact Project Harmony at fortross@ph-int.org.

Fort Ross: History

Russian Promyshleniki began their eastward expansion to Alaska, in order to procure the pelts of sea otters, which were highly valuable at the time. However, American Indian skirmishes and a dwindling population of sea otters led the Russians to search for a new settlement, where they could continue their hunting. In 1803, Americans captains already hunting sea otters in California began joint ventures with the Russians along the coasts of California. The Russian hunters, under increasing pressure to establish a new base outside of Alaska, settled on California. Fort Ross was founded in 1812, named after the Russian motherland.

The Russians negotiated use of the land with the local Kashaya Pomo, a native tribe. The fort became the center of agriculture and trade for the expansionists, which supplied Russia’s northern settlements. The settlers began to develop the area, creating a separate sealing station, a port on Bodega Bay and several small farming communities. As the pelt trade began to decline due to a lack of sea otters, the Russians began shipbuilding and also constructed the first windmills in California. In 1838, Fort Ross was no longer an important outpost to the Russians, and was sold to John Sutter. After several more sales of the land, it was acquired by George W. Call, who sold it to the California Historical Landmarks Commission in 1903.

In 1906, the land was given to the State of California for preservation and given state historic status. Fort Ross State Historic Park was established in 1909. The Rotchev House was later designated a national historical monument. The Park is now jointly supported by the State of California, the Renova Group of Companies and the non-profit Fort Ross Conservancy.