Russian officials have recently made statements threatening to reclaim Alaska, which the U.S. bought from Russia in 1867, but it’s possible President Vladimir Putin isn’t interested.
In 2014, during his annual Q&A with Russian citizens, Putin was asked about taking back the territory. Questioner Faina Ivanovna told him it’s something Russians “would be very happy to see happen.”
“Why do you need Alaska?” Putin responded, according to The Washington Post. “By the way, Alaska was sold sometime in the 19th century. Louisiana was sold to the United States by the French at about the same time. Thousands of square kilometers were sold for $7.2 million, although in gold.” He called the purchase “inexpensive” and said people should “not get worked up about” Alaska. Russian state-TV host Kirill Kleymenov told Putin the state is jokingly referred to as “Ice Crimea.”
Years later, two Russian officials are once again floating the idea of returning Alaska to Russia. Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of Putin and chairman of the State Duma, said Russia could reclaim the territory in response to heavy sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its NATO and European Union allies in response to the Ukrainian invasion.
“When they [U.S. lawmakers] attempt to appropriate our assets abroad, they should be aware that we also have something to claim back,” Volodin said during a Wednesday meeting with Russian officials, according to the Associated Press.
Volodin previously suggested that Moscow could seize the Russian assets of “hostile” countries in retaliation for a U.S. proposal to sell off seized Russian oligarchs’ assets to rebuild Ukraine, according to The Moscow Times.
Noting that a deputy speaker had proposed holding a referendum among Alaskans on joining Russia, Volodin told the Duma on Wednesday, “We don’t interfere in their domestic affairs,” holding back laughter following applause, the Times reported.
On Thursday, Volodin also took parting shots at departing U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stepped down this week after a wave of scandals but was viewed as a strong ally of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The clown is going,” Volodin said, according to U.S. News & World Report. “He is one of the main ideologues of the war against Russia until the last Ukrainian. European leaders should think about where such a policy leads.”
Billboards reading “Alaska Is Ours!” were spotted Thursday, reported NGS24, a news agency in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. They are not believed to have been erected by Russian authorities but instead by “some patriot,” a restaurateur in the city said.
Russians may have first reached Alaska in the 1600s, with regular commercial fur-trapping expeditions between the territory and Siberia beginning in the 1740s.
In his only public comment on Russian threats against his state, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy linked to an MSN article about Volodin and wrote a pithy tweet on Thursday. “To the Russian politicians who believe they can take back Alaska: Good luck,” he said.