It’s Not Just Crimea—Some Alaskans Want to Join Russia, Too

Mar 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM ET

Now that Putin has successfully annexed Crimea, another group of disgruntled Russian descendants is hoping to return to the Kremlin’s dominion. As of Monday morning, a petition entitled “Alaska Back to Russia” has garnered more than 17,000 signatures since it launched Friday.

An unnamed Anchorage resident created the appeal, citing the state’s historic and ancestral ties to the world’s largest country. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to determine exactly how many of the signatures are authentic—as opposed to being Putin-employed bots or a ploy to exile Sarah Palin—but the surrounding chatter on Twitter confirms that at least some Russian-Americans are dead serious about secession.

Aside from the widely accepted theory that North America was settled 15,000 years ago by Siberians who crossed the Bering Strait to enter present-day Alaska, the territory was under Russian rule for almost two centuries before it became the 49th state. Starting in the late 18th century, Russian explorers began to colonize parts of the Alaskan mainland and the surrounding Aleutian Islands, establishing settlements even before the United States existed. It wasn’t until 1867 that the U.S. decided to buy the resource-rich region from Czar Alexander II, who was desperate for the $7.2 million Secretary of State William Seward had agreed to pay.

Geopolitics aside, Alaska isn’t exactly a hotbed of pro-Russian propaganda and patriotism. Unlike Crimea, where a large majority of citizens can claim Russian ancestry, only a tiny percentage of Alaska’s population is actually descended from the Slavic motherland. According to the 2010 census, only a meager 1 percent of the state’s residents are of Russki origins, as opposed to 15.5 percent German and 11.2 percent Irish, which might pose a bit of a problem for the secessionists’ cause.

The petition has more than 82,000 signatures to go before it is eligible for an official review and response from the White House. If it comes to that, government officials will probably offer the same sappy words they said the last time some states (Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida) tried to secede. “As much as we value a healthy debate,” wrote Jon Carson, the White House director of the office of public engagement“we don’t let that debate tear us apart.”