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Document Number: AJ-128
Author: Rezanov, Nikolai Petrovich, 1764-1807
Title: The Rezanov Voyage to Nueva California in 1806
Source: Rezanov, Nikolai. The Rezanov Voyage to Nueva California in 1806. The Report of Count Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov of His Voyage to That Provincia of Nueva Espana from New Archangel. An English Translation Revised and Corrected, with Notes Etc. by Thomas C. Russell.(San Francisco: The Private press of Thomas C. Russell, 1926).
Pages/Illustrations: 122 / 5
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-128/

Author Note

Count Nikolai Rezanov (1764-1807) was not an explorer but a bureaucrat. The son of a St. Petersburg, Russia, judge, as a young man he held a succession of clerkships for officials at the Russian court of Catherine the Great. At age thirty-one he married the teenage daughter of the head of a firm with extensive investments in the northwest coast of America. When her father died soon after, these responsibilities fell to him and in 1797 he organized the government-sponsored Russian-American Company with a monopoly on the North American fur trade. Following his wife’s unexpected death in 1802, Rezanov accepted command of the first Russian voyage around the world, in part to inspect the company’s American operations.

Expedition of 1803-1807

The expedition left Europe in the summer of 1803 and arrived in Japan in the fall of 1804, where Rezanov was imprisoned until the following spring. His ships went north to Kamchatka in 1805 before crossing the Pacific to North America, where he visited Russian settlements at Kodiak Island and Sitka. In the spring of 1806 he sailed south to California for supplies and to discuss trade relations with the Spanish. Reaching San Francisco on April 8, 1806, he soon fell in love with the teenage daughter of the commandant of the Presidio. They agreed to marry as soon as the Catholic Church would grant permission for her to wed a Russian Orthodox aristocrat. After six weeks in San Francisco Rezanov headed back to Sitka. On his return trip to Europe, however, he died of pneumonia; his fiancee only learned of his death five years afterwards and ultimately entered a convent, where she died fifty years later.

Document Note

Rezanov drafted a report on his visit in June 1806 before leaving Sitka; it is given here in English translation. His papers are preserved in Russian archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

Another perspective on these events was given by Rezanov’s personal physician, G. H. von Langsdorff (1774-1852), who published his three-volume Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World, during the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, and 1807 in 1813.

The U.S. National Park Service has a short biography of Rezanov on its Presidio of San Francisco site at http://www.nps.gov/prsf/history/bios/concep.htm

A wide variety of related information can also be found on the Library of Congress site “Meeting of Frontiers” at http://memory.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfhome.html including books, manuscripts, maps, and background information on Russian settlements in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

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