SANTA ROSA, Calif., July 29 (by Karin Zeitvogel for RIA Novosti) – Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, on Monday called for Russian and American youths to work together on an archaeological dig at Fort Ross, the 19th-century Russian settlement on the Pacific coast in California.
“We would be bringing together Russian and American youth to dig into Russian-American history – positive Russian-American history,” Kislyak told the inaugural session of the Fort Ross Dialogue, a discussion aimed at promoting greater US-Russian cooperation.
“I believe, and academics agree, that one could find a lot of artefacts at Fort Ross that would reflect the mixed community of Russians, native Alaskans and Kashaya who lived there in harmony,” Kislyak told RIA Novosti on the sidelines of the dialogue, which is being held in California’s wine country – where the Fort Ross Russians were the first to introduce grapes.
The Russian settlers at Fort Ross lived in harmony with the indigenous people and were considered by the local Kashaya tribe, whose people lived at the site on the Pacific coast of California, to be better neighbors than Spanish settlers, according to historical accounts of the time.
This was in part because the Russians did not force the Kashaya to convert to Christianity and also because they treated the Kashaya fairly, paying them for their work and providing them with lodging.
The two communities lived side by side at Fort Ross for around four decades, and while the Kashaya area of Fort Ross has been excavated, the Russian settlement never has, Kislyak said.
The idea of holding a joint Russian-American dig, involving youth from both countries, was first floated last year by Kislyak during the bicentennial celebrations of the Russian fort.
“Everyone seemed to be on board,” Kislyak said. “But the problem is, you can’t excavate without licenses and permits, and we can’t come from another country and just start digging in the US,” he said.
Russian academic institutions have already expressed an interest in and support for an archaeological project at Fort Ross, and Kislyak urged US universities and the scientific community to get on board, too.
“A project like this would be very helpful” in fostering better long-term understanding between the two countries, he said. “I love the idea.”
Like the idea of holding an archaeological dig at Fort Ross, the Fort Ross Dialogue was proposed at last year’s 200th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Russian settlement in northern California. Kislyak was also a driving force behind the dialogue, which he proposed in tandem with Mikhail Shvydkov, the Kremlin’s special envoy for international cultural cooperation.
The inaugural Fort Ross Dialogue opened with a video message from three cosmonauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) who noted the similarities between the 19th century Russian settlement in California and the 21st century ISS.
“Fort Ross reminds us of how vast US-Russia historic opportunities could be when we act in concert towards a common goal. The International Space Station does the same,” ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov and engineers Alexander Misurkin and Fedor Yurchikhin said.