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a previous article, I spoke about the Alaska Purchase, an event more obscure to the general public than I thought. From the response to that article, I realized that a lot of people did not know that Alaska was once owned by Russia and was actually sold to the United States.

Although it did end up in the hands of the US, Russia offered its colonial land to other countries before finally striking a deal with the American president. Today, we will look at one such negotiation that was done with a country, so small that many people don’t know it even exists.

Financial Dire Straits

As I already wrote about the reasoning behind Russia wanting to sell their North American territory, in this article, I will paraphrase the background of the events which led up to the sale.

To put a long story short, the Empire of Russia, then ruled by a Tsar also known as a king, entered a short but bloody and expensive war against the Ottoman Empire, British Empire, and the Second French Empire. Although the war lasted just under three years, the Russian economy preceding the war was already weak; the two years and five-months war accelerated the economic downturn of the large empire.

The French landing near Yevpatoria, in Kalamita Bay, Crimea. Painting by Félix-Joseph Barrias. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The war also cost the Empire precious workers as over half a million Russians died in the fruitless war. As a result, Russia needed money to pull itself out of the oncoming Empire-wide recession, and it needed these funds quickly. As territory was a global commodity that could easily be sold, Russia looked at its territory of Аляска (Anglicised: Alyaska).

Seeing the land as basically worthless as the price the Empire was paying for the navy to safeguard the colony was higher than its yield, it was obvious to the Tsar that selling this land would be the first step to bringing Russia back to economic prosperity. This is when the country started to look for buyers.

A small country in Europe

Although famously, the Russian territory of Alaska was sold to America, another country was offered the land first. The House of Liechtenstein, the rulers of the world’s sixth smallest country, were offered the land before the offer was made to American President Andrew Johnson.

Hans-Adam II, the current prince of Liechtenstein. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Due to the good relations between the house of Liechtenstein and the House of Romanov, the then-rulers of the Russian Empire, the offer was first suggested to them. Although no records have survived of this interaction, mostly due to the offer being an oral one according to records, the memory of this offer was passed down through the descendants of the House of Liechtenstein.

Despite the fact that the country of Liechtenstein covers just over 160 square kilometers of land, its royal family has always been wealthy.

Knowing that the family had a massive gold reserve, exactly what Russia needed to boost its economy, Алексaндр II Николaевич (Anglicised: Alexander II Nikolaevich), the Russian Tsar at the time, looked toward them to solve his country’s troubles.

The deal fell out due to the Liechtenstein royal family’s concerns about governing such a large amount of land so far away from their capital. The lack of resources of Alaska also played a part in their rejection of the deal as, at the time, only furs were extracted from the vast tundra. It would only be at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century that Alaska’s true potential would be discovered.

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