Alexandr Baranov versus Hieromonk Gideon
Dee Longenbaugh (Juneau, Alaska, USA)
On June 28, 1804 Hieromonk Gideon, aboard the round-the-world-bound vessel of the Russian American Company, Neva, sighted the settlement of Kad'iak, today's Kodiak. Fog delayed the actual landing until the 30th, which might be a metaphor for the frustrations and difficulties lying ahead for the hieromonk.
He was on the first part of his inspection tour of the Russian settlements in Alaska and Kamchatka, sent by Metropolitan Amvrossi as the “Metropolitan's eye”.
Gideon was 34, in prime health, with a scholarly background. Born Gavril Fedotov in 1770 to a priest in the Orel region, he began his studies in 1789, learning the standard Classical subjects of the day, plus theology. He taught French at his old school for two years, then began his meteoric rise in the Orthodox Church. On December 23, 1799, he became a monk, on the 24th a Hierodeacon and celebrated Christmas by being consecrated a hieromonk. Continuing with his teaching duties, in 1803 he was also assigned as Cathedral Hieromonk to the Monastery of St. Alexandr Nevski. This quickly led to his new appointment .
Gideon appears to have been either extremely innocent of the ways of the world or extremely quarrelsome. At any event, he was not pleased with the behavior of his shipmates, Captain Yuri Lisianski and Midshipman Vasili Berkh, during the year he spent on the Neva en route to Alaska. He wrote that Lisianski prohibited him from performing Divine services on Sundays and Feast Days while at sea and made 'scathing remarks ridiculing Religion.' Gideon was doubly horrified as Lisianski's father was a priest. He lists other humiliations, such as being ordered to his cabin for being on the deck when the Captain walked past. According to him, '...my only cure was magnanimous patience' .
Unfortunately, his trials were only beginning. He arrived in Kodiak to find Baranov and his men engaged in major disputes with the Company's maritime officers and the clergy who had formed common cause, although for very different reasons.
The officers treated the lower merchant classes with contempt and were incensed when Chief Manager Alexandr Baranov of that class gave them orders.
The clergy's stated outrage was over the oppression of the natives, although they didn't offer alternatives. Indeed, they used the Islanders [Aleuts] themselves as kaiurs [forced laborers], although they insisted the aid was out of love for the clergy.
The hieromonk jumped into the fray, detailing abuses he witnessed and adding those told him by the other monks.
So who was right? History is a slippery subject and subject to many interpretations, hence the proliferation of historians. In this case, there exists correspondence, both official and personal, from and to both sides. Alexandr Baranov wrote the Directors of the company and his friends. Hieromonk Gideon had his official public reports and his secret letters to the Metropolitan. The majority of the Baranov material is located in two books edited by the preeminent authority R.A. Pierce; Gideon's side is contained in the account of his voyage .
Sympathy can be felt for two of the camps, if not for the arrogant marine officers. However, the facts need to be laid out for the impartial to decide, if indeed that is possible.
Both sides had legitimate grievances. The clergy, the original eight monks who had come to Alaska at the urging of Gregory Shelikov, the co-founder of the Russian American Company, had been led to expect a peaceful time, baptizing the Natives and living in at least moderate comfort. When they discovered the stark reality of the poor and hungry colony at Kodiak they naturally vented their anger and disappointment on the administrator closest at hand, Baranov. They quickly began blaming him for all the persecution the Aleuts had suffered under the Russians.
When Baranov arrived in Kodiak in 1791, hired by Shelikov in 1790, there was already a long history of abuses of the Aleuts on the part of the hunters. After the semi-friendly beginning with Bering in 1741, major battles had quickly broken out between the Aleuts and the Russian hunters.
In 1745 Captain Mikhail Nevodchikov, on the vessel Evdokiia, encountered 100 men at the second island of the Western, or Near Aleutians The Russians, not daring to leave the ship, threw presents. In return, crewman Chuprov received a mace with seal's head carving. An Aleut wanted his gun in return, and upon Chuprov's resistance a group grabbed the boat's painter. Then came the first foreshadowing of the lopsided advantage of men with guns. Chuprov shot one of the men; the innocent Aleuts “seeing blood on his body the native's friends took off their mantles and carried him into the water to wash” .
There was another encounter by the same skipper and ship in 1746 on the First Island of the Western Aleutians. 32 of the crew died before their return in 1747, but because of cruelty to the Aleuts, reported by the Cossack sent along to collect tribute “all the survivors were put on trial.” The outcome isn't specified. However, the Empress was so pleased by the discovery of the islands she promoted Nevodchikov .
Skirmishes and battles continued. The Aleuts, experienced warriors, put up a good fight but spears are no match for guns. And European diseases devastated all the islands. Of course, as with all meetings between people, individuals responded in their several ways. A frequent quarrel was over women; Russians wanted them during their wintering over and the Aleut men resisted (very little is written about the women's view of the exchange). This led to notable outrages. On the other hand, several Russians married Aleut women and were accepted by the villages .
In 1762 the Aleuts united and rose up against the Russians, disposing of all of those in the vicinity.
And in 1764 Solov'ev exacted a terrible revenge for the uprising . However, skipper Stepan Glotov not only spent three peaceful years from 1759-1763 on then unexplored Umnak Island, but made the first lay baptism of an Eastern Aleut, a godson to whom he gave his own name and subsequently took back to Kamchatka. Upon his return as a grown man this godson was named chief toyon of the Aleutians . Ironically, in 1765, Glotov joined Solov'ev in his murderous raids.
That all was not well with the treatment of the Aleuts was officially recognized early on. In 1787 Grigorii Ugrenin, Commandant of the Okhotsk oblast sent a warning to the Company personnel and notice to the Aleuts that the people must be treated as Russian and not be molested or involuntarily removed from their home islands. In an accompanying paper he noted three petitions from Aleuts he had received and promised to forward them to the central Government. He apologized for the past “inhuman deeds” of the hunters and promised punishment .
It is not known just how much effect this paper issued in Siberia had or how much the Aleuts were told of the official position that the new citizens of Mother Russia were to be treated as “brothers” . Certainly the petitions continued in 1789 and 1790, outlining cruel treatment by the hunters, ranging from forced labor to the taking of women and starvation of the people from the pilfering of food supplies, stating earlier promises to seek official action had not materialized, although several hunters were questioned in 1790 and gave their version of events in their defense .
However, it was largely due to the clergy that even today Baranov is regarded with horror by some as the cruel slave master of the Aleuts .
All seemed to start well, with the monks reporting great missionary zeal and the joyous baptism of thousands of Aleuts. Archimandrite Ioasaf, the leader of the group, wrote:
Father German works in the mill together with me and Father Ioasaf... Father Makarii Konevskii is very useful here, contrary to all expectations. I had not thought that he would make the journey here, but he has traveled round half the island almost alone, baptizing and wedding, and on the ship bearing this letter he has set off for the island of Unalashka and the surrounding islets to baptize the natives there. Afanasii is learning his way here and is mostly responsible for the allotment, digging the ground. Father Nektarii, and the good Hierodeacon Juvenalii is quite sensible, while his brother, Father Stepan... is, although a young man still, very kind, simple, helpful and wise... In addition the Russians here have various needs of their own: they wish to talk to us and for us to hear confessions .
Father Herman wrote with amusement of the fervency and enthusiasm for traveling the far reaches of Alaska to baptize and teach the native people, the monks arguing in their eagerness to enter the field .
But quarrels with the administration soon began. During the first winter, the Archimandrite “ sent letters to Russia to the directors of the company concerning various maladministration”, and Father Herman called Baranov “A rich man, and at the same time proud with a taste for rich living” .
Gideon's first notes describe the buildings in the little colony as “decrepit” and “dilapidated”, with the exception of a new cattle yard . He also found the clergy eager to retail the abuses they had witnessed. These the Hieromonk wrote down for his report.
Three years previously the Company prepared for a sea otter hunting trip by making leg stocks and neck yokes with canes for the youngsters, lashes for the adults, and sticks for the old men.
A line of Russian hunters advanced, firearms loaded, and announced: “ 'Now, tell us if you are not joining the party, [just] say so!” [the guns were then cocked] — We'll shoot!' ”
Under such threats who would dare to express dissatisfaction?
In a secret letter of June 2,1805 to his Metropolitan, Amvrossi, the hieromonk writes of the events leading up to the celebrated oath of allegiance incident:
Besides spreading among the Aleuts all sorts of harmful nonsense, everything that could be invented by the company to the detriment of the honor of the clergy, out of envy of the great love evidenced by the child-like folk for their enlighteners, the manager Baranov, construing this as an infringement on his authority over the Americans oppressed by various labor for and demands by the company, on July 14th 1800, in a letter... [to] Monk Herman, forbade the clergy to have any contact with the Americans [Aleuts] and ordered that those who were given kind reception as part of the preachers' duty were to be driven off.
In accordance with the Imperial Manifesto of 1796, the Kodiak people ought to have been administered the oath of allegiance to the Russian Throne but because the company sends them far away and because of other impediments this was not done. Therefore, on January 1st, 1801 Hieromonk Afanasii sought Baranov's permission to do so. For doing this, the Hieromonk was cursed and driven off with a warning not to come back.
This is followed by an account of twenty Aleuts coming with their chiefs begging not be sent on any more distant hunting trips. Upon refusal, they came to the clergy and two officers with new parkas, asking to be buried in them if they were killed by the company, and pleading for the clergy to bear witness.
Horrified, the monks tried to console them and asked the men to take the oath of allegiance to the Czar. Gladly consenting, the group went to the church and Hieromonk Afanasii administered the oath. Afterwards, as the Aleuts were boarding their baidarkas, Deputy Manager Kuskov and his men chased them, catching one toyon and putting him in irons before shutting him up in a dark closet. The others managed to escape.
Next, Hieromonk Afanasii, surmising Baranov wanted to seize his godson, a toyon who came to visit, made plans to send him away. First Afanasii tried to make a short trip in his own baidarka but a group of promyshlenniki, ordered by Baranov, captured him.
Then Baranov himself, in a towering rage, began to curse, calling the Hieromonk a run-away serf and the entire clergy and the two officers (Navigator Tallinn's men)... mutineers.
Faced with such an unpleasant event, Monk Herman asked Baranov to make known in decent language, devoid of obscenities, the reason for his displeasure. The Manager just continued to shout: “Here! You found some kind of an oath of allegiance! You have corrupted all the Americans!”
To this the humble elder responded: “The Imperial Manifesto was published for all; if the Spiritual Mission in any way acted illegally, shouldn't the matter then be submitted to the Government where everything can be examined in accordance with the law?”
Baranov, paying no attention, kept on screeching: “What Manifesto? What Law?” and in the heat of anger threatened the clergy variously, to send them to Unalashka in irons, and to fence in and board up the mission's quarters so that nobody would be able to visit them nor they get out.
As a result, the clergy were greatly afraid and expected anytime to be dragged somewhere by the promyshlenniki on Baranov's orders, or to be beaten. They hardly dared to return from the shore to their house, around which they could see for some time afterward promyshlenniki armed with guns. For the same reason they did not even dare go to the church, but conducted all services in the house for more than a year not only out of fear but also because doubt was cast about their loyalty through the prohibition of the oath of allegiance .
Baranov complained about the clergy in a letter to an friend and fellow Alaskan, Larionov as early as 1800. While he was absent building Archangel [Sitka] and Kuskov was at Nuchek,
“...the monks and government employees took the reins of authority away from the foreman and everybody began to give orders as he thought best. Even after Kuskov returned it was hard to change this state of affairs but some barriers were put up. When the wreckage of the Orel was cast ashore they decided to form a council composed of the interpreter [Prianishnikov, whom Baranov disliked] — for himself and the monks — the clerk, and some of our radically inclined hunters. The council decided that for their safety the people who were in the harbor should stop all work and perform only sentry duties, that Kodiak native hunters should be called to the harbor for protection and that in the summertime no more native hunting parties should be sent after sea otters or birds... The arrival of Kuskov changed all this. I ordered... a census of all the natives on Kodiak, giving presents of tobacco and other things to the toyons and prominent natives.
According to Kuskov's report, three Russians had been killed at Lake Iliamna by the natives, who then plotted to exterminate all the Russians in the area. This was discovered and two ringleaders were sent to Kodiak. The interpreter and the clergy set them free upon promises of two baidarkas full of furs. When Baranov returned he sent the two to Sitka to work. The monks predicted...” that a government expedition would arrive to investigate the management here. They hope for it, perhaps keeping in mind their and Father Makarii's former complaints...The opinion was expressed that I would not return from Sitka but would be taken to Europe after the investigation”.
There are still more troubles... with the monks, who judge everything according to ideas that might be all right for a recluse in a desert. We are trying to please all of them, to satisfy their requests, but they are never satisfied, always grumble, ask every native worker about everything after his arrival here from some trip, and take notes of what they hear... One question remains undecided: Who is going to be the new bishop? The reason that we should not expect Ioasaf is that they complained about him and tried to use against me my donation to the church made very sincerely through the clerk, of 1,500 rubles.
Your promise to send supplies and trading goods is very timely considering the unfortunate circumstances. [The loss of the Orel and soon to be confirmed loss of the Phoenix. ] Please supply us with what you can because we are in debt and have not enough for the clergy or to pay the native hunters for the furs and they are worrying about this .
In another letter to his old friend that summer, Baranov writes:
Too many leaders and the lack of obedience encouraged by the interpreter and the government skipper grieves me greatly... We have a hermit here now by the name of German who is worse than Makarii. He is a great talker and likes to write. Even though he keeps himself in his cell most of the time, not even going to church out of fear of worldly temptations, he knows nevertheless everything that we think and do, not only a daytime but even at night. By means of pious cajoling he extracts all the information that he wants from pupils from among the servants here and sometimes from our own men. His principal helper is our “Mister Interpreter” who is so zealous when it comes to our chastity but who as a proof of his jealousy has no nose left.
As a result of my weakness and transgressions I have here a son three years old whose qualities are very promising but whose mother in my absence became affected so that we almost lost the boy. After my return, to cause me vexation the fathers insisted for quite a while that the child be taken away from his mother and tried in different ways to persuade her in this respect. I bear all this calmly but my love for my offspring is offended. I am away very often and he is too small and cannot be without a mother .
...I was punished by anxiety and my temper sorely tried, because the clergy and the government employees were entirely out of bounds and for half of the winter tried to instigate an uprising among the hunters and especially among the islanders. On New Year's Eve they vividly, as if in a stage play, gave proof of their attitude towards me and the company. During this day the work was stopped so that the men could merrily see the Old Year go and could meet the New Year according to the Russian custom. I went to a meeting in the barracks to investigate the complaints of the hunters concerning one of them, a depraved and restless individual.
I ordered him told to come, but as soon as he arrived Mr. Interpreter came with the hieromonk and shortly afterwards the skipper, Mr. Sublieutenant Tallinn arrived. He ran right in and shouted: “What kind of meeting is this? Who called it and why?”
When I answered that we had called it to discuss some of the business matters and that I was about to make a decision in the case of the hunter, all of them shouted at once that I, a private citizen, could not judge matters without them, government employees. My answer was that this right was given to me from the beginning by the government and by men in charge of the company's affairs... and asked them if they had such government orders... to produce them... They only repeated time and again that they had such orders but were under no obligation to show them to anyone... This caused an even greater hubbub and all the monks came running. They shouted, scolded and threatened all of us with the whip and fetters. The monks could not produce any written instructions permitting them to get mixed up in our affairs, so they all left.
The next day, on New Year's... the clerk, Mr. Podgazh, the skipper, and several hunters were drinking tea at my place when the hieromonk ran in very excited and shouted that I must not send the bird crew this year and that all the people on the island had to take the oath of allegiance right away. After giving him tea, I answered that because the bird crew would be leaving in May there was lots of time but that to gather people for taking the oath of allegiance right away was inconvenient for the hunters and islanders to come from different settlements in such cold and stormy weather as we had this winter.
It was not their custom to bring their own food supplies when coming here and all were liable to undergo a period of starvation if they were called. The oath of allegiance could be taken in the springtime when they gather for hunting and when we have plenty of food. Suddenly he called me a traitor to the Emperor and accused me of interfering with the people taking the oath.
I was sorely vexed being called such a name because in all of my activities I take the interest of my country and the glory of our Monarch uppermost. I therefore asked : 'Do you have an Ukase or an order from His Eminence, and why did the government expedition that visited these parts and which had among its members four staff officers do nothing about that? Why did the Archimandrite Ioasaf, later nominated Bishop, not call the natives and why do they not want to wait for the arrival of their superior who is to be sent here?'
He answered me shortly that they did not have an Ukase, but that the manifesto states 'for all loyal subjects' and that they consider the islanders to be such. He said, further, that it was none of their business why the expedition and Father Archimandrite did not do it, but they had decided to do it themselves and if they were prevented from doing it, they would consider everyone who opposed them a traitor and would see that they were punished with a whip.
I laughed at that and asked him to get out of my house peacefully. Before leaving he told me that all those who live openly with unmarried girls and have children by them should not be admitted to church according to the ecclesiastical statute. I am positive that there can be nothing of the kind in the statute issued by our wise Emperor, but to avoid being abused by their wrath in God's temple I have not gone to church since the New Year. In church, if somebody comes to kiss the cross at the end of the service they push him back and shame him before the government employees.
Finally, during Lent they discontinued services altogether and had them only four times on Sundays. They do not promise to have services during Easter week... They promised the islanders independence and freedom to live according to their old customs if they would take the oath of allegiance. Their freedom consists of robbery and in everlasting bloody barbarism.
After calling up the people from Ugashensk village (the headman is their godson, and devoted to them) to take the oath of allegiance they sent messengers to other villages to declare their independence and freedom. According to that the natives would not have to work in the company's hunting crew but could hunt for themselves and sell the skins to whom they pleased at Okhotsk prices. The government employees who were in the barracks at the time expressed an opinion that they had a right to buy as many furs as they could as well as the company, and that they were going to do so... The toyons and head men of five villages... did not come to me but went to the interpreter instead. From him they came to me and declared that they did not want to go with the hunting crew any more... They would not listen to me and the priests took them to church and made them take the oath of allegiance (though what this oath means none of them understands and none could explain it to me when I asked them.) After that, without seeing me or any of the company's employees and without settling their accounts and debtors, they went to their baidarkas and prepared to leave. I saw in this a clear evidence of revolt. The time was short before I had to dispatch the hunting crew and I knew that if this state of affairs became known in our remote establishments in Kenai, Chugach, Yakutat and at Sitka, disastrous and bloody events were bound to happen; the Russians would be exterminated, all our settlements destroyed, the company would cease to exist and with it all advantages to our Country, and it would be hard to restore the region to its present state again even in fifteen years... I ordered seizure of the toyons who were leaving without settling their accounts and whose behavior was that of former times, full of cold arrogance and independence.
My men managed to seize on the one from Tugidatsk. The other, with their men, were at sea already and we could not pursue them. But even though we seized only one chief it had some good influence on the others. They quit coming in bands and refusing to have anything to do with the company... The arrested chief is under guard.
The clergy became very excited, and running back and forth to the barracks and to me they called us robbers, traitors, mutineers and all the insulting names that they could think of, shouting that we would not escape the whip and forced labor. In the meantime I learned that the rebel from Ugashensk who had visited other villages inciting revolt had come secretly to see the priests at nighttime. I ordered the guard to wait for him and catch him on his way home, but the monks found out about my intentions and at night they dressed one of the hieromonks in chief's clothes and put him in the chief's baidarka with the result that the hieromonk was seized by the guards instead of the rebel.
He was freed without any molestation but at this point a real riot started. The fathers all ran out with the skirts of their cassocks tucked high and with their shirt sleeves rolled up as if ready for a prize fight, cursing and shouting. I went out to them and also did some shouting and told them frankly that if they did not stop inciting rebellion I would have to use extreme and disagreeable measures: either I would build a high fence around their residence and allow them to go nowhere except to perform church services or I would deport the principal instigators to you on Unalashka.
Baranov does not mention Gideon's charge:
When the time came to assemble the sea otter hunting parties, Kuskov armed the baidara not only with guns but also with cannon and set out for the settlements where lived those who had taken the oath of allegiance. In order to achieve greater effect, the partovshchik [head of a hunting party] Kondakov was ordered to travel ahead. Approaching the settlement, the latter shouted with various obscenities and ridicule addressed to the clergy: 'Come out and meet us! The popes [a term of ridicule in this context, notes Lydia Black] are coming, and Osip (this was the interpreter's name) is here to help you swear the oath!' When the baidara rudder was carried ashore, all yelled: 'Here is your cross! Come and kiss it!'
It is too shameful to even mention what kinds of injuries, violence, and debauch were committed against the islanders .
Baranov's letter continues:
Even after that they [the clergy] did not improve their conduct. They quit going to church altogether and claim that they do not perform services because they are afraid of us, but during the night they prowl around and seize our servants, taking them under their protection and marry them in the bathhouses. In this way they married not only some free servant girls but even some who were bought — married them no matter to whom.
From all this you can see in what peaceful and pleasant state affairs here are with these restless fellows .
In his reply of August 5, 1801, Larionov noted:
I believe you in everything you write. And there is nobody to whom we can complain. As the saying goes: 'God is high and the Tsar is far away.' You write that your government employees and 'holy' monks stick their noses in business matters that do not concern them and cause trouble among the islanders and Russians. That does not surprise me. The Government and the men in charge of company affairs entrust the management and promotion of trade here for the benefit and glory of the Fatherland to the managers and not to these people. Now you must insist upon that more than ever .
For another view of the allegiance oath brouhaha, we can turn to Nikolai Rezanov, then the most important individual in the Russian American Company, Chamberlain of the Imperial Court and Plenipotentiary in America. While not an aristocrat, his connections at Court were an enormous asset. In a secret letter to the Directors of the Company, written from Sitka in November, 1805, he spoke of his admiration of Baranov and slightingly of the hunters.
Most of the men who come here are depraved, drunk, violent and corrupted to such an extent that any society should consider it a great relief to get rid of them. Here hardships and work make them behave more quietly, and there are few opportunities to get dunk. Returning to Okhotsk they resume the old life again and in a few weeks spend on drink and debauch the products of four years' labors. After that they return to America.
His opinion of the officers was not much higher. He gives instances of their arrogance and disobedience to Baranov, explaining that:
The contempt which the nobility feels towards traders makes them all bosses here... Even if there is a manager who had a rank well merited, they cannot forget that formerly he was a merchant, which to many of them means that he was of no account. To obey his orders seems to them humiliating... The moment a whim of theirs is not obeyed, they shout ' We are free men. We do not want to be in the service — we are going back.'
As to the clergy, they were malcontents and dupes of the officers:
As for the ecclesiastical mission, they have baptized several thousands here, but only nominally... They have just been 'bathing' the Americans and when, due to their ability to copy, the latter learn in half an hour how to make the sign of the cross, our missionaries return, proud of their success, thinking that their job is done.
Having little to do they try to take part in the civil government of the country, calling themselves government representatives. The restless officers use them as their tools against the Manager. The result is grief and there is danger of our losing the whole country. I will give you an example. At the time of the coronation of the Emperor, the monks without a word to the manager sent out orders calling all the natives to Kad'iak to take the oath of allegiance. There were no provisions at Kad'iak and if the manager had not stopped the people from gathering by sending his men to their villages, several thousand of them gathering at Kad'iak would have killed everybody from starvation alone. (Unflattering account of Juvenal's martyrdom at Lake Iliamna.)
I told the holy fathers that if any of them took another step without first getting the Manager's approval, or if they meddled in civil affairs, I would order such criminals deported to Russia, where for disrupting the peace of the community such people would be defrocked and severely punished to make an example of them. They cried, rolled at my feet and told me that it was the government employees who had told them what to do. They promised me to behave, so that the Manager would have nothing but praise for them in the future. I admonished them thus privately in the presence of Father Gideon but in public I have always shown respect for their dignity.
This scolding is followed by a paragraph praising the future of the monks in teaching school and agriculture .
Hieromonk Gideon's view was very different. Writing his superior the year before, he said:
Growing fearful that officers arriving here... would report the refusal to administer the oath of allegiance and the oppression of the clergy, the Manager attempted to smooth over his [earlier] actions. For this reason he found himself compelled to [finally] forward to the Spiritual Mission the Manifesto together with all other dispatches belonging to it which he had previously retained, appending a communication in which he asked [the clergy] to administer the oath of allegiance to all.
Thus the clergy, no longer fearing any suspicion of disloyalty on their part, as of September 15, 1802 resumed the conduct of Divine services in the church, while Baranov began to exhibit signs of his benevolence toward them: first, he sent them two pounds of tea and four pounds of sugar, then a barrel of whale oil, a barrel of whale meat, and a barrel of crow berries... .
Baranov also donated money from the Company for the church and the clergy.
Certainly the hard life was taking its toll. In the same letter, Gideon pointed out:
The clergy all live in one house allotted them by the company, situated in a cramped location between the Manager's house and the communal company steam bath. They obtain their subsistence for the most part by their own labor... with the help of Americans whom they have befriended and whom the company by every means at its disposal attempts to drive away...
Hierodeacon Nektarii, 36, and monk Ioasaf, 32 wanted to return to Russia, while Hieromonk Afanasii, 50, and Monk Herman, 48, wanted to remain, but in solitude.
Gideon's response to Baranov's lecture over the oath of allegiance was pointed:
Baranov covered up this crime under the pretext that the Americans, on behest of the clergy and the above mentioned officers, were allegedly about to rebel and slaughter the Russians, and that Kuskov on his trek, in fear of this anticipated rebellion, was collecting hostages. Afterwards, Baranov began in every conceivable way to oppress the clergy in respect to preparation of food supplies and in other vital necessities .
At the same time, Gideon gave the monks' version of the Great Easter War, as it might be termed.
In the year 1802, on Holy Easter, promyshlennyi Chernov, drunk, came on Baranov's orders and with great coarseness ordered in Baranov's name Hierodeacon Nektarii to unlock the belfry. The Hierodeacon did not want to surrender the key, as the church and the belfry were locked with the same lock and besides, the large bell was cracked. The above mentioned promyshlennyi in great agitation threatened either to drag the Hierodeacon there by force or to break out the windows of the belfry.
In the meantime, the interpreter Prianishnikov, who was ill, had sent a note asking the Hieromonk and Hierodeacon to visit his house with the Holy Cross. No sooner did they arrive there, when Baranov and his promyshlennyi came running. Baranov was beside himself with rage, shouting obscenities, cursing, and threatening to put the Hieromonk in a baidarka and send him to an unknown destination. He grabbed the Hierodeacon violently by the chest and threatened to hang him from the bell tower. Fearing this, the Hierodeacon was forced to yield the church key.
Whenever such brazen acts occurred, the promyshlennyi, sure of their Manager, used to say: 'God is high, the Tsar is far away — all is fine as long as our boss is alive and well!'
For reasons described above, the Americans no longer dared to visit the clergy openly, and the clergy, on their part, were afraid to have the contact with them that their calling demanded and which would have afforded them the opportunities to instill in them Christian teachings. Thus, the success of the Spiritual Mission did not come up to expectations.
Among instructions sent to Navigator Vasili Petrovich Petrov from the Kodiak office on October 12, 1802, were the following:
After investigating the complaints and report of the Hieromonk Makarii the Emperor ordained that 'the petitioners, the Fox Islanders, be recompensed by giving them new clothes, and returning them to their native land. That their petitions be forwarded to His Excellency the Governor of Irkutsk, instructing him to make a thorough investigation of all the facts and circumstances stated in their concern to protect the inhabitants of the islands from future oppression and to guarantee the Russians engaged in trade their interest, seeing that the relations of both sides are in accord with the interests of the State. That the Hieromonk Makarii be returned to his post, with instructions not to leave the islands in the future without consent of his superior. His transgression this time is forgiven as per request of the Aleuts, etc.'
These same instructions also ordered Petrov to cease his activities.
“You have gathered in your quarters many of the islanders who arrived here to take the oath of allegiance to His Imperial Majesty... As stated above you have gathered them and through an ignorant interpreter who is only a boy you are influencing them, suggesting that they discontinue friendly relations with the company, as they admitted themselves to the manager Baranov and to the commissioner, the Gubernia Secretary Ivan Ivanovich Banner. Besides that Mr. Tallinn has been intimidating the Russians in the [town] square, threatening them with the whip... This territory has been acquired at a price of great effort and bloodshed over a period of twenty years and is of value to our Fatherland” .
Now for some examination of Gideon's charges. He claimed a number of deaths due to Baranov and his cruel men. For example, more; in 1798 20 men from the Sitka hunting party were drowned, others dying en route.
In 1799, 140 men from the same party died as a result of eating mussels because of hunger, and an additional 40 died en route.
In 1800 32 baidarkas, containing 64 men, drowned when the party leader on Tugidok Island forced them to sea in stormy weather.
Gideon then writes of a very sick man who was to go out with a birding party in 1805 and the letter he wrote Ivan Banner, the assistant manager on his behalf . If Banner replied, we are not told.
There was more. In late October of 1805 about 300 men drowned while returning from Sitka.
First, it is true if the Russians hadn't come to the Aleutians most if not all of these deaths would not have occurred. Gideon makes it appear the Russians were inflicting deliberate massacres.
As to the first charge, while the men may well have died, Baranov did not go to Sitka until 1799, when he founded the first settlement, although he did say he had visited the area before.
As to the second, 115 Aleuts died from eating mussels affected by the notorious 'red tide' or paralytic shellfish poisoning. The way was long and dangerous — the figure of 40 additional deaths may well be true . Baranov's response the next year, writing Larionov, was “I ordered the hunter Mikhail Kondakov to take a census of all the natives on Kad'iak, giving presents of tobacco and other things to the toyons and prominent natives. After the misfortune they suffered last summer on the American shores...” .
The Tugidok party leader would have been extremely stupid to have forced hunters out in violent storms, but perhaps he was. It was not Baranov, at any rate.
I can find no more information concerning Gideon's letter to Banner and Banner's reply.
As to the 300 (actually 200 baidarkas; of which 31 were saved), drowned in August of 1805, the hunting party was unfortunate enough to arrive just after the Yakutat settlement of Slavia Rossia had been eliminated. Fearing for their lives, the vast majority elected to face the storm rather than the Tlingits. Those who went ashore were saved .
1. THE ROUND THE WORLD VOYAGE OF HIEROMONK GIDEON Black, Lydia, trans., Pierce, R.A., edit. Limestone Press 1989, ix
2. Ibid. P. 33.
3. Above referenced title and Berkh, V. N. A CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS. Krenov, Dimity, trans. Pierce, R.A. edit. Limestone Press, 1974.
4. Berkh. P. 5.
5. Ibid. P. 5-6.
6. Berkh. P. 16 for an example.
7. Ibid. P. 40-42.
8. Pierce, R.A., RUSSIAN AMERICA: A Biographical Dictionary Limestone Press, 1990. P. 169.
9. Tikhmenev, P. edited by Pierce, R.A. and Donnelly, A. S., A HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN AMERICAN COMPANY. Vol. II Limestone Press, 1979. P. 16.
10. Empress Catherine — find citation.
11. Shelikov, Gregory, A VOYAGE TO AMERICA, 1783-1786, Marina Ramsay, trans. Limestone Press, 1981. P. 128-131.
12. But not by all. See SLAVES OF THE HARVEST, e.g.
13. THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX RELIGIOUS MISSION IN AMERICA, 1794-1837, Translated by Colin Bearne. Limestone Press, 1978. P. 42-43.
14. Ibid. P. 43-44.
15. Ibid. P. 51-52.
16. RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MISSION, op cit. P. 36. This description seems a bit strange, as Baranov had moved to the new settlement in 1792.
17. Ibid. P. 75-77.
18. Ibid. P. 118 and p. 119.
19. Ibid. P. 121-122.
20. GIDEON, op. cite. P. 77.
21. HISTORY, op. cite. P. 124-127.
22. Ibid. P. 130.
23. Ibid. P. 153, passim.
24. GIDEON, op. cite. P. 79.
25. Ibid. P. 78.
26. HISTORY, op. cite. P. 133.
27. ROUND THE WORLD VOYAGE OF HIEROMONK GIDEON, 1803-1809, Black, Lydia, trans. Limestone Press, 1989. P. 69-70.
28. HISTORY Vol. II Op. cite p. 110, 111, Also Tikhmenev, p. 61
29. Op. cite, p. 115 In the same letter was a plea for more supplies, as “...we are in debt a5353nd have not enough for the clergy or to pay the native hunters for the furs and they are worrying about this. We have to pay for the furs that they will get this summer, but we have nothing to pay them with, not to mention sending some goods to our remote establishments... the Kolosh people... consider us very poor”.
30. RUSSIAN AMERICA: A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY, p. 118. Also see de Laguna, Frederica, UNDER MT. ST. ELIAS, GPO 1972. P. 175.
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