Monday, July 27, 2020

Guest Post: Tunguska UFO

This article originally appeared on Today In Alternate History.

On June 30, 1908, on this fateful day in alternate history, an alien spaceship crashed into the Tunguska River in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal. The extraterrestrial occupants were rescued and carried to safety by Evenki natives and Russian settlers.

The Russian Court was subsequently offered a single gift to repay the debt of gratitude. The aliens made a helpful suggestion based upon an observation of a point of interest made during their approach to Earth. Their sensors had taken remote measurements of a narrow strait of water separating two land-masses. This Bering Strait offered a rich opportunity for construction. Not only could human beings use this land crossing, but it would also provide an additional benefit of blocking the cold Pacific current from entering the Arctic. Over a few decades, this would warm the Russian north coast, bringing a new fertility that might accelerate the development of agriculture.

It was highly ironic then that the Alaskan territory across the Straits had been Russian America until the Seward Purchase which had occurred some forty years earlier. Had the Russians kept the land north of the Yukon River, then they would have gained the full benefits of a uniquely strategic territory. Of course such a windfall might well have triggered military aggression from the expansionist German Empire, so perhaps this Russian/American benefit sharing was just as well after all. As a consequence of the Seward Purchase , the Russians were obliged to negotiate with the United States. This was a fresh round of negotiations occurring only two years after President Theodore Roosevelt had played such a key role in settling the Russo-Japanese dispute in the Far East.

Serving in the final year of his second term, the show-boating "Bull Moose" was characteristically taken by the prospect of further bolstering his historic legacy. As a consequence of his impending departure from office, he was in the heady mood to agree to the land crossing. But he also proposed the building of two canals that would permit navigation. TR used the bully pit of the Presidency to demand that Congress finance the American Arctic shipping canal so the Great White Fleet could protect the Northwest Passage north of Canada and develop America's own shortcut from Europe to Asia in competition with the Russian Siberian coast route.

Once agreed to between USA/Russia, the causeway would be built on top of the dam. But European governments soon began to fear that the Bering Crossing would move the epicentre of the world to Asia. Tensions were still rising at the point when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. In a final act of benign intervention, the aliens helped to smooth over this gathering crisis before they departed for their home planet in July 1914.

Author's Note:

In reality, this is an fictionalized ASB account of the Tunguska Event although OTL the crossing actually was proposed by the Soviet Union in 1956.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Guest Post: Russian Hawaii

This article first appeared on Today In Alternate History.

July 19, 1817 - Schäffer establishes the short-lived Russian Kauai protectorate

"[To the USS Boston, I am] prepared to make an immediate attack upon this town, at 4 o'clock P.M. to-morrow, (Saturday) in the event of the demands now forwarded by me to the King of these Islands not being complied with by that time" ~ Captain Lord George Paulet on-board the HMS Carysfort.

A power struggle between two chieftains, Kamehameha and Kaumuai'i, was cynically exploited by a rogue and ambitious German surgeon called Georg Anton Schäffer. He led a mixed group of Russians and Aleuts, sent by the Russian-American Company (RAC) to expedite the return of the cargo of the wrecked ship Bering or, failing that, obtain compensation if the cargo had been stolen or destroyed. There were strict boundaries to his mission as well as other obstacles caused by the local ascension crisis that was going on when he arrived. Fortunately, Schäffer was fully aware of the two main threats to the success of his mission - that the locals had superior armed forces and the United States had significant interest in the islands. As a direct consequence of these factors, there was absolutely no realistic prospect that he could really distinguish himself by seizing the whole of Hawaii for the RAC.

Luckily, manipulation was
Schäffer's stock in trade. To strengthen his hand, imperial aid was obtained by greatly exaggerating the commercial opportunity to the Russian Court. When it was subsequently discovered that the cargo had been seized by Kaumualii, he deftly negotiated the transfer of a share of the local whaling rights and sandalwood trade to the RAC in exchange for firearms to defeat Kamehameha. But when Kaumualii mysteriously died and the company gradually expanded operations, it became increasingly clear that Schäffer had pulled off quite an impressive feat. His quixotic plot had actually managed to establish a de facto Russian protectorate over the island of Kauai.

The RAC fleet comprised just nine ships and the remainder were the small warships engaged in the routine circumnavigation trips conducted to provide sailing experience. Despite their pathetic lack of sailing power, it was a sufficient naval footprint to establish a small Russian port on Kauai. Further Russian investment in the Far East would follow , but the protectorate continued to remain acutely vulnerable due to its remote location and distance from the Russian Empire.

Tension also arose with the British Empire over the North Sandwich Islands where Captain Cook had perished. The threat of British occupation was becoming increasingly inevitable and, to avoid this eventuality, the Russian Kauai protectorate was seized by the United States. This wanton act of aggression brought the Americans into the Crimean War despite the conflicts of interest with the British. The military action was succeeded by a further conflict in the late nineteenth century as the USA forced the Russian Empire out of the Pacific and then off the North American continent.

The Russian Premier Count Witte despaired that "[the] insane [Tsarist] regime was a tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and stupidity." The rotten Russian Empire finally collapsed in 1905 after disastrously losing a conflict with the Japanese. A new republic arose that allied itself with Anglo-France. The consequences of seemingly minor regional conflicts had been learnt the hard way by all three Great Powers, and they wisely avoided entanglement in the Austro-Serbian War of 1914.

Author's Note from Wikipedia:

In reality, mounting resistance of Native Hawaiians and American traders forced Schäffer to admit defeat and leave Hawaii before his triumphant reports from Kauai reached the Russian court. The Hawaiian spectacular, as it was called by contemporary Russians, became a significant financial blunder for the company.

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