explorer and navigator, founder of Fort Ross in Russian America, explorer of Alyaska and Northern California
Ivan Kuskov, explorer of Alyaska and Northern California, was born in 1765 in Tot'ma, Vologda Oblast. Unfortunately, there is no information about Kuskov's childhood and youth. At the age of 22 Ivan set off to travel throughout Russia.
In 1790 Kuskov reached Irkutsk and on May 20 that year he concluded a contract with Alexander Baranov, a merchant from Kargopol.
In 1791 Alexander Baranov was appointed to manage the Russian-American Company. He chose Ivan Kuskov to be his right-hand man. Life at the colony under Kuskov revolved around the hunting of sea otter whose pelts were very valuable in the China trade. In 1812 he built a fortress in an area to the North of San Francisco, California (now the National Park of Fort Ross). Fort Ross served as a trading post and a source of agricultural products for Russian America in Alaska. Kuskov and his men struggled to obtain a livelihood by cultivating the soil, planting orchards, raising livestock, logging redwoods, and harvesting sea otters. The Fort with the surrounding settlement was home to Russians, Aleut hunters in their employment, and native Kashaya (Kashia) Pomo.
Kuskov's wife, Elizabeth, must be given much credit for the success of Fort Ross. She mastered the language of Indian tribes living in the lands adjoining Fort Ross and established extremely cordial relations with them. Russian soldiers and settlers from the fort could roam the surrounding woods without any fear of being scalped by the native American Indians. Ivan Kuskov headed the colony till 1821. Alongside with the trade activity he was also engaged in research work.
In 1821 Ivan Kuskov retired and on July 4, 1823 he returned to his native town - Tot'ma. Having undermined his health during a 30-year service in America, the great navigator died in October 1823. He was buried on the territory of the Spaso-Sumorin monastery. Recently a granite bust of Ivan Kuskov has been erected in front of the house where the first commandant of Fort Ross spent his last years.
Ivan A. Kuskov is remembered for discovery of the American lands and establishment of the Russian trade navy on the American territory. The city of Tot'ma has an embankment named after Ivan Kuskov. The house where the famous navigator spent the last years of his life is preserved in its original form up to now. It is one of the earliest timbered houses in Tot'ma (it dates back to the 18th century). As soon as the restoration works had been finished, the year 1990 saw the opening of the Kuskov Memorial Flat.
The American nation also cherishes Ivan Kuskov. A medal minted to mark the 200th anniversary of the USA commemorates Kuskov's discoveries.