The Sitka Assembly on Tuesday voted 6-1 to move the bronze statue of Alexander Baranov from the front of Harrigan Centennial Hall into the Sitka Historical Museum.
Dueling petitions had been active online — with more than 2,000 saying they want the statue removed, and another 5,000 signing a petition to keep the statute where it is. Many of those wishing it to remain were from Russian heritage all around the world.
The statue was donated to the city in 1989 by the Hames family, the owners of one of Sitka’s oldest family-owned businesses, Sea Mart.
But in the current political environment, white immigrants have been deemed unacceptable to some who want history scrubbed. Baranov was part of the colonization of Alaska by Europeans, and Native Alaskans don’t necessarily appreciate a statue of him and have recently protested the statue.
Baranov was a Russian merchant who worked for some time in Siberia before being recruited by the Shelikov Company for Russian America, beginning in 1790 with a five-year contract as manager of what was then a fur-trading outpost. He stayed long past his initial contract.
This made him the de facto first governor of Russian America, and he established a post in Kodiak as well as Sitka (New Archangel). Although he had a wife and children in Russia, he took up with an Aleut woman and fathered three children with her. When he learned of his wife’s death in Russia, he married his Aleut companion. He later died at sea in April of 1819.
The resolution was offered by Assembly members Kevin Knox and Steven Eisenbeisz.