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Fort Ross and the many Medvedevs

We are a full week into summer and this is definitely a summer sort of column — no heavy lifting. But there is important information, historical and otherwise, that needs to be known.

So the topics today are varied, everything from visiting Russian presidents to big spenders from Sacramento to, heaven help us, a hard look at the matter of raccoons. (If you are one of the many who think raccoons are cute and harmless, stay with me to the end.)

RUSSIANS FIRST. Fort Ross is preparing for its bicentennial. (A bicentennial, as we all know, is the same as a centennial, only with twice as many legs.) And the Russian president is an important part of the plan.

The people who will stage a 12-month birthday party for the historic settlement on the Sonoma Coast are hoping that President Dmitry Medvedev, who paid a visit to San Francisco last week, knows that he's not the first Medvedev to drop in on Northern California.

If he is aware that there were two men named Medvedev at Fort Ross at the beginning, he might be eager to participate in their celebration.

That's what they are hoping.

None of us are getting any younger, right? But Fort Ross is the champ. This southernmost outpost of Czarist Russia will be 200 years old in 2012.

Now, if you've wandered around in the Roman forum or stood before the gates of Troy, 200 years may not sound like much. But for California, which isn't even a teenager in terms of written history, it's a big deal. For Sonoma County it's a very big deal. Because, in the progression of non-native settlements north of San Francisco Bay, the Russians came first.

It was March of 1812 when a peg-legged adventurer named Ivan Kuskov brought his schooner Chirikov to the Sonoma coast and, with his band of workers called promyshlenniki (contract workers), set about building a fort on a point of land about 15 miles north of the temporary village he and his explorers had established two years earlier on Bodega Bay.


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