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.
There were Russians, Aleuts, Inuits, Yakuts, even Hawaiian men (known as Kanakas) — an amazingly diverse settlement.
The Fort Ross Interpretive Association (FRIA) is gearing up for a yearlong observance of Kuskov's mission and what came of it.
If you follow the news, you know that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement Tuesday with the Renova Group of Companies, a Russian corporation pledging funds to help the state parks maintain Fort Ross.
Renova's boss, oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, is a history buff who visited the fort Tuesday afternoon. It's likely that his company will be central in financing the bicentennial celebration.
The Fort Ross association is actively seeking support — corporate, charitable and individual, foreign and domestic, local and national. Chevron already has funded a film of the fort's history, and FRIA members are certain there are more U.S. corporations and citizens that will be involved, in the spirit of international cooperation.
The plan is to present an event every month of 2012 celebrating the diversity of the settlement. Presentations include the native Kashia Pomo, visiting Alaskans and Siberians, expanded Culture History Days, Russian art and conferences and symposiums on every scholarly approach to the settlement — and those are myriad. I think you get the picture.