The USA buys Alaska from Russia

Bald eagle, Alaska, USA (Getty Images)Bald eagle, Alaska, USA (Getty Images)

How many states are there in the USA? Some people say 48, others 52. The truth is, there are 50, and Alaska is one of the newest: number 49, in fact. It became a state in 1959, but it had been American territory since 1867. On 30 March of that year the USA bought it from Russia for $7,200,000 – 5 cents per hectare!

The Russians had colonized Alaska earlier, but it was never very profitable, and they were glad to sell it, especially as they needed money badly after fighting an expensive war. They offered the territory to Britain, but the British were not interested. But the Americans were, and America loves a bargain.

Two people sea kayaking on Stikine River, Alaska (Getty Images)Two people sea kayaking on Stikine River, Alaska (Getty Images)

The Russians were probably very sorry some years later, when gold was discovered in Alaska. Thousands of Americans moved there in the hope of becoming rich. And things got better and better. In 1968 oil was discovered, and then gas. Alaska is one of the most important states for the USA’s economy, and it is also the largest state, bigger even than Texas!



True or false? Mark these statements with “T” if they are true and “F” if they are false.

  1. There are 52 states in the USA.

  2. Alaska became a state in 1867.

  3. The USA got Alaska at a very good price.

  4. The Russians did not want to sell Alaska.

  5. Britain wanted to buy Alaska.

  6. Gold was discovered in Alaska before oil and gas.

  7. Alaska is the biggest state in the USA.


Activities for the links below

1) The first website below contains information about Alaska. Read it, and then answer these questions. Again, use your own words as far as you can.

  1. Why is the state called Alaska?

  2. What was the name of the territory before the USA bought it?

  3. William Henry Seward was at one time Lincoln’s Secretary of State. What is this office called in Norwegian?

  4. How did Seward influence politicians to vote for his proposal to buy the territory?

  5. Why did many Americans call Alaska “Seward’s folly” and “Seward’s icebox”?

  6. Why is the state’s motto “North to the Future”?

  7. Why do you think its nickname is “The Last Frontier”?

  8. Why does Alaska Day fall on 18 October?

2) If you click on the BBC link, you will find an article on Alaska’s most famous governor. Work in pairs and decide whether these statements are true or false. Correct the false ones.

  1. Alaskans have never elected a governor who was younger than Palin.

  2. Women did not like the fact that she was running for high political office.

  3. Her speaking style is lifeless and difficult to understand.

  4. She does not have much political experience, and has made a lot of mistakes ('gaffes').

  5. She is a feminist who hates beauty contests.

  6. She is anti-abortion.

  7. She thinks there should be strict restrictions on gun ownership.

  8. She was seventeen and unmarried when she first became pregnant.

  9. She may have been guilty of misusing her political position at times.

  10. She has not spent much time outside the USA.

  11. Everybody in the Republican Party has been loyal to her.

  12. It is widely thought that her political career is over.