Russian America (Russian: Русская Америка, Russkaya Amerika) was the name of Russian colonial possessions in the Americas from 1733 to 1867 that today is the U.S. state of Alaska and settlements farther south in California. Formal incorporation of the possessions did not take place until a ukase (a proclamation or decree of the tsar) in 1799, which established a monopoly for the Russian-American Company and also granted the Russian Orthodox Church certain rights in the new possessions.
The earliest written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. In 1648 Semyon Dezhnev sailed from the mouth of the Kolyma River through the Arctic Ocean and around the eastern tip of Asia to the Anadyr River. One legend holds that some of his boats were carried off course and reached Alaska. However, no evidence of settlement survives. Dezhnev's discovery was never forwarded to the central government, leaving open the question of whether or not Siberia was connected to North America. In 1725, Tsar Peter I of Russia called for another expedition.
As a part of the 1733-1743 second Kamchatka expedition, the Sv. Petr under the Dane Vitus Bering and the Sv. Pavel under the Russian Alexei Chirikov set sail from the Kamchatkan port of Petropavlovsk in June 1741. They were soon separated, but each continued sailing east.