Fort Ross
Fort Ross Dialogue 2022

Fort Ross Dialogue 2022

Fort Ross Dialogue 2022

Fort Ross Dialogue 2022, sponsored by the Rebuilding a Russian-American Conversation (RARAC) small grants public diplomacy program funded by the State Department, and the U.S. Russia Foundation took place virtually on November 29, 2022. It was livestreamed in English and Russian.

Panel 1: Fort Ross: A Focal Point of Multinational Historic Collaboration

8:00 am PST/ 11:00 am EST/ 7:00 pm MSK

Watch Panel I in English:

Watch Panel I in Russian:

The Russian American Company’s Settlement Ross was a unique multicultural community in Alta California. In addition to Russians living at the fort, people of Alaska Native, Native Siberian, Hawaiian, and Native American ancestry formed a unique community, the more so in the 19th-century Pacific Northwest. And while most of their living quarters were segregated, with the Native people and working-class company employees living outside the compound, lives were intertwined by family ties.

Interest in the multidisciplinary study of Settlement Ross emerged in California at the end of the 19th century on both sides of the Pacific. In Russia, Petr Tikhmenev published his monumental work, “A History of the Russian-American Company,” while American readers were captivated by historian Hubert Howe Bancroft’s writings.

This 150-year-old academic pursuit to study Settlement Ross's cultural heritage has unearthed interesting discoveries which help us to better understand the socio-cultural dynamics of the 19th century outpost. Today’s Fort Ross Dialogue 2022 panelists have spent decades studying the peoples of Metini-Fort Ross and are themselves a living testament to the importance of the multinational and multidisciplinary academic approach to discovering Settlement Ross.


  • Alexei Istomin, Senior Research Associate of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Glenn Farris, retired California State Parks Archeologist


Panel 2: Corporate Environmental Responsibility  

9:00 am PST/ 12:00 pm EST/ 8:00 pm MSK

Watch Panel II in English:

Watch Panel II in Russian:

Corporate social responsibility and commitment to sustainable development are increasingly important to long-term corporate strategies across sectors and countries. The emergent demand to grow business through environmentally sustainable methods is also a welcome trend in Russia. Fort Ross Dialogue panelists will discuss the ways in which companies are incorporating environmental responsibility in their business models.


  • Andrey Sharonov – Director General, National ESG Alliance
  • Roman Ishmukhametov – Senior Associate, Melling, Voitishkin and Partners
  • Tatiana Kofanova – Director of Consumer Business & Automotive / Tax&Legal Business Solutions and Technologies,        


  • Robert Agee, President and CEO, American Chamber of Commerce in Russia

Panel 3: Americans & Europeans Stepping up to Save Historic Russian Architecture

10:00 am PST/ 1:00 pm EST/ 9:00 pm MSK

Watch Panel III in English:

Watch Panel III in Russian:

Fort Ross is well known for its wooden architecture. This ostrorg style of architecture not found elsewhere in California as well as the unusual “open-air museum” contribute to Fort Ross’ uniqueness. The architectural buildings of Settlement Ross took multiple generations of Americans, Russian-Americans, and Russians to preserve, and the desire to preserve this shared history united people from both countries over the past century. 

One such story is the joint US-Russian effort to reconstruct a replica windmill, a Russian innovation which best represents their agricultural presence in Alta California. The Fort Ross windmills were the first windmills in California, and possibly west of the Mississippi. Building, transporting, and reconstructing the replica windmill is a story of American and Russian cooperation which transcended borders and united a diverse group of people to deliver a complex, custom-made piece of wooden machinery, truly a unique architectural gem. The craftspeople who made this happen will tell their story as part of Fort Ross Dialogue.



Panel 4:Technology Breathing New Life into Open Air Museums 

11:00 am PST/ 2:00 pm EST/ 10:00 pm MSK

Watch Panel IV in English:

Watch Panel IV in Russian:

Immersive augmented reality is the growing trend in storytelling for museums around the world. Recent technological breakthroughs bring museum stories to life and allow the visitor to experience historic landscapes never imagined. 

This panel brings together experts from two open-air museums—Fort Ross State Historic Park in Sonoma County, California, and the stone fortress of Izborsk in Western Russia, to discuss how technology helps museums to reach new audiences and expand the visitor experience. Our panelists will discuss ways in which open-air museums use modern technologies to reach, engage, and educate their audiences. The speakers will highlight the benefits of using the latest technological developments to offer visitors unprecedented access to museum objects and artifacts - entire buildings and historic landscapes -with virtual preservation.



Panel 5: In Search of a Missing Link: 'The Chief Joseph Heritage Appaloosa'

12:00 pm PST/ 3:00 pm EST/ 11:00 pm MSK

Watch Panel V in English:

Watch Panel V in Russian:

Did a particular Appaloosa horse breed originate in Russia and arrive in North America during the early 19th soft gold rush era? 

Horses have been an integral part of human societies throughout history, in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. The human and horse relationship transcends antiquity through our agrarian origins, global expansion of civilization, war, hunting, commerce, and trade, and influencing art and many cultures, intertwined in almost every facet of human existence. 

The domestication of horses which produced modern breeds is thought to have begun about 4,600 years ago in the steppe between modern Ukraine and Kazakhstan. One type of horse has held a special place in human culture and lore... the “spotted” horse. Its mysterious origins were acknowledged and of special interest by early humans 25,000 years ago in the Pech Merle Cave paintings in France. 

By revisiting the fossil DNA of 31 horse specimens collected from across Europe, from Siberia to the Iberian Peninsula, the researchers found that six of the animals carried a mutation that causes modern horses to have white and black spots. The “spotted” horse was once believed to be a “mystical celestial being” and was favored by the nobility for its astounding coat colors and striking appearance. 

In the 15th century, horses were introduced to the New World by the Spanish explorers after horses became extinct in North America around 10,000 years ago. Western open range saw the flourishing of the different horse populations in North America, most of which came from a Spanish stock breed. 

The spotted horse’s introduction into North America was believed to have been from the Spanish stock. However, a discovery of a small population of unique spotted horses that were found in the custody of descendants of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce has revealed other possibilities of their origins. This group of unique horses is now in the custody of World Heritage Animal Genomic Resources to ensure their future and to research and study their origination story. 

Originally cultivated by one particular Native American tribe, the Nez Perce, this minor population has unique DNA characteristics which point to Eurasian origin. One faction of the Nez Perce tribe developed strict breeding selection practices to promote desirable traits, including the highly prized spotted coat pattern, apparently for decades before the first official colonial contact with the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the 19th century.

In his diary, Meriwether Lewis noted that “some of these horses are pied [sic] with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with the black brown bey [sic] or some other dark color,” apparently describing the Appaloosa. 

How the Nez Perce acquired this particular strain of horses has remained a mystery for over 200 years. Modern genome animal testing is helping to solve this mystery and trace back the origin of the “Chief Joseph Heritage Appaloosa” to the Russian fur traders in North America. Fort Ross Dialogue panelists will discuss and debate the mysterious heritage of this unique leopard-spotted horse breed.


  • Alexander Petrov, Historian, Russian Academy of Science
  • Lucinda J. Christian, President Chief Senior Advisor to the World Heritage Animal Genetic Resources Global Initiative (WHAGR)


This year, Fort Ross is celebrating the 210th anniversary of the founding of the Russian American Company's outpost on ancient Kashia land. These are just a few scholars who have dedicated their time to studying the Russian American Company Settlement in California...

FRD2022 Logos