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When Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867, only its fringe had been explored by Euroupeans. Russian ships under the command of Vitus Bering and Alexei Chirikof first weighed anchor off the coast in 1741. Subsequent Russian voyages established fur-trading posts on the islands and along the southeastern coast. Spanish and English naval exploration soon followed.

Even at the time of its purchase from Russia for $7,200,000 (less than 2c an acre), little was known of Alaska's vastness or resource potential. The sale negotiated by Secretary of State William H. Seward was known by such epithets as "Seward's Folly," "Seward's Icebox" and "Walrussia."

But Alaska literally turned out to be a gold mine. The first discovery of the precious metal in 1880 brought hordes of fortune seekers and created the city of Juneau. Skagway began to prosper in 1897 as a major port of entry and an outfitting center for prospectors. The boom hit Nome in 1898 when the sands of Anvil Creek yielded gold. Seward's extravagance returned about a billion dollars in gold during this period.

For many years the federal government had largely ignored Alaska, but the gold rush created; a need for law and order. Congress enacted сivil and criminal laws and in 1903 passed a homestead act. On May 7, 1906, Congress empowered Alaska to elect a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.

The Territory of Alaska was created in 1912, and provisions were made for the election of a legislature and the presidential appointment of a governor. In 1916 Alaska made its first bid for statehood; admission was finally granted in 1959.

The beginning of World War I and the declining output of the gold deposits caused a lull in activity and growth in Alaska. Renewed interest in the region arose when the Japanese threatened to invade North America through Alaska during World War II.

In 1942 the Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands, which extend southwest from the Alaska Peninsula, spurred the military to construct the Alaska Highway. An engineering marvel scraped out of mountainous terrain and muskeg valleys, the 1,523-mile roadway was completed in less than 12 months. A pair of islands in the Bering Strait epitomize Alaska's strategic importance: American-owned Little Diomede Island is only 2.4 miles from Russian-owned Big Diomede. The Distant Early Warning radar chain further emphasizes the state's significance as a defense outpost.

In 1968 "black gold" was discovered at Pradhoe Bay on the Arctic coast, initiating the construction of the Alaska Pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. On Dec. 2, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, designating 104 million acres of new national parks, preserves and recreation areas. In March 1989 the supertanker Exxon Valdez spilled over 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, re-igniting the debate over oil's presence in Alaska. From the days when it was known as "Seward's Folly" to the bitterly contested pipeline, the fate of Alaskan lands has remained a source of controversy.


POPULATION: 606,000.
AREA: 586,412 square miles, ranks first CAPITAL: Juneau.
HIGHEST POINT: 20,320 ft., Mount McKinley. LOWEST POINT: Sea level. Pacific Ocean.
TIME ZONES: Alaska for most of the state; Hawaii-Aleutian for the extreme western portion of the Aleutian Islands. DST.
MINIMUM AGE FOR DRIVERS: 16; learner's permit at 14 with parental consent.
SEAT BELT/CHILD RESTRAINT LAWS: Seat belts required; child restraints required for under?.
HELMETS FOR MOTORCYCLISTS: Required for driver under 19 and passenger.
FIREARMS LAWS: Vary by state and/or county. Contact the Division of State Troopers, Headquarters, 5700 E. Tudor Rd., Dept P, An- chorage, AK 99507; phone (907) 269-5511.
HOLIDAYS: Jan. 1; Lincoln's Birthday, Feb. 12; Washington's Birthday, Feb. (3rd Mon.); Seward's Day, Mar. (last Mon.); Memorial Day, May (last Mon.); Jury 4; Labor Day. Sept (1st Mon.); Alaska Day, Oct. 18; Veterans Day, Nov. 11; Thanksgiving and Dec. 25.
TAXES: Alaska does not have a statewide sales tax, but cities and boroughs may levy a sales tax of up to 6 percent plus special taxes on goods and services.
STATE INFORMATION CENTER:Tok Information Center, jet SR 2 (Alaska Hwy.) and SR 1, provides general tourist literature, as well as re- ports on highway and weather conditions.

Материалы взяты из каталога информации для путешественников Американской Автомобильной Ассоциации.

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