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An Example from the past of an Excessive Claim and Adverse International Reaction: the Russian Ukase of 1821 Concerning Waters off Alaska

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Chapter Summary

This Russian decree (ukase) of 1821 was prompted by the trade-objectionable to the Russian authorities-between US nationals and native Russian Americans along the south-east coast of Alaska, particularly in respect of firearms and liquor. The multiplicity of immediate protests alone to the ukase were enough to block any claimed Russian title outside three-mile limits off the Alaskan coast. Much later, in 1903 Alaska Boundary Arbitration (ABT), the British side expressly referred to opinions of the British Law Officers on the ukase as showing it to be contrary to the law of nations. Moreover the Russian treaty concessions were seen as a Russian "acknowledgement of the freedom of the high seas for the navigation of all nations" outside any Russian 3-mile limits. From that time up to the cession of Alaska to the United States in 1857, Russia had never exercised any jurisdiction beyond "the ordinary limits of territorial waters".

Keywords: adverse international reaction; Alaska Boundary Arbitration (ABT); excessive claim; high seas; Russian decree (ukase); territorial waters; waters off Alaska



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