When we talk about an Alaskan land rush here, we usually mean vast armies rushing across the landscape.
In 1867, the Russian Tsar sold the territory of Russian America to the United States. The territory wasn't doing the Tsar much good, never really turning a profit, and proving to be an unnecessary thorn in the Empire's already strained relationship with the UK (which owned Canada), so the Russian government was open to any reasonable opportunity to offload it. Russia and the US being rather buddy-buddy in the 1850s and '60s (the US had backed up the Russians diplomatically during the Crimean War, and Russia had run interference in Europe on the Union's behalf during The American Civil Warnote ), the Tsar made the obvious decision once the US sent a decent offer. The U.S. named their new territory Alaska (long a colloquial name for the region), and 92 years later in 1959 it became the 49th state. But what happens if the Russians with Rusting Rockets decide to renege on the deal?
This is a sister trope to Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back, with Russia in place of Mexico and Alaska in place of Texas and the Southwestern U.S. Like with Texas, this is also a localized version of Invaded States of America.
Fiction has produced no shortage of works depicting this scenario. It began gaining popularity during the Cold War, when there was real fear of the Soviet Union invading. However, it has remained common in the post-Soviet era, usually with a resurgent Russia, or even some other enemy like China invading. This is because Alaska has so many resources that are important for America and it also occupies a strategic place on the globe so it could be a tempting target for any enemy with the power to go up against the Yanks with Tanks. In 1935, General Billy Mitchell testified before Congress about Alaska's importance, saying: "I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world."
The reasons for the Russians invading will often vary depending on the work, but usually they are....
- Genuinely trying to reconquer and reannex the state,
- They are not actually trying to take Alaska back, but just trying to distract the United States military from a battle taking place elsewhere in the world (and maybe damage/destroy some of the important resources in the state while their at it). Usually happens in World War III settings.
- They are using Alaska as a "bridge" to invade the continental U.S. and Canada.
Some more humorous works might have two or more sides fighting over a fictional "deed" to Alaska left over from the original purchase. (Note: Such a deed doesn't exist in real life.)
In Real Life, Alaska has only been invaded once, not by Russia, but by Imperial Japan during World War II when they seized two Aleutian Islands as a diversion from their planned attack on Midway in 1942; it didn't work out like they planned.
A Russian assault would be unlikely at present because doing so would almost certainly start World War III, provoking a response from America's allies as well as the U.S, itself. There is also the fact that both sides of the Bering Strait are severely lacking in the infrastructure needed to move and supply any invading force. The nearest Russian railhead is roughly 2,000 miles awaynote , meaning any effort would be by sea, and the US Navy currently outclasses the Russian Navy, especially in the Pacific. So such concerns or discussions of this happening in the real world are minor at the moment unless an actual World War III suddenly breaks out.
- Red Dawn (1984) features an invasion of the United States by the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Lt. Col. Tanner mentions the Soviets crossed the Bering Strait and invaded Alaska in an attempt to attack the continental U.S. from the North but were stopped at the Canadian border. The U.S. still has deal with invaders that came up from Mexico, however.
- In A Matter of Honour, a 1986 thriller by Jeffrey Archer, the hero comes across a copy of the Alaska Purchase treaty which shows Alaska is only leased to the USA. At the time of the novel's setting - the mid-1960s - that lease is due to expire. Various parties, not leas the KGB, are very keen to get hold of this document.
- The first episode of Sliders had them visiting a parallel world where the Soviet Union won the Cold War and invaded and occupied all of America. Alaska is home to some nasty gulags where political prisoners are sent.
- In an episode of Cory in the House, Cory accidentally hands the deed to Alaska to the Russian Prime Minister when he puts it in his jacket pocket. The episode revolves around Cory and President Martinez attempting to get the deed back. Hilarity Ensues.
- The 1982 miniseries World War III revolves around the Soviets sneaking a special forces unit into Alaska to sabotage a critical pumping station. The series focuses primarily on trying to stop the attack and prevent possible all-out war.
- An episode of Stargate SG-1 deals with the American SGC trying to barter with the Russians for a necessary piece of Stargate technology the Russians had recovered. At one point, Colonel O'Neill (back in the SGC) is on the phone with Daniel Jackson (negotiating with a Russian general), and asks him if it looks they'll be getting the tech. Daniel replies "Not without giving them back Alaska."
- Russian rock band Lyube invokes and spoofs this trope in the song ''Ne valyai duraka, Amerika" ("Don't fool around, America" in English).
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Some multiplayer maps take place in Alaska. In the single-player campaign, the Russians invade Alaska and use it as a bridge into Canada and the continental U.S.
- The Battlefield 2 expansion Armored Fury features a Chinese invasion of Alaska, which is being done in conjunction with the Middle Eastern Coalition invading the U.S. East Coast.
- Shattered Union features an America plunged into a Second Civil War following a nuclear terrorist attack on Washington, D.C. that kills the President and the entire line of succession. Russia, led by a ruthless dictator, invades Alaska and reannexes it claiming that it really belonged to them all along. It's eventually revealed that he was the mastermind of the civil war in the first place, wiping out the federal government and sowing unrest so that Russia would dominate. Once the player reunites the U.S. the final mission involves reclaiming Alaska from the Russians.
- The Fallout Series switched Russia with China, with the battle of Anchorage being the biggest clash before everything went nuclear.
- An episode of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero had a three-way fight for Alaska. Cobra discovers a (fictional) provision in the purchase treaty stating that whoever holds an artifact called the Seal of Alaska will legally own it. The Russians were supposed to hand it over but the ship carrying it disappeared. The Joes, Cobra, and the Russian Oktober Guard (Russia's G.I. Joe) search the state for it.
- After the start of the Ukraine crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin held an annual question and answer television segment in which a woman asked him about taking back Alaska. Putin dismissed it saying it was "too cold" and that Russia already had enough cold places.
- There is also a punny joke about Alaska in Russian. Here it goes: Putin's mistress asks him for some "krem" (cosmetic cream), but Putin mishears and conquers "Krym" (Crimea) for her. And now the mistress is afraid to ask him for a "kolaska" (perambulator)... Or for ice cream, i. e. Ice-Crimea, i. e. icy land Russia wants back.
- As mentioned above the invasion of the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu by Imperial Japan is the only Real Life invasion thus far. Japan was hoping to divert attention away from the upcoming Battle of Midway and to create a defense for their northern flank. Unfortunately for the Japanese, (but fortunately for the U.S.) the U.S. had cracked the Japanese naval code and knew all about their Midway plans, and that included the Aleutian landings. The Japanese landed on the two islands and bombed Dutch Harbor as well. Because of the remote location and harsh weather conditions, it took a year for the U.S. to mount an attempt to retake them. The Battle of Attu is the only major land battle to occur on North American soil during the war, and the only battle of the Pacific Theatre to take place in winter or arctic conditions.
- Many Russians incorrectly think that the sale of Alaska was, in fact, a temporary lease agreement, and that Russia will regain full ownership of the region after a certain time period. That is not true, and no official lease document exists.
- In 2014, declassified documents revealed that in 1950, the U.S. government trained Alaskans as "stay behind agents" to form the beginnings of a local resistance in the event the Soviets invaded Alaska.. At the time, the U.S. military believed Alaska might be a battleground, especially if the Soviets wished to draw American forces away from Asia, where the Korean War was raging at the time.
- On the other side of the iron curtain, it was discovered that in the late-1940s and early-1950s, Stalin had formed and assigned the 14th Assault Army to cross the Bering Strait and seize the Steward Peninsula in the event of war with the US. This was planned as purely tactical maneuver, though; the idea was to establish makeshift airfield on which Soviet long-range bombers (which at this time did not have enough range or air refueling capability), flying over North Pole, could be quickly refueled during raids against US homeland.
- Russian ultranationalist and political gadfly Vladimir Zhirinovsky, referred to by Vice as "the insane clown prince of Russian politics", has advocated invading Alaska and taking it back from the US, calling it "a great place to keep the Ukrainians." Mind you, this is nowhere near the craziest thing that Zhirinovsky has said.
- This is actually inverted with an obscure conspiracy theory on the American far-right. Allegedly, Wrangel Island, an island in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Chukotka, is actually US territory, and the government gave it and several other nearby islands (along with the resources in their surrounding seabeds) away to the Russians. In reality, while a landing party claimed the island for the US in 1881 and called it "New Columbia", this claim was never recognized by Washington, and the 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement put Wrangel definitively within Soviet (later Russian) waters.