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Russia Called; They Want Alaska Back

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Alaska: America's 49th state and the Last Frontier. The home of salmon, gold, oil, and many kinds of wildlife. And a potential place of origin for World War III.

The northwestmost chunk of North America was largely uncolonized before Imperial Russia showed up in the early 1800s. By the 1850s, they realized their colony was unprofitable, hard to defend, and causing tension in their already strained relationship with Britain (which owned Canada), so were open to any reasonable opportunity to offload it. Russia and the United States being rather buddy-buddy in the '50s and '60s (the US had supported the Russians diplomatically during the Crimean War, and Russia had helped prevent the Confederacy from gaining European support during The American Civil Warnote ), several negotiations were made over those decades, and a deal was finally struck in 1867. The US paid $2.4 million (equivalent to roughly 151 million in 2022 dollars) for the territory, named it Alaska (long a colloquial name for the region), and in 1959 it became the 49th state. Today, only a small minority of Alaskans have Russian ancestry.

But what happens if the Russians with Rusting Rockets decide to renege on the deal? Looks like the next "Alaskan land rush" will be more about armies rushing to battle...

Fiction has produced no shortage of works depicting this scenario. It gained 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 many resources that are important for America (chiefly oil) and also occupies a strategic place with regards to control of Pacific travel, so it could be a tempting target for any enemy with the power to fight 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....

  1. Genuinely trying to reconquer and reannex the state,
  2. Not actually trying to take Alaska back, but just trying to distract the U.S. military from a battle taking place elsewhere in the world (and maybe damage/destroy some of the important resources in the state while they're at it). Usually happens in World War III settings.
  3. Using Alaska as a "bridge" to invade the continental U.S. and Canada.

More humorous works might have the combatants 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 means to protect the homeland from an American attack from the north. It didn't really work out; they were harassed heavily by American planes and ships from the mainland, expelled by an Ameri-Canadian response force after 14 months, and the eventual invasion of Japan came from the south side. Still, the blow to American morale from an invader occupying their land (which hadn't happened since 1812 before that) was well-noted, and many feared that the Japanese would advance further into Alaska or fly bombing missions against the lower 48.

A Russian assault is very unlikely at present because it would almost certainly start a world war, provoking a response from not only America but her many allies, some of whom are quite close to Moscow. There's 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 away,note  meaning any effort would be by sea, and the US Navy currently outclasses the Russian Navy, especially in the Pacific. So concerns or discussions of this happening in the real world are minor at the moment unless World War III breaks out over something else first.

This is a sister trope to Canada Called They Want Minnesota Back and Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back, which also concerns a foreign power invading part of the US that they used to own. Like with Texas, this is also a localized version of Invaded States of America. Can also overlap with Russia Takes Over the World. Russia may act out of opportunism during a Second American Civil War.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 1944 US ISOT to the world of the Two Georges (registration required to read), a variation of this occurs when the US and its territories get ISOTed into the world of Two Georges. The Russian Czar is furious over the United States now owning Alaska and demands it be returned immediately. What happens next doesn't end well for Russia.
  • In A Matter of Honour, a 1986 thriller by Jeffrey Archer, the hero comes across a copy of the Alaska Purchase treaty which shows that 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 least the KGB, are very keen to get ahold of this document.
  • Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse features an Alaska that has been divided into American and Soviet sectors. Unusually for this trope, the division was the result of an agreement between the two countries after the majority of the Soviet Union was overrun by the BETA invasion.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Cory in the House episode "Air Force One Too Many", 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 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.


    Video Games 
  • 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 done in conjunction with the Middle Eastern Coalition invading the American East Coast.
  • The Fallout series switched Russia with China, with the battle of Anchorage being the biggest clash before everything went nuclear.
  • Subverted in Modern Warfare 2. In it, Russia invades America, with American early warning systems detecting masses of troops coming in on three different fronts: Alaska, southern California, and the East Coast. However, it turns out that the system has been compromised, and the entire invasion is actually on the 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.
  • Terra Invicta: The Eurasian Union, a possible evolution of Russia, is able to claim Alaska in addition to mainland Europe and Central Asia. They might seize it through invasion or through a mutual Shadow Government's political manipulation.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 the land. 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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. This is not true, and no official lease document exists.
  • After the start of the Donbas war in 2014, 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.
  • Amidst the sea of Russian propaganda that followed its mass scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there's some basically pushing for World War III, including taking Alaska back from the US.
  • There is also a pun-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 WWII Japanese capture of the Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu is the only Real Life invasion thus far. Japan was hoping to better defend their northern flank and divert attention away from the upcoming Battle of Midway. Unfortunately for the Japanese, but fortunately for the U.S., the latter had cracked the Japanese naval code and knew all about their Midway plans, and that included the Aleutian landings. In June 1942, the Japanese bombed nearby Dutch Harbor from aircraft carriers, then seized the two small islands with little difficulty. Because of the remote location and harsh weather conditions, it took a year for the U.S. to mount a response, but the islands were finally liberated in August 1943. 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.
  • 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 the 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.