Please join the Harriman Institute for a book talk with Owen Matthews, author of “Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America.”
Mathews first came upon the story of Nikolai Rezanov by seeing the rock opera "Junona i Avos," the story of which begins with Rezanov, a handsome Russian aristocrat and intimate of the Tsar, arriving in Spanish California with the two eponymous ships of the title. Russia’s American empire is expanding southward, and Rezanov eyes the rich lands of California with a view to conquering them. This being an opera, it is a love story. Being Russian, it’s also of course a tragedy.
What impressed Owen most was that the story was largely true. Russia really did once have an American empire. By 1812 the border of the Tsar’s dominions was on what is today called the Russian River, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco along California’s Highway 1. Rezanov spent much of his life passionately advocating the idea that America’s west coast could be a province of Russia, and the Pacific a Russian sea.
Owen Matthews was for many years Newsweek’s bureau chief in Moscow. He has written for the Moscow Times, the Times (London), the Spectator, and the Independent. At Newsweek he covered the Second Chechen War, and went on to cover the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. His first book, "Stalin’s Children," was published to critical acclaim in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.