Revolutionary America's Quest for a Russian Ally: Society of the Cincinnati Annual Lecture

October 27, 2020

George Munro headshot

Join us October 27 at 5:30 p.m. to hear from our own Professor George Munro at the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia Annual Lecture titled Revolutionary America's Quest for a Russian Ally. Click here to register.

At the time of the American Revolution, the Russian Empire had risen to become one of Europe's leading states. Under the rule of Catherine II "the Great," its size and might made it a worthy ally attractive to the Americans. And indeed, Catherine sought to draw together all the neutral maritime powers into an armed league that opposed searches and seizures of ships on the high seas.

This talk traces the remarkable story of how the new United States pursued an unusual path to diplomatic recognition by Russia to help it win independence from Great Britain. Unlike some of its other alliances, the Americans sought to conduct a new sort of diplomacy, primarily commercial, which some have called "militia diplomacy." Acting independently, the Continental Congress sent an "ambassador," Francis Dana, to St. Petersburg without first obtaining permission or a formal request from Russia. Dana remained in St. Petersburg for two years, posing as a merchant, and hoping to gain an audience with the empress. This story -- one almost unknown in history books -- reveals the failures to achieve mutual understanding that have dogged Russian-American relations from the beginning.

Our presenter, George Munro, is a professor of history at VCU. His research focus is Russia in the second half of the eighteenth century, particularly the reign of Catherine the Great. 

This presentation is the eleventh annual Society of the Cincinnati Lecture.

Online, free and open to the public. Register today!