Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Russian fortress Fort Elizabeth on the island of Kauai.

Russia and the United States commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Russian settlements and founding of the Russian fortresses Fort Alexander, Fort Barclay de Tolly and the only one remaining, Fort Elizabeth (Hawaiian: Paʻulaʻula o Hipo), on the island of Kauai in 2017. These events are a bright page of the history of positive relations between Russia and the United States.

In this commemoration, we held a celebratory ceremony, a forum, round table, exhibition, a proposed preservation projects of the settlement and presentation of several books, as well as a traditional Hawaiian reception and cultural show. Our goal was directed toward strengthening humanitarian ties and mutual understanding between the two nations. This was excellent opportunity to remember the contributions which Russians made in the development of the American continent and in the growth of the spiritual life of the indigenous people of the US.

Steady growth of interest of the citizens of our countries in the pages of history, joint efforts in the field of preservation and promotion of historical and cultural heritage will help to revive communications between our people and to overcome the current decline in relationships between the countries. An opportunity to touch this joint history gives an extraordinary force of influence and raises awareness of participation of the two nations with each other. Additionally, it can give an enormous boost to Hawaii’s travel industry (specifically Kauai) and economy. We sure we attracted the attention into preservation of Fort Elizabeth to its full historical potential, generating global interest for academics, historians and tourists.


Fort Elizabeth Forum participans. Courtyard by Marriott Kauai @ Coconut Beach hotel. Kauai, Hawaii, USA November 12, 2017


Forum speakers:


Natalie Sabelnik, Head of Forum Organising Committee, President of Congress of Russian Americans, Chair of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the USA, California, USA

Natalie Sabelnik has been on the Executive Board of Directors of the Congress of Russian Americans since 2000, and President of CRA since 2009. She had been a member of the Holy Virgin Cathedral Choir for over 35 years and is an active member of the Russian American community. She has been a member of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the US since 2008.

"Words of welcome"


Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., Mayor of Kauai, Kauai, USA
Mr. Carvalho is an American politician and former football player, who has served as the Mayor of Kauai in the U.S. state of Hawaii since December 1, 2008.

"Words of welcome"


Aletha Kaohi, Historian and descendent of High Chief Kaumuali'i, West Kauai'i Visitor Center, Waimea, HI, USA

"Words of welcome"


 Oleg Malginov, Head of Russian Delegation, Director for Relations with Compatriots Abroad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Russia

"Words of welcome"

Section 1. “Russia and the USA – general cultural heritage”

Cultural and historical objectives can become a common ground between Russians and Americans, opportunities for cultural, historical and educational exchanges and projects the promote productive interaction between Americans and Russians.


Dr. Aleksandr Molodin, Head of Department in Novosibirsk State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (Sibstrin), Novosibirsk, Russia



Dr. Amir Khisamutdinov, Historian, Senior Professor, Far East Federal University, Vladivostok, Russia

"200 years of Russians in Hawaii: a brief review"


Peter R. Mills, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, USA

"Pā ʻulaʻula: Interpreting Monumental Architecture in 19th Century Hawaiʻi"

The site that most people call “Fort Elizabeth” was built mostly by Hawaiians in 1816 following an alliance between Kaumualiʻi, paramount chief of Kaua`i, and George Schäffer of the Russian-American Company (RAC).  It was built within Kaumualiʻi’s own residential compound at his bidding, and the Hawaiian name for the site was recorded as “Pāʻulaʻula” by Paele, a Hawaiian commandant at the fort in 1850.   Accounts have generally ignored the role of Hawaiians in determining the location, scale, method of construction, and uses of the fort.  Ethnohistorical data suggest that Kaumualiʻi’s agenda to break away from Kamehameha I was initiated well before the arrival of the RAC.  Archaeological data also expose features of the site that testify to the importance of Hawaiian culture in shaping the fort.


Kiersten Faulkner, Executive Director of Historic Hawaii Foundation, Honolulu, USA

"Historic Designations Used in the State of Hawai‘i and the United States of America"


Dr. Niklaus R. Schweizer, professor of German, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


Dave McMahan, McMahan Consulting, Peaceful Waters Group LLC, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Anchorage, Alaska Area, USA

"Final Chapter of the Russian-American Company Ship NEVA (1800-1813)"

The frigate NEVA, constructed in London and purchased by the Russian-American Company in 1803, is arguably one of the most important vessels to have plied the waters of the North Pacific during the early 19th century.  In June 1804, during its first Russian round-the-world voyage, it became the first Russian ship to call in what is now the Hawaiian Islands. In Alaska, the vessel is best known for its participation in the Battle of Sitka between employees of the Russian-American Company and the Sitka Tlingit. The ship wrecked in January 1813 near the entrance to Sitka Sound. In 2012, after extensive background research, archaeologists discovered a site hypothesized to be the NEVA survivor camp. Subsequent work in 2015-2016, with support from the National Science Foundation, has confirmed this. A small but important artifact assemblage reflects survival and salvage under harsh conditions. A lone grave with a hastily constructed coffin may be that of Tertii Stepanovich Bornovolokov, Alexander Baranov’s intended replacement as RAC chief manager.


Artem Rudnitskiy, Deputy Director History&Records, Foreign Ministry of Russia, Russia

"Hawaii and Russian America. Documents from the Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire"

A brief overview of documents from the Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire on Russian America (Archive is a subdivision of History & Records Department at the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation) on Russian colonies in North America and particularlly on Russian presence in Hawaii (XVIII − XIX cc.).
When the United States took possession of Alaska and other Russian colonies in the continent the bulk of the archive of the Russian-American Company (RAC) has been transferred to Washington. As for the documents kept in various central and local archives on the territory of Russia, it was decided in 1948 to bring all of them to the Ministry archive and create «The Collection of documentary materials on the History of Russian American Company and Russian possessions in North America». This collection comprises more than a thousand case files.

Section 2. “Reorientation of Russian-American Relations”

A historic role for strengthening of international relations during the increased tension in relations between Moscow and Washington DC. How dynamics of the relations between our countries can change?


Elena Branson, Forum Organising Committee, President of Russian Center New York, New York, USA




Dmitry Zirnov, Minister-Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington



Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov, Head of Center for Global Trends & International Organizations, Diplomatic Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Founder, PIR Center, Russia



Bill Boerum, Chairman Emeritus of Sister Cities International, Washington D.C., USA

"Celebrating Fort Elizabeth. The Russian Legacy in Hawaii. A Call to Enlarge & Enliven U.S. – Russia Sister Cities Network"


Sarah Sweedler, CEO of Fort Ross Conservancy, California, USA

"The Legacy of Fort Ross: A Century of Community Engagement"


Martha Yent, Archaeologist, Parks Interpretive Program Manager and LWCF Coordinator, Division of State Parks, Department of Land and Natural Resources, USA

"Fort Elizabeth as State Historical Park. Opportunities and

Fort Elizabeth was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1962 and is an excellent example of a site from the early 19th Century when foreign powers recognized the value of Hawai‘i as a provisioning port for trade across the Pacific and were vying for political influence with the Hawaiian monarchy. The State of Hawai‘i acquired the 17-acre property encompassing the fort structure in 1972 to preserve the site and provide an opportunity for the public to visit and learn more about this period in Hawaiian history.

Upon abandonment of the fort in 1864, invasive vegetation such as kiawe trees and panini cactus quickly dominated the landscape. In addition, the lack of mortar in the stacked rock walls of the fort has resulted in collapse on both the interior and exterior faces of the walls over time. Today, the Division of State Parks oversees the management and interpretation of Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park and is faced with the challenges of controlling the invasive vegetation, stabilizing the walls and features of the fort to prevent further collapse, and managing visitors who have been coming to the site since the early 1900s. Interpretation is one opportunity for sharing the history and cultural importance of this site in a way that can promote respect and understanding. Another opportunity is the partnership that has been built with the Waimea community to care for and share this special place with visitors and residents. Planning for the future of the site will need to consider both the opportunities and challenges.


Alexander Stadnik, Trade Consul, Russia


Yuri Matveev, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Department of North America, Preservation Russian landmarks in US commission

Round Table. “Future of Russian-Hawaiian cultural heritage. Fort Elizabeth/ Pā ʻulaʻula”

Adoption of a declaration of proposed future collaborations and projects to ensure recognition and visibility of Fort Elizabeth/Pā ʻulaʻula.


Natalie Sabelnik, Head of Forum Organising Committee, President of Congress of Russian Americans, Chair of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the USA, California, USA



Dr. Aleksandr Molodin, Head of Department in Novosibirsk State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (Sibstrin), Novosibirsk, Russia

Fort Elizabeth is an open book telling three cultures relationship history, and if it was read by at least one tenth of tourists who enter the island, it would be breakthrough in the normalization of relationship between Russia and USA. However, today, the colors of this book have faded under the influence of the time and weather conditions. Our task is to update the chronicle and deploy it with a glance, and I believe that we have already begun working hard enough.

Today's situation with the Fort Elizabeth reminds the fable of the Russian writer Krylov — the Swan, the Cancer and the Pike, when they pulled the wagon in different directions and were surprised that it was standing still. Despite all the controversies surrounding Fort Elizabeth, today's event showed that, being united together, we will be able to achieve prosperity and reach that point of cultural interaction that can become one of the catalysts for Russian-American relations in general.


Victoria Wichman, Archaeologist and Park Interpretive Specialist for Kaua‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks, Parks Interpretive Program, HI, USA


Robin Joy Wellman, Retired, Fort Ross State Historic Park, California State Parks, California, USA


Lily Ong, Hawaii Representative of Sister Cities International, Honolulu, HI, USA


Jay L. Friedheim, Law Office of Jay Friedheim, Honolulu, HI, USA


V. Rev. John Schroedel, St. Juvenaly Mission Diocese of the West, Kailua-Kona, HI, USA

Book Presentation


Dmitri Semakin, Author, “Russians on the Sandwich Islands”
Maria Ashikhmina, Illlustrator, “Russians on the Sandwich Islands”

Link to Amazon

Link to Ridero

Link to Library


The Forum would like to recognize and thank our sponsors:

Silver sponsor:


Bronze sponsors:


General sponsors:


Friends of Fort Elizabeth:

Alexander Portnyagin, Ivan Podvalov, Elena Olkhovskaya, Eugene Solonin, Fedor Yakimoff

Media sponsor:


Our team:


Natalie Sabelnik, Head of Forum Organising Committee, President of Congress of Russian Americans, Chair of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the USA, California, USA

Dr. Aleksandr Molodin, Head of Department in Novosibirsk State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (Sibstrin), Novosibirsk, Russia

Elena Branson, President of Russian Center New York, New York, USA


A big thank you to all our volunteers:

Victoria Sabelnik, Anna Balashova, Oleg Chursin, Natasha Owen, Robin Joy Wellman

in cooperation with:


State of Hawaii
Dept. of Land and Natural Resources
Division of State Parks

with Special Support of:


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation


The Government of Moscow city