History is fun. Sometimes while studying history I find interesting and little known facts. For example, I am willing to bet you did not know that the Russians once built a Fort on the Island of Kauai in Hawaii and declared the Hawaiian Islands a Russian Protectorate under Tsar Alexander I. Here is the story:
In 1815 a German doctor named Georg Anton Schäffer was employed by the Russian-American (Trading) Company and sailed to Hawaii to retrieve some Company goods that had been seized by a Chief on the Island of Kauai, named Kaumualii. A simple mission led by an inexperienced but ambitious physician unfolded into a major blunder for the Russians.
Kaumualii, who was looking for help in his domestic rivalry with King Kamehameha, invited Schäffer to the island and manipulated him into believing that the Russians and the Russian-American Company could easily take over and colonize Hawaii. Schäffer, "losing all touch with reality", planned a full-blown naval assault of the rest of Hawaiian islands and sought support for his "conquest" from the Tsar in Saint Petersburg. He started by building a Fort (Fort Elizabeth) on Kauai as his headquarters. He was met, almost immediately, by the opposition of Native Hawaiians and American traders. A threat by King Kamehameha, who had just conquered the rest of the Hawaiian Islands and had a large and well armed army at his disposal, forced Schäffer to admit defeat. Fearing for his life, he decided to leave Hawaii in July 1817, without firing a shot (and without paying the handful of sailors and traders he had hired as his "Russian Army").
"Doctor" Schäffer, who now called himself Baron von Schäffer, was a man of unique qualities. He reported to the Russian Royal Court that he had been successful in his acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands and did not admit the truth for several years. The debacle represented a loss of not less than 200,000 rubles (an immense sum at the time) and the Russians nevertheless continued entertaining "The Hawaiian Project" and claiming the Islands as a Protectorate until 1821. The Russian-American Company then sued Schäffer for damages, but after an inconclusive legal standoff found it easier to just let him go back to Germany.
The good doctor later moved to Brazil where is is still honored with a statue and credited with being one of the main motivators in creating the large German community in that country. I love history.
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