The Promyshlenniki were a group of Russian and native Siberian contract workers (from the Russian промышленность = a trade of business) drawn largely from the State serf
A spin exchange relaxation-free magnetometer is a type of magnetometer developed at Princeton University in the early 2000s. SERF magnetometers measure magnetic fields by using lasers to detect the interaction between alkali metal atoms in a vapor and the magnetic field.The name for the technique...

 and townsman class engaged primarily in the fur trade in Siberia and Alaska in the 1790s. Although not all fur hunters, (many were sailor
A sailor, mariner, or seaman is a person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in their operation, maintenance, or service. The term can apply to professional mariners, military personnel, and recreational sailors as well as a plethora of other uses...

s, carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

s, and craftsmen) they were the backbone of Russian trading operations in Alaska. By the early 1820s, when the share system was abandoned and replaced by salaries, their status remained in name only; they became employees of the Russian-American Company
Russian-American Company
The Russian-American Company was a state-sponsored chartered company formed largely on the basis of the so-called Shelekhov-Golikov Company of Grigory Shelekhov and Ivan Larionovich Golikov The Russian-American Company (officially: Under His Imperial Majesty's Highest Protection (patronage)...

 and their duties and activities became less and less involved in the fur-gathering activities of the Company.

In early Siberia

In early Siberia, service-men
Service class people
Service class people were persons bound by obligations of service, especially military service, to the Muscovite Russian state.In early Siberia, service-men and promyshleniks were the two main classes of the Russian population. Service-men were nominally servants of the tsar, had certain legal...

 and promyshlenniks were the two main classes of the Russian population. Service-men were nominally servants of the tsar, had certain legal rights and duties and could expect pay if they were lucky. Promyshleniks were free men who made their living any way they could. A minor group were sworn-men ('tselnoval'niki', literally [cross or bible] 'kissers'). These men swore an oath and gained certain rights and duties. In practice the groups blended into each other and the distinction was most important when dealing with the government. When petitioning the tsar, a service-man would call himself 'your slave' and a promishlenik 'your orphan'. These people were often called cossacks, but only in the loose sense of being neither land-owners nor peasants.


The Lebedev-Lastochkin Company sent the first Russian promyshlenniki to investigate the resources of the lower Yukon River
Yukon River
The Yukon River is a major watercourse of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia, Canada. The next portion lies in, and gives its name to Yukon Territory. The lower half of the river lies in the U.S. state of Alaska. The river is long and empties into...

 in 1790. The party, led by the hunter Ivanov, traveled from Iliamna Lake
Iliamna Lake
Iliamna Lake or Lake Iliamna is a lake in South-West Alaska, at North end of Alaska Peninsula, between Kvichak Bay and Cook Inlet, West of Seldovia, Alaska Bristol Bay Low....

 to the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers. Ivanov reported on the extensive fish and game resources and the many people inhabiting the region. At first the traders returned to Kamchatka after every season but eventually trading posts were established in the territory. These posts began in the Aleutians and moved eastward toward the Alaska Peninsula
Alaska Peninsula
The Alaska Peninsula is a peninsula extending about to the southwest from the mainland of Alaska and ending in the Aleutian Islands. The peninsula separates the Pacific Ocean from Bristol Bay, an arm of the Bering Sea....

 rather than north to the Yukon delta and Bering Strait
Bering Strait
The Bering Strait , known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, the easternmost point of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65°40'N,...


Relations with Aleut and Alutiiq people

Promyshlenniki were adept at hunting on land but they lacked the skills to hunt on water, where sea otters lived. The Promyshlenniki then turned to the native Aleut and Alutiiq
The Alutiiq , also called Pacific Yupik or Sugpiaq, are a southern coastal people of the Native peoples of Alaska. Their language is called Sugstun, and it is one of Eskimo languages, belonging to the Yup’ik branch of these languages. They are not to be confused with the Aleuts, who live further...

 men to do their hunting for them. These Alaska Natives were trained at a young age to hunt sea otters. The Russians took the women and children hostage and forced the men to hunt for them to ensure the safety of their families.


As time passed many of the Russian promyshlenniki took Aleut partners, had children, and adopted a native lifestyle during their time in the Aleutian Islands. In 1794, with direct authorization from Catherine II, the Siberian governor Ivan Pil sent instructions that company managers at Kodiak should "encourage" single Russian men to marry native women.
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