The area was originally inhabited by Tlingit Indians. It was explored by a Russian expedition in 1741, and Old Sitka, or Fort St. Michael, was established in July 1799 by Aleksandr Baranov (Baranof), the first Russian governor of Alaska.

The formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States took place there on October 18, 1867, and Sitka served as the territorial capital until 1906, when the seat of government was moved to Juneau. The U.S. government built a naval air base there during World War II, which swelled the population to nearly 40,000.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough is the largest incorporated city by area in the U.S., with a total area of 4,811 square miles (12,460.4 km2), of which 2,870 square miles (7,400 km2) is land and 1,941 square miles (5,030 km2) (40.3%) is water. As a comparison, this is almost four times the size of the state of Rhode Island. Sitka’s principal economic activities are fishing, canning, lumbering, and tourism. The city is also a regional health-care centre.

St. Michael’s Cathedral (Russian Orthodox, 1848) was the first Russian church built in North America.

Mount Edgecumbe (3,201 feet, 976 metres), a dormant volcano on Kruzof Island, is a conspicuous landmark in Sitka’s island-studded, mountain-locked harbour.

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