The English Plan to Colonise Russia

When England’s search for a Northwest Passage via sea failed, an audacious plan to forge a land route was hatched by the Muscovy Company.

In 1613 the English ambassadors John Merrick and William Russell landed in the port city of Archangel, in the Russian north. The first purpose of their mission was fairly innocuous. The two men were given a set of written instructions to protect the financial position of the Muscovy Company, which was, at the time, the main commercial entity that regulated trade with Russia. However, they also had a secret aim: to explore the possibility of annexing part of northern Russia and to set up an English colony in Muscovy. It was hoped that this colony could stretch along the river Volga and down to the Russian border with Persia.

This rather brazen attempt at a ‘land-grab’ in northern Russia was extraordinary in itself. What made it even more significant was the fact that the proposal received backing from a range of groups in London. This included members of the English Royal Navy, mercenary soldiers, senior courtiers, the king and, of course, the Muscovy Company.

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