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The rapid exploration of the vast territories of Siberia was led primarily by Cossacks and Pomors hunting for valuable furs, spices and ivory.

Russians mapped most of the Alaskan coasts and nearby islands, explored the inner areas of the peninsula, and went as far south as Fort Ross in California.

In 1803–06 the first Russian circumnavigation was led by Ivan Kruzenshtern and Yury Lisyansky, partly with the aim of establishing direct marine communications between Saint Petersburg and Russian America.

With over 3,000 people directly and indirectly involved, the expedition was one of the largest exploration enterprises in history by its geographic scale and results.

the achievements of the expedition included the discovery of the Aleutian Islands and the Commander Islands by Bering and Alexei Chirikov, the mapping of most of the Russian Arctic coastline and part of the Pacific coast in 1733–1743 by teams led by Stepan Malygin, Dmitry Ovtsyn, Fyodor Minin, Semyon Chelyuskin, Vasily Pronchischev, Khariton Laptev and Dmitry Laptev.

Many expeditions of that era met a tragic fate, like the voyages of Eduard Toll, Georgy Brusilov, Vladimir Rusanov and Georgy Sedov, yet brought some valuable geographic results.

Modern era polar icebreakers, dating from Stepan Makarov's Yermak, made Arctic voyages safer and led to new attempts to explore the Northern Sea Route.

The Academic Squad of the expedition, composed of the early members of the young Russian Academy of Sciences such as Gerhard Friedrich Müller, Johann Georg Gmelin and Stepan Krasheninnikov, inaugurated the first ethnographic, historic, and scientific research into Siberia and Kamchatka.

The Russian colonization of the Americas followed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, through the joint efforts of the state and private enterprises such as the Russian-American Company, led by Grigory Shelikhov, Nikolay Rezanov, Alexander Baranov and others.

In the times of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire the country's share in the world's land mass reached 1/6.

Most of these territories were first discovered by Russian explorers (if indigenous peoples of inhabited territories are not counted).

Following the settlement of East Slavs in the Russian Plain in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, through the next thousand years, most of European Russia came into the sphere of Slavic cultural and political influence, and finally became a part of the Russian state.