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Sagallo, Russia's Short-Lived Cossack Colony In Africa

In 1888, the "Scramble For Africa" was nearly over. European powers had carved out their colonies, and Imperial Russia still lacked a "place in the sun." But adventurer Nikolai Ivanovitch Achinov came up with a bizarre plan to create a Russian territory in what is now Djibouti. The following year, he and a small group of Cossacks raised their flag above the village of Sagallo. But after French objections, the tsar disowned them and the colony lasted less than a month.

Achinov and his expedition made the front cover of the French weekly Journal Des Voyages shortly after setting off from Odesa in December 1888.
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Achinov and his expedition made the front cover of the French weekly Journal Des Voyages shortly after setting off from Odesa in December 1888.

Inside, the weekly showed their route: from Port Said they hired an Austrian steamer, landing in Sagallo in January 1889.
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Inside, the weekly showed their route: from Port Said they hired an Austrian steamer, landing in Sagallo in January 1889.

The Cossacks photographed in Abyssinia, 1889. They were 200 strong, including priests, women, and children.
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The Cossacks photographed in Abyssinia, 1889. They were 200 strong, including priests, women, and children.

This was the flag of Russian Somaliland -- raised over Sagallo, which was renamed New Moscow.
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This was the flag of Russian Somaliland -- raised over Sagallo, which was renamed New Moscow.

A period painting of the bay at Sagallo by German landscape artist Johann Martin Bernatz (1802-78). The village itself was an abandoned Egyptian fort, described by one historian as "a miserable collection of hovels."
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A period painting of the bay at Sagallo by German landscape artist Johann Martin Bernatz (1802-78). The village itself was an abandoned Egyptian fort, described by one historian as "a miserable collection of hovels."

Another French news report, with a portrait of Achinov. The colony was in French East Africa. Less than a month after it was set up, French warships arrived and opened fire. The Cossacks raised the white flag.
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Another French news report, with a portrait of Achinov. The colony was in French East Africa. Less than a month after it was set up, French warships arrived and opened fire. The Cossacks raised the white flag.

A contemporary photograph shows the area today. There are no visible traces of the few weeks it spent under Cossack rule.
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A contemporary photograph shows the area today. There are no visible traces of the few weeks it spent under Cossack rule.

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