In the late 1800s, as many European imperialists were scrambling and partitioning Africa, the Russian empire was extending eastwards. For a variety of reasons, Russia never showed a serious interest in colonizing Africa. It was regarded as a strategic overstretch because Africa was far away and difficult to reach.
Rather than joining other European powers in Africa, Russia was preoccupied with colonizing and conquering Central Asia and Siberia, which they still control today. The Czar needed to concentrate his efforts in Central Asia, where he had achieved military success.
The Russian Empire failed to take part in the colonization of Africa because it had no direct access to Africa. The Russian empire had four options for reaching Africa, but each had its own set of difficulties. To get to the warm seas, Russia had to overcome a number of challenges.
For Russia, the northern route was too long, and the port of Arkhangelsk was too frozen to allow any sea boats to cut through the ice sheets. At the time, Russia did not have the resources to cut the ice and make the long trek to Africa. For the empire, the route was deemed too costly.
The other option was the Baltic sea route which required Russia to sail via Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and France, all of whom had little interest in allowing the Russians to participate in African colonization. The Russians were well aware that adopting the Baltic route would be met with opposition from major European countries, which further deterred them from participating in the colonization of Africa.
The third route would be crossing via the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans were Russia's bitter rivals and certainly would not have allowed them to pass. Between the 16th and the 20th centuries, the two empires fought a series of the longest European military confrontations. The Ottomans were obviously not going to help Russia's expansion in Africa.
In order to reach Africa by the fourth path, Russia had to go around the entire continent of Asia. The journey was costly because of the great distances and Russia lacked the financial wherewithal to conquer Africa. Rather than expanding westward, as many European nations did, the Russians chose to settle in Siberia and Alaska.
Despite the fact that the Russians did not have any territories in Africa, they were welcomed by other European imperialists at the Berlin conference in 1884. They were only able to attend the conference under strict restrictions. They were to help secure economic agreements and disseminate conservative Christian ideals across Africa.
Russians Cossacks An attempt to settle in the Horn of Africa
There was one incident in which Russian Cossacks under Nikolay Achinov, attempted to settle on the Horn of Africa, however the territory was already under the control of the French. These Russians thought that settling in on the Horn of Africa was a good idea. They chose Sagallo's abandoned Egyptian Fort as the site for the new Russian base. They cultivated cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes in the coming months. They also built a hospital and a school for the locals, and named the new settlement Novaya Moskva (New Moscow).
This operation was unwelcome in France that they sent an ultimatum to Achinov. Since he didn't know French, he assumed it was a kind letter from an ally. The French later attacked, killing a few Cossacks, and they raised a white flag and surrendered, subsequently returning to Russia.
Russia’s Secret Attempt to Colonize Madagascar
Before the Berlin conference, Russia attempted to annex Madagascar. Peter the Great was in charge of this top-secret endeavor. The Russians were unable to colonize Madagascar because they had insufficient knowledge of the country and it was too costly to govern a colony far from home.
Although Russia failed to colonize Africa, they built a colonial empire larger and more permanent than any European country's foray into Africa. The Russians were preoccupied with colonizing and conquering Central Asia and Siberia.