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There have always been many tribes and nationalities in China. Now the government of the country officially recognizes fifty-six. One of them is "Elos-tzu". This word denotes the Russian minority living in China for several centuries.
White-skinned, light-eyedThe Chinese completely “discovered” the Caucasians for themselves much earlier than the visit of Marco Polo. At the beginning of the twentieth century, several dozen mummies of clearly the same culture were found near the Tarim River and in the Taklamakan Desert. Some of them were Mongolian in appearance, but some looked quite European. They obviously belonged to a tribe of mixed origin. The mummies wore felt cloaks and check leggings, and had blonde or red hair. The age of the most ancient of them, according to modern estimates, is twenty thousand years.
The inhabitants of the Tarim River were not some kind of tribe that came from the west only to die without leaving a trace among the Chinese. According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the Ceylon embassy at the court of Emperor Claudius in the first century BC described the inhabitants of western China as tall, blue-eyed people. Obviously, the people of Tarim mummies gradually assimilated and mixed with the local population - you can still find individual European features like bright eyes in those places. It is believed that the "Tarim" people came to China from South Siberia.
A new influx of Europeans to China began after the laying of the Great Silk Road. It is believed that the first Russians in these lands came together with Khan Khubilai as part of his army. In addition to them, Polovtsian detachments were present in the army. Since Khubilai became the Chinese emperor, his army was stationed here, and Russian troops lived in barracks north of Beijing.
In addition, at this time, the Mongol commanders sent Russian prisoners to the court of the emperor, both men and entire families. So in the thirties of the fourteenth century, almost three thousand Russian slaves were sent to China.
In the seventeenth century, Cossacks from the fort Albazin captured by the Chinese served in the imperial guard. After the defeat, about a hundred Cossacks went to serve in the Chinese troops, and families came with them. The Russian hundred became part of the elite part of the "Banner with a yellow border". For convenience, the names of the Cossacks were greatly reduced: for example, the Yakovlevs became Yao, the Dubinins - Du, and so on.
For political reasons, the Russian hundred were endowed with various kinds of privileges. One of the Buddhist temples was given to an Orthodox church (and a hundred had their own priest), and families were given houses. However, the diaspora was so small that by the eighteenth century the Cossacks had mixed with the Manchus until they were completely indistinguishable, although they continued to consider themselves Albazinians.
In the eighteenth century Russia remembered them: the Albazinians became an excuse to ask permission to open an Orthodox mission in China. Although the descendants of the Cossacks did not really remember the faith of their ancestors, they kept pectoral crosses and home icons as family shrines. Alas, the Albazians disappointed the mission. The Cossacks were considered hereditary to belong to the imperial guard, and this made them arrogant. Priests and merchants from Russia wrote that the Albazin "in the moral sense, at best, is a parasite who lives by handouts, and at worst, a drunkard and a cheat."
The priests did a tremendous amount of work with the "Chinese Russians" not even at the behest, but out of national pride, wishing to correct their way of life - and their image in the eyes of the surrounding population. And in the nineteenth century, the fruits of this work were already visible.
Alas, it was the reverse russification that served the Albazinians a disservice. A diaspora of a thousand people was declared by local nationalists as Europeans, aliens, and enemies. During the Boxer Uprising in 1900, the Albazinians were pogroms, a third of the Russian population of China was brutally killed. Moreover, the Russian Russians hid in the Embassy Quarter of Beijing - the Albazinians did not have such protection, they were killed on the doorsteps of their houses. The survivors were mainly those who renounced Orthodoxy and ties with Russia.
Railroads, plague and revolutionDuring the construction of the southern branch of the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, passing through Manchuria, many Russians turned out to be in China - builders, engineers and those who were supposed to serve them. Russian merchants came here again. Some of the Russians settled in Harbin almost immediately.
I must say that the Russian Empire was incredibly lucky with this construction, because it was she who prevented the spread of the plague epidemic from China to Siberia. However, she also caused the epidemic in China. In the fall of 1910, a plague broke out among hunters for tarbagans, a local species of ground squirrels. The animals they hunted were often sick with this disease. The hunters infected the Chinese workers who were building the Russian railroad. The plague instantly spread along the construction line, inland, and threatened to go out just as quickly, to Siberia and Primorye.
Chinese doctors quickly determined that they were dealing with the worst form of plague - pneumonic. It is transmitted by airborne droplets and the chances of survival for an infected person are several times less than for someone who suffers from bubonic plague - and in fact, with bubonic plague, the mortality rate exceeds ninety percent. Russian doctors in Harbin formed an anti-plague squad, which was supposed to stop the epidemic on the border with Russia. It included the first Russian women with a medical education.
At the same time, of course, the Chinese anti-plague detachment, led by the now legendary doctor Wu Liande, acted at the same time - it was he who sounded the alarm at the very beginning of the epidemic. There were much fewer Chinese in the detachment, due to the lack of advanced medical education in the country.
First of all, it was necessary to stop the infection by introducing quarantine and starting to cremate corpses - the latter was unacceptable according to Chinese laws, but Wu Liande managed to get permission. In the second, doctors honestly tried to find a remedy to cure the sick. Used serum Khavkin and Yersen, but alas, they prolonged life by a couple of days, no more. The record for life expectancy after infection was set by Russian medical student Belyaev, a member of the anti-plague squad. He lived for nine whole days.
The plague in Harbin claimed the lives of eight doctors, six paramedics, four students and more than nine hundred orderlies. Not only the Chinese and Russian anti-plague detachments suffered, but also the British-American who worked here. Only the Japanese detachment completely escaped losses. Almost six thousand people died in Harbin, and ten times more in all of Manchuria. With enormous efforts, the epidemic was stopped, otherwise millions of people would have died on both sides of the Russian-Chinese border.
Soon, the October Revolution took place in Russia, and a stream of immigrants poured into Harbin, where there were enough Russians and Russian-speaking Chinese to settle down. By 1920, according to various estimates, from one hundred to two hundred thousand Russians, mainly of Russian nationality, had settled in Harbin. The Harbin diaspora has become the largest Russian-speaking community in the world. Some more migrants settled in Shanghai.
The volume of immigration seriously frightened China, and in 1920 the country's government not only announced that it did not recognize the Russian consulates in China, but also refused to recognize the extraritorial rights of former citizens of the neighboring empire. The Russians found themselves in limbo, virtually outlawed. Fearing riots and the seizure of power by migrants in Harbin, China has established increased control over all institutions in the city.
Immigrants starved and begged. Albazin co-religionists tried to help them, but their community was too small and no longer had any influence. Nevertheless, some of the new wave of Russians was able to take root, the rest moved on - to Japan, America, wherever ships go. I must say, when the immigrants began to publish newspapers, a lot of Albazin employees came there.
In 1924, China entered into certain agreements with the USSR. In particular, Soviet citizens were allowed to work on the railway, the same section of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Some of the immigrants decided, on the one hand, to obtain Soviet citizenship and legal work, on the other, to remain in the socially and ideologically close environment of the Russians of Harbin. Other immigrants considered the first to be traitors and chose to remain stateless - stateless persons.
In the thirties, the USSR conducted propaganda among the Russians in Harbin, convincing them to return to their homeland. Engineers were especially interested in Soviet power. Meanwhile, the Russian Harbinians were getting better of their own lives. Association with the "Chinese Russian" Albazinians helped them to take root and gave them the right to build churches. Before the war, several dozen schools, colleges and higher educational institutions operated in Manchuria, providing education in Russian to sixteen thousand children and adolescents. By the forties, the number of various kinds of public organizations reached one hundred and forty, of which the Russian Fascist Party attracts attention - it was the most numerous.
In the thirties, Japan occupied Manchuria. Russians, who were considered Soviet citizens, were evacuated to the USSR, but there, just in case, many of them were immediately imprisoned - after all, many of them were White Guards. The return of so many supporters of the old regime made the Soviet government nervous. Several thousand more Russians migrated to other Chinese cities, especially to Shanghai Beijing, where there were Russian diasporas.
Those who remained at first to the Japanese were delighted - after all, the invaders were enemies of the Soviet Union. However, the atrocities of the Japanese shocked even the biggest dislikers of both the USSR and the Chinese (yes, among the Russian Harbinians there were many who despised and openly hated the native inhabitants of the country). So the Harbinians met the Soviet troops with flowers. In general, in vain, since the authorities decided to take advantage of the pretext and reduce the number of White Guards and their descendants. Many Harbinians ended up in Soviet camps, while being officially citizens of China.
In the fifties, the USSR, however, as if nothing had happened, invited the same "tsarists" from Harbin to populate Kazakhstan. Some people made up their minds, especially in light of what the Red Guards movement was doing. As in the days of the Boxing Uprising, they were brutally beaten for the Russian speech, often to death. Russians were afraid to speak their native language even at home. Many migrated to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil and Australia. By the twenty-first century, the Russian diaspora in Harbin already numbered less than a thousand people, and another two thousand Russians found refuge among the Uighurs - Chinese of Central Asian origin - in Xinjiang. Other Chinese non-Chinese were also concentrated there - a large number of Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Kalmyks.
The situation changed with the collapse of the USSR and the increase in trade relations between Russia and China. New generations of Russians began to come to Harbin to work and live, and the size of the diaspora doubled. Nine thousand Russians live in Xinjiang, and five more in Inner Mongolia. The number of Albazinians does not exceed three hundred.
In our time, the Chinese authorities proclaimed the friendship of peoples in the country, and on holidays you can see the "Elos" parade of nationalities in Russian folk costumes. Some of them look completely Chinese, some will seem Asians to Russians and Europeans to Asians, and some have the most common European appearance.
Russian diasporas live not only in the countries neighboring Russia. More than a hundred years ago Old Believers found themselves in distant Bolivia and learned to grow bananas there.