not surprising

September 19th, 2007

It’s as badly written as anything else put out by CRI, but still, take a look at this interesting little piece about the “discovery” of 127 old Russian-style houses in Shangzhi, Heilongjiang:

 Record shows foreigners swarmed into the old town of Yimianpo at the end of the 19th century and built large quantities of houses, featuring wooden doors and windows, internal fireplaces and storerooms, and embossment on external walls. These mainly Russian-flavored houses are now still in use, as residences, hospitals, inns and so on.

I’ve been teaching English too long- I so want to grab a red pen and start correcting that. Anyway, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that the “foreigners” who “swarmed” into Yimianpo were almost all Russian, and that’s why they built Russian-style houses. It’s hardly a surprise, of course, because Russian expansion eastwards began several hundred years before, and from the late 19th century right through the first half of the 20th century, Russia showed an inordinate amount of interest in northeast China. Ice-free ports, for one thing. Russia always lacked ice-free ports. And then of course there were Russians fleeing things like revolutions, civil wars and political persecution in the early 20th century. One result of all this is that Russians were recognised as an ethnic minority of China because by the time the People’s Republic was founded and scholars were sent out to study such things there were pretty solid Russian communities established in the northeast and Xinjiang.

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