Russians in China
|Regions with significant populations|
|Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang and other areas.|
|Related ethnic groups|
Ethnic Russians (Russian: Pусские; simplified Chinese: 俄罗斯族; traditional Chinese: 俄羅斯族; pinyin: Éluósī-zú) form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, according to the ethnicity classification as applied in mainland China. Those in mainland China are the descendants of Russians who settled there since the 17th century, and hold PRC rather than Russian citizenship.
There are currently over 15,000 ethnic Russians in China holding PRC citizenship; however, at least 70,000 Russians are residing in China while keeping their Russian or other nationality.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Russian migration
- 1.2 Russians under the reign of Yang Zengxin, Jin Shuren and Sheng Shicai
- 1.3 After World War II
- 1.4 People's Republic of China
- 2 Demography
- 3 Notable people
- 4 See also
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 Sources
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Immigrants in Manchuria and Beijing
During the 17th century, the Russian Empire launched several military actions against Qing Empire. In 1644, a group of the Russian army was defeated by Qing army, part of the captives were incorporated into the Eight Banners. During the Battle of Yagsi, nearly 100 Russians surrendered to the Qing authorities, the Kangxi Emperor authorized them to join the Bordered Yellow Banner. Their descendants exists to this day and are known as Albazinians. From 1860 to 1884, lots of Russians came to Hulun Buir panning for gold, and in 1900, Russian troops entered China, destroyed several sentries. By 1907 there were already 1,000 households of Russian settlers in the Ergun Right Banner.
The Jirjak people
The earliest Russian immigrants who came to Xinjiang were the Jirjaks, who were persecuted under the reign of Czar Peter because of refusing to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church. They sent four heralds to negotiate with the Kazakh chief Kala Usman, and were allowed to settle down in Burqin. After several years they also pioneered some settlements in Kanas, Chuguchak and Ili. In 1861, 160 Jirjaks entered the area of Lop Nur to settle down.
Almost all the Jirjaks were devout Christians; they rarely communicated with other groups. According to the census in 1943, there were 1,200 Jirjaks in Bulqin and Kaba. Many moved to Australia after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
Later migration to Xinjiang during the Imperial period
In 1851, the Treaty of Kulja was established, and many Russian merchants swarmed into Xinjiang. The Russian merchants killed approximately 200 mineworkers at Chuguchak, which enraged the local people, who burned the Russian trade circle down under the lead of two Hui men Xu Tianrao and An Yuxian. As a result, the Russians forced the Qing government to pay heavy war reparations. In 1871, the Russian Empire conquered the area of Ili, and many Russian merchants migrated there.
An anti-Russian uproar broke out when Russian customs officials, 3 Cossacks and a Russian courier invited local Turki Muslim (Uyghur) prostitutes to a party in January 1902 in Kashgar. This caused a massive brawl by the inflamed local Turki Muslim populace against the Russians on the pretext of protecting Muslim women because anti-Russian sentiment had built up. Even though morality was not strict in Kashgar, the local Turki Muslims clashed violently with the Russians before they were dispersed. The Chinese sought to end to tensions to avoid giving the Russians a pretext to invade.
After the riot, the Russians sent troops to Sarikol in Tashkurghan and demanded that the Sarikol postal services be placed under Russian supervision, the locals of Sarikol believed that the Russians would seize the entire district from the Chinese and send more soldiers even after the Russians tried to negotiate with the Begs of Sarikol and sway them to their side, they failed since the Sarikoli officials and authorities demanded in a petition to the Amban of Yarkand that they be evacuated to Yarkand to avoid being harassed by the Russians and objected to the Russian presence in Sarikol, the Sarikolis did not believe the Russian claim that they would leave them alone and only involved themselves in the mail service.
Migration during the October Revolution period
When the White Army was defeated in the war against the Bolsheviks, many Cossacks and other refugees fled to Xinjiang under the lead of General Ivanov. Some of them rioted in Ili and Chuguchak, but were finally suppressed by the Chinese warlord Yang Zengxin. Part of them later joined the Guihua soldiers recruited by the Xinjiang government.
Migration before World War II
From 1931 to 1938, the Soviet Union government forced a lot of Chinese and their Russian relatives to move to China. More than 20,000 Russians entered China through the Crossings of Xinjiang. And after 1941, many refugees fled to Xinjiang.
Russians under the reign of Yang Zengxin, Jin Shuren and Sheng Shicai
Under the reign of Yang Zengxin, the Russians in Xinjiang were mainly divided into 3 parts: some of the refugees had joined the Chinese nationality, they were called "Guihua people" (归化人 lit. Naturalised people), and had to fill out applications and write volunteer certificates. Yang ordered officials from various regions to distribute land for them, and gave them farm animals and seeds. Some had joined the USSR nationality. Others refused to join either nationality.
In 1928, when Jin Shuren came to power, he strengthened supervision and taxation of the Russians. Freedom of movement and trade were curtailed. According to the records from Xinjiang Gazette, from 1930 to 1931 there were 207 Russians who went through the Guihua procedure in Ürümqi, and 288 in Chuguchak.
In 1933, Jin abdicated. In 1935, the 2nd People's Congress was held, and the Guihua people were officially recognized as a minority group of Xinjiang.
Vandalism of Mogao Caves
Besides damage done by previous European explorers, White movement bandits escaping from the Russian Civil War were responsible for vandalizing much the Buddhist art at the Mogao Grottoes. They had caused trouble in Xinjiang, but were defeated when they tried to attack Qitai. The Governor of Xinjiang, Yang Zengxin, arranged for them to be transported to Dunhuang at the Mogao Grottoes, after talks with Governor Lu Hongtao of Gansu. The bandits wrote profanities on Buddhist statues, destroyed or damaged paintings, gouging out eyes and amputating the limbs of the statues, in addition to committing arson. This damage can still be seen to this day.
Formation of the Guihua Army
In 1931, the Kumul Rebellion broke out in Xinjiang, and the Province Army was defeated by Ma Zhongying's troops. So Jin Shuren ordered Zhang Peiyuan to form the Guihua army. The conscripted Russians were organized as the 1st Guihua Cavalry under the regimental commander Mogutnov. Later the cavalry were expanded into two groups, with Antonov and Bapingut as the commanders. Zhang Peiyuan commanded the Guihua Army and the Province Army finally defeated Ma's army, reoccupied Zhenxi and raised the siege of Hami. In 1932, the peasants of Turpan rebelled under the lead of Makhsut, but were beaten down by Guihua Army. Near the Chinese New Year Eve of 1933, the capital Ürümqi was besieged by Ma Shimin's units during the Battle of Urumqi (1933), Jin Shuren formed the 2nd Guihua Cavalry and repulsed them.
Guihua Army under the reign of Sheng Shicai
The Guihua soldiers were unhappy with Jin's arrears of military expenditures. Several dissenters of Jin persuaded Pappengut and Antonov to launch a coup d'état, and they occupied the city defense command on the afternoon of April 12. Later Jin Shuren fled to the outskirts. At the same night, they established the Interim Sustain Committee, and sent liaison officers to contact Sheng Shicai. Later that night Jin's troops fought back, but were finally defeated, and Jin had to return to give up his office, more than 70 Russians died in that battle.
When Ma Zhongying heard that the coup had taken place in Xinjiang, he promptly led the army to the west and sent his general Ma Heying to Altay. In May 1933, the Russian and Kazakh peasants of Bulqin armed themselves to fight against Ma's army, but were forced to give ground. Sheng ordered Guihua colonel Helovsky to reinforce them, and defeated Ma Heying after two days. In June 1933, Sheng Shicai and Ma Zhongying fought a decisive battle at Ziniquan, Ma was defeated, and was forced to flee to Turpan.
Zhang Peiyuan then defected joined forces with Ma Zhongying. Together, they almost defeated Sheng Shicai at the Battle of Urumqi (1933–34). During the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang, however, the Soviets intervened on the side of the Provincial government and the Guihua White Russians, and Ma Zhongying ended up in control of southern Xinjiang while the provincial government controlled the north.
In the 1930s, during the Kumul Rebellion, the traveller Ahmad Kamal was asked by Turki (Uyghur) men if the veils donned by Turki women in Xinjiang were also worn by women in America (Amerikaluk). The label of "whores" (Jilops) was used for Russian (Russ) and American (Amerikaluk) women by Turki men when what these women wore in public while bathing and the fact that no veil was worn by them was described by Ahmad Kamal to the Turki men. Chinese swines and Russ infidels was a saying by Turki Muslims (Uyghurs) in Xinjiang. Anti Russian hatred was spouted by Tungans (Hui Muslims) to the adventurer Ahmad Kamal in Xinjiang. Ahmad Kamal saw Russians in the bazar at Aksu. he saw Russian soldiers and Russian girls in the bazar at Urumchi.
In the summer of 1934, when the war ended pro tempore, Sheng retracted the Guihua Headquarters, and selected about 500 Russians to form the 6th Cavalry to quarter at Ürümqi. In 1937, the Cavalry and the Red Army finally defeated Ma Hushan's troops during the Islamic rebellion in Xinjiang (1937). And later it was disbanded, all the Guihua soldiers became ordinary people. The White Russians again sided with the Soviets during the Ili Rebellion in 1944.
During the Ili Rebellion, American telegrams reported that the Soviet secret police threatened to assassinate Muslim leaders from Ining and put pressure on them to flee to "inner China" via Tihwa (Ürümqi), White Russians grew fearful of Uyghur Muslim mobs as they chanted, "We freed ourselves from the yellow men, now we must destroy the white.
After World War II
In the last days of World War II USSR entered the war against Japan and invaded western China. In doing so, Soviet forces encountered, to their surprise, Russian Old Believer villages. Many of the Old Believer men were taken back to Russia and imprisoned. Those who stayed found their way of life drastically changed and sought ways to leave China. The Red Cross and World Council of Churches learned of the Old Believers' plight and came to their aid, helping them gather in Hong Kong and prepare for resettlement. Those from Manchuria and some from Sinkiang went to Brazil. Others from Sinkiang went to Argentina and a few went to Australia. The receiving countries offered them refugee assistance, including land, equipment, building materials and food.
One group aboard a ship stopped for a few days in Los Angeles, California, which since 1905 had been the center of a large community of Spiritual Christians from Russia. The Pryguny who recently immigrated via Iran rushed to the port and offered to host the Old Believers at their homes and prayer halls. In the process, addresses were exchanged. Later, once settled in South America, the elders used these addresses to contact potential sponsors, and eventually came to Los Angeles, with recommendations to go north to Oregon. Pryguny in Oregon agreed to advise them in settlement. Later on, the Sinkiang Old Believers in South America also joined the growing Old Believer community in Oregon. Therefore, a number of Russian Old Believers now live in Willamette Valley, Oregon.
People's Republic of China
The 1957 census counted 9,000 ethnic Russians in China, while the 1978 census counted just 600. That number rose again to 2,935 in the 1982 census and 13,504 in the 1990 census. There continues to be disagreement over the number of ethnic Russians living in China.
Statistics as of the 2002 Census. Pink designates native region.
in China (%)
local minority population
total local population（%）
|31 Province area||1,242,612,226||15,609||99.86||0.0148||0.00126|
|South Central China||350,658,477||182||1.16||0.0006||0.00005|
|Tibet Autonomous Region||2,616,329||20||0.13||0.0008||0.00076|
|In active duty||2,498,600||22||0.14||0.0197||0.00088|
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- Harbin Russians
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- Russians in Hong Kong
- China Far East Railway
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- Grigory Semyonov
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