Identity Most Russians in China are the descendants of troops who fled Russia in 1917 after their defeat in the civil war. They have been granted status as an official minority group in China. Today the majority of Russians are a mixed Russian-Chinese race. The few purebred white Russians remaining in China are members of a religious cult who instruct their members not to intermarry with other races.
History The city of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province was home to 200,000 Russians after the 1917 Russian Revolution. It was known as the "Moscow of Manchuria." Most of these Russians either migrated back to the Soviet Union or became refugees to Western nations. In the 1950s Russia and China enjoyed good relations. Russian became the favored foreign language in Chinese schools. Border disputes and ideological differences in the 1960s, however, made the Chinese think less highly of the Russians.
Customs Today many Russians living in the border regions are engaged in trade. Their ability to speak both Russian and Chinese is a marked advantage for them. Their products primarily include clothing, vodka, and cigarettes.
Religion The Russians in China either adhere to Christianity or are atheists. Writers seem to differ regarding the extent of Christianity among the Russians in China. One source states, "The overwhelming majority belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the absence of a church in the locality, they usually hold religious services at home. Thus in the ... corner of every house there is inevitably an icon of the Virgin Mary or of Jesus Christ."
Christianity In addition to the Eastern Orthodox believers, there are also Baptist and Mennonite Russians in China. Although most sources say the majority of Russians in China are Christians, another source lists only 300 Russian believers, fellowshipping in two official churches. The Russian Bible is not available in China.
In 1953 Russians living in China numbered 22,656. This tally dropped when most decided to leave China because of the fanatical implementation of Communist policies. By the 1964 census, the Russian population in China had fallen to a mere 1,326. Today their numbers are on the increase again, with 13,504 occupying communities in three provinces along the China-Russia border. Most live in northern Xinjiang, while smaller numbers of Russians are located in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang. This figure does not include the hundreds of young women from Russia reportedly working as prostitutes in cities like Beijing and Guangzhou. In addition, approximately 150 million Russians are located throughout the world, including all of the Republics of the former Soviet Union. (Source: Operation China, 2000)