Identity The Kyakala are the remnant of a people whose assimilation into surrounding nationalities was hastened by the large populations of their neighbors. The Kyakala were initially consumed into the Manchu nationality, which in turn has largely been swallowed up by the Han Chinese. Assimilation occurs when "members of minority groups have absorbed the characteristics of the dominant group to the exclusion of their own and become indistinguishable from members of the majority."
History The Kyakala area was controlled by the Japanese between 1932 and 1945. Horrific cruelty was inflicted on the inhabitants of Manchuria. "Over 4,000 were exterminated in bestial fashion; some were frozen or infected with bubonic plague, others were injected with syphilis, and many were roasted alive in furnaces." Fu Yuguang of the Jilin Institute of Ethnic Studies in Changchun is presently the most competent scholar on the Kyakala.
Customs Many Kyakala people today earn their living from their involvement in cross-border trade with the Russians, which has increased markedly since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The main items traded are food, clothing, and household goods.
Religion Once a people dominated by shamanism, the Kyakala show few traces of their former religion today. Most of these people are nonreligious, although many elderly Kyakala retain ancestor worship practices in their homes.
Christianity There are no known Kyakala Christians. A revival in the 1990s swept through many parts of Heilongjiang Province but did not encompass the Kyakala area in the northwest of the province. The Kyakala would now best be reached by using the Chinese Scriptures.
Approximately 2,000 members of the Kyakala were reported in 1996. None, however, are able to still speak the Kyakala language. The majority are concentrated to the south of Heihe County in Heilongjiang Province. Heihe is located on the China- Russia border. Due to the recent thawing in relations between the two countries, Chinese tour groups are now able to cross the border from Heihe into the Russian town of Blagovenshcensk. "Chinese tourists don't find much to buy in Russia, but are impressed to see a city where nobody spits and people actually stand in line." Smaller numbers of Kyakala live in various cities between the Ussuri and Sungari river basins. (Source: Operation China, 2000)