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.
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.
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.
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."
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.