I posted last year about an exhibition I attended at the Russian Cultural Centre here in Beijing. It was a collection of memorabilia about the Russian community in Harbin, and how it eventually came to an end after the Second World War. I’ve just seen a related article in the South China Morning Post which is rather interesting.
It’s quite a detailed article about the White Russian refugees who made it to Hong Kong. Some made it directly there during and after the Civil War. Others came later – there were a significant number of unfortunate Russians who lost everything during the Russian Revolution, rebuilt their lives in China between the wars, and then lost everything once more during the Japanese occupation, or after the Communist victory in 1949.
Many of them came from Harbin; many more from Shanghai. Both of these White Russian communities have been well-documented. There are also references to those who came from Xinjiang, which I find particularly interesting.
I have a lot of books about China in the inter-war period and there are many references to remnants of White Armies which came into China via the Altai, particularly Ataman Annenkov. Annenkov had kept his Cossack forces in good order, and hoped to transfer to Manchuria to continue the fight. However, the governor of Xinjiang was suspicious of this disciplined force, which had retained its arms, and had Annenkov kidnapped; he was held prisoner, and forcibly addicted to opium. His troops, in his absence, were disarmed and dispersed. Some made it to the remaining White armies in Manchuria and the Russian Far East. Others remained in Xinjiang, and eventually played a key role in defending the local Chinese authorities during the Muslim rebellion of the mid-1930s. Annenkov himself was dead by then, having been transferred to the Soviet Union, where he was executed.
All of the reports I’ve read about these White soldiers has focussed on their military or political role. Of course, they must have had families, and formed communities. They must have been poor; either Peter Fleming, or Owen Lattimore – I forget which – refers to the contempt in which the local Chinese communities held the impoverished Russians.
Still, some of them, at at least, made it to Hong Kong.
Anyway, the article is very definitely worth a read. I was interested to learn that there is such a thing as “Hong Kong borscht”, which apparently is still popular. Perhaps Janik could leave a comment about that…?