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Pushkin in Beijing

How and what does the Russian diaspora in the Middle Kingdom live?

Pushkin in Beijing

Noisy Chinatowns, full of colorful Asian patterns, have long become habitual "inhabitants" of the largest cities in the world - Sydney, Singapore, New York, London, Paris. Agile Chinese are successfully assimilating in the territories of other states, uniting in communities and providing each other with all possible assistance. They have taken root in Russia too - they study at universities, work in Russian and international companies, and run their own business. But what about the opposite situation - how do Russians live in China and what problems do they have to face in the Celestial Empire?

Thousands among a billion

According to statistics, to date, almost 14 thousand Russians live in China. Compared to other nationalities living in a billion country, this figure (not including, however, businessmen, students and half a million Russian tourists visiting China annually) is more than modest. The number of the Russian diaspora is so small due to the fact that after the formation of the PRC, almost all Russians were forced to leave China. After that, it was impossible to settle in this country for many years. The influx of Russians began only at the beginning of the 1990, when China began to open up a little.

Currently, the bulk of the Russian-speaking population is concentrated in Beijing and Shanghai, some groups of Russians live in Hong Kong, Harbin and provinces. The peculiarity of the current "Chinese Russians" is that they are mostly young - those who came to China in the 1990-x, so they stayed here - they studied, worked, started their families. Also among the representatives of the Russian diaspora are current students, entrepreneurs, leading businesses in the Middle Kingdom, and employees of Russian companies' representative offices. Russian can also be found in the offices of international organizations and branches of foreign companies.

Little Russia

Historically, the Russian diaspora that inhabits the Chinese capital has always been less organized than, say, our compatriots in Harbin or Shanghai. And at the end of the 1980-x, representatives of the shuttle business, who took a fancy to the north-western region of Sichjimen, were drawn to Beijing. A little later, Russian entrepreneurs moved to the area of ​​Yabaolu Street, where a whole Russian region was being formed, called by local residents "Chinese Brighton Beach" or "Little Russia in China". However, the Chinese living nearby love to joke that this "little Chinese Russia" is a non-permanent phenomenon. "Earlier in this place was the Polish market, now Russian, and tomorrow it can become African," they say.

The Russian area of ​​Yabaolu is located almost in the very center of the Chinese capital, a few minutes walk from the foreign embassies area and just a ten minute taxi ride from Tiananmen Square. Yabaolu Street stretches from the west from the eastern section of the second ring road to the eastern side of the Temple of the Sun. The total length of the street is about 300 meters. Over the years, 10 has turned this place into a complex of shopping centers with an extensive infrastructure. There was a network of restaurants where Russian chefs work, hairdressers with Russian masters.

Among the Russians living in Yabaolu are not only merchants, but also translators, hairdressers, musicians, and also "Cargo" - the elite of Yabaolu, those who are engaged in sending and customs clearance of goods. Specialists working in foreign corporations and representatives of big business do not really like Yabao, for fear of crime. The Chinese claim that in due time the criminal came to Yabaola together with the Russians. Nevertheless, there are no major criminal structures here - Russian racketeers were kicked out of the Chinese mafia at the beginning of the 1990.

Herring - in short supply

Before the start of 2000, one of the most pressing problems for Russian Pekingans was the lack of authentic Russian food. Many, far from their historic homeland, literally dreamed of sour cream, good cheese, black bread, cabbage pies, and dumplings. Now sausage, grain bread and even beets can be bought in large supermarkets and stores of imported products for foreigners. And the situation with specifically Russian products - black bread, cottage cheese, herring, caviar - is solved by small shops aimed specifically at the Russian audience, next to the Russian Embassy and in the Yabaolu district.

The first and to this day the most popular retail outlet of this kind is the store "At the Grandmother", located opposite the main gate of the Russian embassy. He is kept by a cheerful Chinese old woman, who remembers not one generation of Russians who lived in Beijing. The assortment of its shops is very rich - there is even Russian chewing gum, chocolate, gingerbread, condensed milk, sprats, mayonnaise, bay leaf and dill.

In 2007, in the same building, Russian cooking "The Cup of Tea" was opened, which solved the problems of home food for many Russian bachelors in Beijing. Ready-to-serve salads and semi-finished products are sold in no time. The Russian hostess taught Chinese women to cook herring under a fur coat, liver cake, sour cabbage, to make ravioli and vareniki and even bake cakes and cook cake "Grafskie ruins". These products do not look like conveyors from conventional Russian supermarkets, they are made not in "industrial" volumes, but in limited ones - at home. The only minus of this cookery - it does not sell soups (most often, says the hostess, visitors are interested in the presence of borscht and soup).

But hot first and second dishes can be eaten in the Russian restaurants of the Chinese capital, which has about a dozen. The main restaurants are located again in the places where the Russian-speaking public gathers - in the embassy and Yabaolu areas. Restaurant "Pushkin Tavern" is easy to identify at the entrance to Dunzhimennay Avenue by the raft entrance with twisted pylons painted in the old Russian style. Eat potatoes with greens and flavor your meal with traditional Russian alcoholic drinks. Here come not only Russian Pekingans, but also representatives of the Russian diaspora living in other cities.

Russians in Shanghai: expensive and angry

The heyday of the Russian diaspora in Shanghai is the 30-s of the XX century. Then the Russian drama theater began to work in the city, a ballet school opened, and a Russian municipal government consisting of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra appeared. It was at that time that the legendary Russian artist Alexander Vertinsky moved from Paris to Shanghai. Here Fedor Shalyapin toured. However, over time, the situation changed: after 1945, most Russian Shanghai people left for the USSR or the West. After the Soviet consulate was closed in 1962, and the "cultural revolution" began in 1966, there were no more than 10 people left in Shanghai among the former white emigrants and the Soviet citizens who arrived after 1949. The situation began to change only in the late eighties. The Russian consulate was returned to its former building at the confluence of the Suzhou River and Huangpu rivers (by the way, Russia is the only country whose consulate occupies a separate building in Shanghai). In 1990-e in Shanghai, followed by rapid economic growth, Russian businessmen were drawn.

Today, there are about a thousand permanently living Russians in the city. The bulk of the Russian population are businessmen and students. Entrepreneurs from Russia and the CIS countries are attracted here by companies located in the Shanghai area and in the adjacent areas of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, as well as industrial exhibitions held in Shanghai. A lot of students from Russia studying Chinese in the Celestial Kingdom study at Shanghai universities in the inter-university and interstate exchange programs.

Those who are in Shanghai for the first time, immediately face the problem of housing. Even arriving here for a very long time, you should not expect that you will be able to purchase an apartment without problems. Even before 2006, the Chinese authorities easily sold real estate to foreigners, including those from Russia. The offer was very interesting, but because the flow of people overflowed the market - prices climbed up. Because of this, the government introduced a number of restrictions. Now you can buy real estate in Shanghai only a foreigner who works here (after presenting a working work visa or a certificate from work). In any case, permission to purchase an apartment a person can receive only after a year of residence in the country. In this case, you can only buy one apartment and only for personal living. Today, a square meter in Shanghai costs about $ 4,5 thousand. In such conditions, the only way out for Russian Shanghai is rent. The average rental price for a one-room apartment with furniture in a good neighborhood is 2500-3000 Yuan (250-300 euro) per month. You can find accommodation in at least two ways: to use Internet resources that specialize in helping Russian people living in China, or to contact the intermediary firm, "fandom", which is in every quarter of Shanghai.

Another problem worries those Russians whose children have reached school age. In Beijing, for this case, there is a good Russian school at the embassy. In Shanghai, there is only an elementary school at the consulate. Trying to resolve the situation, parents began to organize small training groups: 10-12 families cooperate and invite good teachers from Russia. Children go to Chinese schools, and in their spare time they attend lessons in the study of the Russian language, Russian literature and national history.

The Russian Diaspora of Shanghai takes an active part in the activities of the Coordination Council of Compatriots of China. In 2004, with his assistance from the St. Nicholas Church and the cathedral in honor of the icon of the Mother of God "Sporuchnitsa sinners", built by Russian emigrants in 1930-ies, entertainment institutions were withdrawn. About the resumption of services by Orthodox priests yet to speak it is not necessary, as it contradicts the Chinese legislation forbidding activity of foreign religious organizations in territory of the Peoples Republic of China. However, according to the Chinese authorities, "in future the buildings will have a cultural purpose, connected with the history of the Russian presence in China."

Together - more fun

China becomes a real test for some emigrants - cultures and mentality are too different. People who come often have difficulties in intercultural communication and need support. Against this background, at some point in the different Chinese cities began to appear organizations that unite the Russians.

The first such organization was the Russian Club in Shanghai, established in December 1998. Initially, it appeared to provide a platform for communication between compatriots. Currently, the Club contributes to the consolidation of the Russian community. On its basis, monthly meetings of the Russian diaspora, Chinese language courses, thematic seminars and informational support of Russian business in China are organized. Now the Russian Club in Shanghai is working on the creation of a Russian library, assisting in the promotion of works of Russian literature and art in the Chinese market, and also cooperates with Chinese publishing houses. In addition, he is trying to contribute to raising the status of Russia, for which he publishes materials in the Chinese media from Russian authors. A little later, similar clubs began to appear in Beijing, Harbin, Urumqi and other cities. Their activity favorably affects not only overcoming the disunity of the “Chinese Russians”, but also significantly improves the quality of their life in the Celestial territory. 

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