Strangers on the Eastern Front: Sino-Russian refugees in war and revolution

Speaker: Rachel Lin (University of Exeter) 

rachel lin strangers on

Convenors: Roy Allison (REES; St. Antony's, Oxford) & Alexander Morrison (New College, Oxford)

At the outbreak of revolution in 1917, more than 250,000 Chinese merchants, workers and students were scattered throughout the Russian empire. Some 100,000 had been recruited as wartime labourers and abandoned as the tsarist army collapsed. Faced with the desperate circumstances of the Civil War, many within the diaspora wished to return. Tens of thousands of Russian refugees fled to China to escape the Red onslaught, while armed "refugee warriors" used China as a base for anti-bolshevik activity. This talk will address the wave of refugee migration across the Sino-Russian border from 1918 to 1922, and the attitudes informing Chinese treatment of refugees. It argues that the Chinese adopted new discourses of humanitarianism and international law which were themselves being reshaped in the post-war Wilsonian world. Like Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, China attempted to use the Sino-Russian refugee crisis as a showcase of its "civilised" status, on par with that of the western powers.