What life is like along Russia's border region with China (2023)

Before Covid you could go to the Chinese city of Heihe by ferry. Many residents of Blagoveshchensk returned with gifts for relatives or friends, as well as with a wide array of goods in large bags. To avoid having to pay for boat delivery across the Amur, which is one of the world’s longest rivers, traders save money by asking tourists to carry Chinese goods destined for sale in Russia. This is because tourists, unlike business people, enjoy duty-free travel.

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (1)

A monument to shopping girls in Heihe

Anastasia Kuknerik

In Russia, people who carry such bags with goods are nicknamed "kirpichi" ["bricks", singular: kirpich] and the traders are called "fonari" [lanterns]. So, everyone here understands the meaning of the Russian phrase "at the weekend I'm going to China as a ‘brick’".

Blagoveshchensk is situated in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East, about 7,900 kilometers from Moscow. You can reach Blagoveshchensk by air – a flight from Moscow takes about eight hours. By train, the journey takes six days. I am used to flying, which is much quicker and even cheaper. There are also subsidized student tickets that are half the price of the train ticket.


How many cosmodromes does Russia have?

The population of Blagoveshchensk is 250,000, and the number has been growing thanks to the nearby Vostochny Cosmodrome close to the town of Tsiolkovsky. Engineers from Turkey, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries come to work here. Some of these specialists even take up residence in the Amur Region.

The cosmodrome has guided tours but to join one you’ll need to complete several steps regardless of whether you’re a Russian citizen or foreign national:

  1. To book an excursion, you first need to write an application giving your passport details or birth certificate.
  2. You need to send your application to Moscow, where it’s reviewed for a month. It’s important that an applicant has no criminal record, otherwise he/she won't be allowed in.
  3. Upon receiving confirmation, you need to decide how you’ll travel to Vostochny. There are buses that will take you right to the site, or you can travel independently by car.

A peaceful and friendly border

It is easy to encounter and sample Chinese culture in Blagoveshchensk: You can go to the embankment and see Heihe on the other side of the Amur. In the evening everything is brightly illuminated. Heihe’s buildings even sometimes display messages for the people of Blagoveshchensk. Here, for instance, are New Year’s greetings to Blagoveshchensk residents - I filmed this in January 2022.

(Video) Khabarovsk: Russian city on the Chinese border!

Heihe seen from Blagoveshchensk

The proximity of the two very different cities significantly helps local tourism. At least, it did before Covid. Russians traveled to Heihe by ferry, and those who are officially registered residents of the Khabarovsk Territory, or the Amur and Chita regions, don’t need a visa. Residents of other Russian regions, however, need one.

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (3)

An arch in Blagoveshchensk commemorating a visit of Nicholas II in 1891

Legion Media

The journey takes 15 minutes. Delays and long lines at customs are common, especially during holidays. The last time I went to Heihe was in January 2020 - right before lockdown. My family and I had to wait two hours to get through customs, but that wasn't too bad.

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (4)

A new bridge over the Amur River

Anastasia Kuknerik

Also, an international bridge has been built connecting the two cities. It opened for traffic on June 10, 2022. For the time being, however, only commercial traffic can use the bridge; it will open for tourists in 2025. You can take a look at the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe bridge at a distance from one of the tourist boats - they go out three times a day and then return to the city. The view is impressive!

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (5)

View on the new bridge from a tourist boat

Anastasia Kuknerik

(Video) Why Central Asia is Ditching Russia for China

Due to Covid restrictions, it’s currently not possible to go across the Amur and visit Heihe. You can only fly there via Shanghai or Beijing. Direct links were suspended in 2020. People can't wait for them to reopen: Residents of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe want to start visiting each other again!

Cooperation and friendship

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (6)

A bakery in Heihe

Anastasia Kuknerik

Before the Covid restrictions, Blagoveshchensk and Heihe regularly hosted celebrations of international cross-cultural cooperation. The Russian-Chinese Culture and Art Fair has been held in the two cities each year since 2010. Chinese and Russian artists and ensembles perform at the festival.

The festival's aim is to draw tourists' attention to what is special and distinctive in the national cultures of the peoples of China and Russia. Not only do professionals perform, but also schoolchildren. For instance, several classmates of mine were in the singing group Kolosok. They sang regularly at the festival in Heihe and even brought home prizes.

The festival did take place in 2021 - Covid restrictions had to be observed - but without the participation of visitors from China. Meet-the-artist events and master classes were organized, while the official ceremony was held online. The Russian-Chinese cultural fair is also due to be held in 2022. In May, it was announced that the event would be moved to August, although lectures and seminars were already held during the summer. We await the official opening!

Chinese influence

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (7)

Street food in Heihe

Anastasia Kuknerik

The two cities have been gravitating towards each other for 73 years (Blagoveshchensk was founded in 1858 and Heihe in 1949).

Blagoveshchensk has 42 Chinese restaurants. The tradition of ordering Chinese food for special occasions is a firmly established tradition in the city. Our family likes"Heihe" salad, "chisanchi" and meat in a sweet and sour sauce. My mother sometimes even makes these dishes!

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (8)

Meat in a sweet and sour sauce

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Anastasia Kuknerik

Chinese foods can be found in every supermarket in Blagoveshchensk. Instant noodles are particularly popular - they are very spicy compared with similar Russian ones. Chinese cosmetics and household detergents are also in demand. "If it's Chinese, it's good quality," my mother says.

The Chinese market is where the people of Blagoveshchensk go to let off steam. Haggling is highly recommended here, and you can negotiate a better price for any item. "If you haggle with a Chinese person, it means you respect them," my grandmother used to say.

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (9)

Chinese food

Anastasia Kuknerik

Mandarin is taught in Blagoveshchensk schools, and there are departments at Amur State University and Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University where translators and teachers are trained. Students from China are common. Likewise, there are also many Russians in Heihe. As for me, I studied Mandarin from the 5th to 8th grades at school. I remember many of the written characters, which makes it easier to understand the lists of ingredients on packaging and even to converse a little with Chinese people.

Russian influence in Heihe

The proximity to the Russian border has also had an impact on life in Heihe. Chinese supermarkets stock Russian goods. Alenka chocolate and cow's milk are particular favorites. The latter is simply not on sale in China, where soy milk is preferred and widely available in shops.

What life is like along Russia's border region with China (10)

A mall in Heihe

Anastasia Kuknerik

Russian students with knowledge of Mandarin can go on study exchanges in Heihe. Various educational programs were available before lockdown, with students not only having intensive language practice but also learning the Chinese fitness exercise known as Qigong and visiting the sights of Heihe. The most famous of these is Food Square where, of course, you can get something to eat. But the most important building is the Pushkin Library! However, all the books are in Mandarin.


Why I decided to learn Russian, and how hard it was for a Chinese speaker

(Video) Boom and bust along Chinese-Russian border | Journal Reporters

Another example of cross-cultural cooperation is the opening of the Alexander Tikhomirov Museum. The artist painted icons on old shutters. This type of painting is called okonopis [literally "window painting", a play on the word "ikonopis" - icon painting]. Tikhomirov was born in the Moscow Region in 1956, but lived in Blagoveshchensk from 1984.

The Amur Local History Museum has an exhibition devoted to his art, while in Heihe an entire museum dedicated to his work opened. There are Chinese guides who speak excellent Russian.

The cultural lives of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe have become intermingled and enrich each other. Seeing people from the other side of the river doesn’t raise eyebrows among locals in either city. And even though today these are mainly people who had moved permanently before the Covid restrictions, the locals hope that life will soon resume its natural course and that reciprocal visits from one side of the river to the other will once again become more frequent. One thing is for sure, the new bridge will facilitate this.

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What is the region between China and Russia? ›

The Treaty of Nerchinsk signed in 1689 after a series of conflicts, defined the Sino–Russian border as the Stanovoy Mountains and the Argun River, affirming Qing China's sovereignty over the region now known as Outer Manchuria.

What is the border between Russia and China called? ›

The Chinese–Russian border or the Sino-Russian border is the international border between China and Russia.

What Russian city is near the Chinese border? ›

Vladivostok is the second-largest city in the Far Eastern Federal District, as well as the Russian Far East, after Khabarovsk. It is located approximately 45 kilometers (28 mi) from the China–Russia border.

Do Russia and China have a common border? ›

Today Russia and China share approximately a 4,300-km long border. Not so long ago Sino-Soviet and Sino-Indian borders were hotly disputed and witnessed armed conflicts and bloody clashes like the Sino-Indian military conflict of 1962 and Sino-Soviet armed conflict of March 1969 over the Ussuri river island, Damansky.

What is the relationship between Russia and China today? ›

China and Russia are each other's biggest neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination. We are both major countries in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council. Both countries uphold an independent foreign policy and see our relationship as a high priority in our diplomacy.

Are Russia and China still allies? ›

Russia and China officially declared their relations "Not allies, but better than allies". Ties have continued to deepen after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with Russia increasingly becoming dependent on China since it was hit with large-scale international sanctions.

Can you drive from China to Russia? ›

Can I drive from China to Russia? Yes, the driving distance between China to Russia is 7433 km.

How much land did China lose to Russia? ›

Thus, by pure diplomacy and only a few thousand troops, the Russians took advantage of Chinese weakness and the strength of the other European powers to annex 350,000 square miles (910,000 km2) of Chinese territory.

What's on the border of Russia? ›

Russia borders Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea in the south.

Where do most Russians live in China? ›

Officially, there are just over 16,000 ethnic Russians registered in China today, clustered mainly in the northern territories of Heilongjiang province, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Which Chinese city has the most Russians? ›

Russians in Harbin

The first generation of Russians built the city from scratch. By 1913, Harbin had become an established Russian colony for the construction and maintenance work on the China Eastern Railway. A record shows Harbin had a total of 68,549 people, most of Russian and Chinese descent.

What river separates China from Russia? ›

Thubron's latest, “The Amur River: Between Russia and China,” is hence not entirely new territory for him.

How Russia protects its borders? ›

A Border Security Zone in Russia is the designation of a strip of land (usually, though not always, along a Russian external border) where economic activity and access are restricted in line with the Frontier Regime Regulations set by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Who is bigger China or Russia? ›

China is about 1.8 times smaller than Russia.

This to-scale comparison of Russia vs. China uses the Mercator projection, which distorts the size of regions near the poles. Learn more. Note: Try dragging the outline to reposition.

What is the longest border in the world? ›

Land border: Canada's border with the United States is the world's longest international border, at 8,890 km. This compares with the 6,846-km boundary between Russia and Kazakhstan and the 5,308-km frontier between Chile and Argentina.

Why is China helping Russia? ›

China has become an increasingly important trading partner for Russia as it seeks to soften the impact of economic sanctions imposed by some countries in response to its invasion.

What is China's view on Russia? ›

According to a Genron NPO poll released in November 2022 on Chinese peoples' views of the Russian invasion, 39.5% of respondents said the Russian actions "are not wrong", 21.5% said "the Russian actions are a violation of the U.N.

Who is China allies with? ›

China entered into diplomatic relations with Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Maldives in Southeast Asia and South Asia, seven countries including Iran, Turkey and Kuwait in West Asia and the Middle East and five countries in South Pacific such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Who are Russia's military allies? ›

  • Armenia.
  • Belarus.
  • Kazakhstan.
  • Kyrgyzstan.
  • Russia.
  • Tajikistan.

What is the relationship between us and Russia today? ›

Russia and the United States maintain one of the most important, critical and strategic foreign relations in the world. Both nations have shared interests in nuclear safety and security, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and space exploration. Embassy of Russia, Washington, D.C.

How big is China's military? ›

People's Liberation Army
Military age18
ConscriptionYes by law, however, it was never enforced since 1949.
Active personnel2,035,000 (2022) (ranked 1st)
Reserve personnel510,000 (2022)
29 more rows

Is it safe for Americans to go to Russia now? ›

Russia - Level 4: Do Not Travel.

Can US citizens drive in China? ›

To drive a car in China, you need a Chinese driver's license. China does not recognize the International Driving Permit or other foreign driver's licenses. Only foreigners with a valid residence permit can apply for a Chinese driver's license. Tourists are therefore not allowed to drive in China.

Can US citizens drive in Russia? ›

You may drive for 60 days using your U.S. driver's license, with a notarized Russian translation. Tourists may also use International Driving Permits issued by the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance to drive in Russia.

Who owns most of Russia's land? ›

In 2022, Miratorg listed as the largest agricultural holding by farmland ownership in Russia. Prodimex ranked second with about 900 thousand hectares in ownership in that year. EcoNiva APK displayed a significant growth in its farmland volume over the past years, accounting for over 630 thousand hectares in 2022.

How much land does China own in Ukraine? ›

In the same year, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps bought 9% of Ukraine's famously fertile farmland, equal to 5% of the country's total territory, with a 50-year lease. (In 2020, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Chinese company over human-rights abuses.)

How many Chinese people live in Russia? ›

Ethnic Chinese in Russia officially numbered 39,483 according to the 2002 census. However, this figure is contested, with the Overseas Community Affairs Council of Taiwan claiming 998,000 in 2004 and 2005, and Russian demographers generally accepting estimates in the 200,000–400,000 range as of 2004.

How many people are trying to leave Russia? ›

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 300,000 Russian citizens and residents are estimated to have left Russia by mid-March 2022, at least 500,000 by the end of August 2022, and an additional 400,000 by early October, for a total of approximately 900,000.

Is Russia bigger than the US? ›

The U.S. is approximately half the size of Russia when compared to its landmasses. According to NationMaster.com, Russia is 1.8 times larger than America. Despite the extensive land area, Russia hosts only 2% of the world's population while the U.S. ranks third in world population, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

What US border is closest to Russia? ›

Alaska is the U.S. state that is closest to Russia. The closest geographic point between the borders of the United States and Russia lies in the Bering Strait located in the Pacific Ocean.

How long can Russians stay in China? ›

The duration of stay in China is usually up to 30 days Per Entry, but it may be extended once for an additional 30 days at a local Public Security Bureau in China.

What happened to the White Russians in China? ›

They were forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia; however, many settled in Hong Kong. The Russian monuments of Shanghai did not escape the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

What American city has the most Chinese? ›

New York City is home to the largest Chinese-American population of any city proper, with over half a million.

How many Chinese live in USA? ›

The Chinese diaspora in the United States is comprised of approximately 5.4 million individuals who were born in China, Hong Kong, or Macao, or reported Chinese ancestry or race, according to MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2021 ACS.

Which country has the most Chinese citizens? ›

Country statistics

There are over 50 million overseas Chinese. Most of them are living in Southeast Asia where they make up a majority of the population of Singapore (75%) and significant minority populations in Malaysia (22.4%), Thailand (14%) and Brunei (10%).

What is fully landlocked between Russia and China? ›

Mongolia (/mɒŋˈɡoʊliə/ ( listen)) is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. It covers an area of 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 square miles), with a population of just 3.3 million, making it the world's most sparsely populated sovereign nation.

Why is the Russian River in California called the Russian River? ›

The river gets its current name from the Russians of the Russian American Company who settled in Fort Ross. The Russian trappers followed the paths of the Indians from the Pacific Ocean and came inland far enough to settle Sebastopol.

Who are the Goldi people? ›

Modern population

The Russians formerly called them Goldi, after a Nanai clan name. According to the 2002 census, there were 12,160 Nanai in Russia. In the Soviet Union, a written standard of the Nanai language (based on Cyrillic) was created by Valentin Avrorin and others.

Why does Russia not want Ukraine to join NATO? ›

Currently, the organization has a total of 30 countries. In this way, Russia feels a threat from NATO's expansion to the east and, above all, fears that Ukraine, a country in which it can exert influence, will end up joining NATO, something that has not yet happened.

Why can't Ukraine join NATO? ›

Plans for NATO membership were shelved by Ukraine following the 2010 presidential election in which Viktor Yanukovych, who preferred to keep the country closer to Russia, was elected President. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014 during the Revolution of Dignity.

What countries does Russia have control of? ›

Russian-occupied territories are lands under Russian military occupation. The term is applied to territories in Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Moldova (Transnistria), and parts of Ukraine.

Is Russia richer than China? ›

China dominates every aspect of the bilateral economic relationship, as a net exporter, net creditor and net investor, despite Russia long being a richer country than China.

Is China and Russia a superpower? ›

However, the United States is no longer the only uncontested foremost superpower and the world's sole hyperpower to dominate in every domain (i.e. military, culture, economy, technology, diplomatic). Since the 1990s, China, the European Union, India, and Russia have been commonly described as potential superpowers.

What is the largest country in the world by land? ›

The largest country in the world is Russia with a total area of 17,098,242 Km² (6,601,665 mi²) and a land area of 16,376,870 Km² (6,323,142 mi²), equivalent to 11% of the total world's landmass of 148,940,000 Km² (57,510,000 square miles).

What is the most heavily guarded border in the world? ›

The world's most dangerous border is North Korea's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which splits the Korean peninsula in half creating a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. It's the most militarized border on earth.

What is the most complicated border in the world? ›

The current Belgian enclaves as well as Dutch counter-enclaves which has resulted in what has been called the world's most complicated international boundary, is a continuation of land ownership from the feudal age.

What is the most heavily defended border in the world? ›

#1: North Korea & South Korea

It's been estimated that some 1,000 North Koreans attempt it every year, but most do so through China. Why? Because fleeing directly across this heavily guarded border is challenging and comes with a high risk of death.

What is the Brics alliance? ›

BRICS is an acronym for five regional economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

What is the region around China called? ›

Other kinds of statistics
RegionAreaProvinces included & Notes
Central China564,700 km2Henan, Hubei, and Hunan
South China449,654 km2Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hong Kong, and Macau
Western China3,978,700 km2Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Tibet, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, and Xinjiang
3 more rows

What region borders China? ›

To the north, China shares a border with Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea. Along China's western border, its neighbors are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, while along the south, the bordering countries are India, Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, and Macau.

What regions surround China? ›

The country is bounded by Mongolia to the north; Russia and North Korea to the northeast; the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea to the east; the South China Sea to the southeast; Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), India, Bhutan, and Nepal to the south; Pakistan to the southwest; and Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, ...

How will BRICS affect the US? ›

The potential impact of a new BRICS currency on the US dollar remains uncertain, with experts debating its potential to challenge the dollar's dominance. However, if a new BRICS currency was to stabilize against the dollar, it could weaken the power of US sanctions, leading to a further decline in the dollar's value.

What is BRICS main goal? ›

BRICS aims to increase economic and political stability.

The main goal is to increase, deepen, and broaden cooperation among its member countries in order to promote growth that is sustainable, fair, and good for everyone.

Why is Mexico joining BRICS? ›

Mexico has had long-standing relationships with all of the BRICS nations, but primarily relies on Brazil, China, and Russia as its economic trade partners. Joining BRICS would further solidify these partnerships and potentially lead to one of these nations overtaking the US as Mexico's primary trade partner.


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