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FEL-272979-21
From China to the U.S.S.R.: The Return of the "True" Russians
Laurie Manchester, Arizona State University

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FEL-272979-21

“How Harbintsy Repatriates’ Reunion with Harbintsy Abroad Complicated their Notions of Homeland and Russianness.” (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: “How Harbintsy Repatriates’ Reunion with Harbintsy Abroad Complicated their Notions of Homeland and Russianness.”
Author: Laurie Manchester
Abstract: In 1954 approximately 100,000 former Russian émigrés and their children voluntarily repatriated from China to the Soviet Union. This paper, which draws on the second to the last chapter of my monograph-in-progress, From China to the U.S.S.R.: The Return of the “True” Russians, focuses on the interactions after 1954 between Harbintsy repatriates and the minority of Harbintsy who chose instead to migrate further (most went to Australia). During the Soviet period some repatriates corresponded with their friends and relatives abroad, and a few visits occurred. After 1991, this contact increased substantially, including at massive Harbintsy reunions held in Russia. After 1991 repatriates also began to enunciate how they, in contrast to “local” Russians (those born in the Soviet Union), were “real” Russians because they had been born and raised in a “replica” of Imperial Russia. Harbintsy abroad, meanwhile, had remained a distinct group within the Russian emigration, but they had still been exposed to a similar Russian émigré national identity. Yet when they reunited the two groups of Harbintsy often argued over who constituted a “true” Russian. Repatriates cited the importance of language, while Harbintsy abroad cited Russian Orthodoxy. Many Harbiners abroad insisted that repatriates admit they had made a mistake, while many repatriates pitied Harbiners abroad for not living in their historic homeland. Yet their love of Harbin united the two, and encouraged a global multi-ethnic identity as “Harbintsy,” bolstered by the return trips many made to China and the choice by many to consider Harbin their homeland. This paper sheds light on contemporary Russian national identity, intradiasporal tensions, and the challenges to ethnic return migration. It is based on the repatriate and émigré press, over eighty oral interviews, and on thousands of unpublished letters.
Date: 4/2/2022
Primary URL Description: Presented at Harriman Institute at Columbia University as part of the conference “Eurasians Abroad,” sponsored by the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History.


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