Beyond the Amur describes the distinctive frontier society that developed in the Amur, a river region that shifted between Qing China and Imperial Russia as the two empires competed for resources. Although official imperial histories depict the Amur as a distant battleground between rival empires, this colourful history of a region and its people tells a different story.
Drawing on both Russian and Chinese sources, Victor Zatzepine shows that the border between the Russian Far East and Manchuria remained porous. Neither Russia nor China could control the flow of goods, people, or ideas into the region. Various peoples – Chinese, Russian, Indigenous, Japanese, Korean, Manchu, and Mongol – crossed the border in pursuit of work and trade, exchanging ideas and knowledge as they adapted to the harsh physical environment. Much to the chagrin of bureaucrats, whose loyalties remained tied to distant capitals, trade, railways, and towns flourished in step with a distinctive regional culture.
By viewing the Amur as a unified natural economy caught between two empires, Zatsepine highlights the often-overlooked influence of regional developments on imperial policies and the importance of climate and geography to local, state, and imperial histories.
The book will appeal to students, scholars, and enthusiasts of Russian history, Chinese history, and natural history, as well those interested in the history of frontiers and empires.
For those interested in Sino-Russian relations or Northeast Asia generally, Beyond the Amur provides considerable background on a huge, yet still largely undocumented, region. More generally, it serves as a reminder that our current world of highly securitised borders, with strict control of passage, is relatively recent and perhaps anomalous.
Beyond the Amur is an enjoyable read, with stories of informal networks across the border, of the individuals whose life stories usually remain outside official narratives… The book will be of interest of historians of border zones and to historians of Russia and China as well as to the general reader.
Beyond the Amur offers a fresh and detailed look at the Amur frontier region and its rich history of environmental challenges, military conflict, and ethnic and political encounter.
Victor Zatsepine’s history of the formation and environmental condition of the Amur River region, a frontier or meeting place between China and Russia, is essential reading for anyone who wants a better understanding of Sino-Russian relations.
1 A River Runs through It
2 They Came from Everywhere
3 Fur, Gold, and Local Trade
4 Imperial Russian Expansionism
5 Chinese Migrants in Frontier Towns
6 A Railway Runs through It
7 Conflict and War
8 Fading Frontiers
Appendix A: Chronology
Appendix B: Chinese TermsNotes; Bibliography; Index
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