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Larin said, adding that demanding Vladivostok back was as unrealistic as Russia’s asking the United States to give back Alaska.
The notion that Vladivostok was ever a Chinese town, he said, is a “myth” based on a misreading of evidence that a few Chinese sometimes came to the area to fish and collect sea cucumbers before Russians settled largely uninhabited hills around a natural harbor.
Yet, like nearly all Chinese who visit a city whose Russian name means “master of the East,” Mr.
Cui is absolutely certain about one thing: The place should really be called Haishenwai, the name it had back when China was master in these parts.
But he added that many ordinary Chinese, who are taught at school about “unequal treaties” and foreign land grabs, believe the city and much of eastern Russia was and, one day, should again be Chinese.
During China’s Cultural Revolution, started by Mao Zedong in 1966, this belief led to brief but bloody clashes along the border north of Vladivostok and nearly pushed China and the Soviet Union into all-out war.“History is always used for political speculation,” Mr.
The Chinese Communist Party, which rejoiced at the recovery of Hong Kong and Macau at the end of the 1990s as a final victory over the British and the Portuguese, has tried since to narrow the country’s historical grievances to the South China Sea and Taiwan, vowing one day to recover the island — seized by Japan in 1895 and later by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government — and complete what Beijing calls the “wiping clean” of past humiliations.That all changed with Russia’s 1917 revolution, after which the Soviet authorities declared the city a sensitive military zone and sealed it off.Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, foreigners have been allowed back.Even under Russian rule, Vladivostok has at times had nearly as many Chinese residents as Russians.In 1912, for example, nearly 30 percent of the population was Chinese, with the rest divided between Russians and a large number of Europeans, Japanese, Americans and other foreigners.
Russia, an increasingly close diplomatic partner with China, is almost never ranked in official statements alongside Britain, Japan and other former imperial powers that seized territory by force.