Across the river from Heihe, for days both Old and New factions have been fighting especially fiercely. Amur [oblast’] is on the verge of falling; defeated, officers and men from the Old faction flee in droves to our shore. Instructions have been given to disarm them and protect them as political prisoners. Several Chinese migrants have been hurt by stray bullets, and the negotiator has been instructed to investigate, so that compensation may be sought once things have settled."Telegram from Bao Guiqing, 14 March 1918". Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo jiunian zhi banian (1917-1919). Dongbei bianfang vol. 1, page 108.
Shots Across the Amur is a digital resource featuring Chinese-language sources on the Russian Revolution and Civil War. These documents, dating from 1917-1921, are from the Foreign Ministry (外交部, Waijiao bu) collection of the Institute of Modern History (近代史研究所) Archives in Academia Sinica (中央研究院), Taipei. Much of the collection is now digitised and can be found on the Institute’s database, which is readily accessible to scholars after registering online.
As many who work with Chinese archives can attest, however, the difficulties of reading the original handwritten documents can be well-nigh insurmountable. Therefore, I have based the posts here on the Institute’s published document collection, Zhong-E guanxi shiliao (中俄關系史料, Historical Materials on Sino-Russian Relations), published in the 1950s to 1970s in 15 thematic volumes. The documents are arranged in chronological order, with no titles except for the author or recipient and date (e.g., “Telegram from Omsk consul Fan Qiguang, 21 July 1919”). Dates are listed in the Republican style, counting from the Chinese Revolution in 1911; liunian (“year six”) is therefore 1917, and so on.
The volumes are:
Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo liunian zhi banian (1917-1919)
Zhongdong tielu (中東鐵路, The China Eastern Railway) – two volumes
E zhengbian yu yiban jiaoshe (俄政變與一般交涉, The Russian Coup and General Diplomacy) – two volumes
Dongbei bianfang (東北邊防, Defence of the Manchurian Border) – two volumes
Xinjiang bianfang (新疆邊防, Defence of the Xinjiang Border)
Wai Menggu (外蒙古, Outer Mongolia)
Chubing Xiboliya (出兵西伯利亞, The Siberian Intervention)
Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo jiunian (1920)
E zhengbian (俄政變, The Russian Coup)
Zhongdonglu yu Dongbei bianfang (中東路與東北邊防, The China Eastern Railway and Defence of the Manchurian Border)
Yiban jiaoshe (一般交涉, General Diplomacy)
Zhong-E guanxi shiliao, Minguo shinian (1921)
Zhongdong tielu E zhengbian (中東鐵路俄政變, The China Eastern Railway and the Russian Coup)
Dongbei bianfang yu Wai Meng (東北邊防與外蒙, Defence of the Manchurian Border and Outer Mongolia)
Yiban jiaoshe (一般交涉, General Diplomacy)
A full list of titles, sub-headings and publication dates can be found courtesy of Cambridge University here.
The full story of how these Foreign Ministry documents made their way from Beijing to Taipei – probably some time in 1948 – is still untold. According to Academia Sinica, however, documents were received from the Ministry in October to December 1955 and again in March 1984. Based on the publishing dates, the Sino-Russian material formed part of the 1955 bequest. My understanding is that Academia Sinica itself did not edit the collection extensively, but not much is known of the Foreign Ministry’s own process of selection.
The documents themselves are many and varied, ranging from inter-ministerial and diplomatic correspondence to letters, petitions, maps, tables, receipts and diary entries. They come from provincial warlords, including Zhang Zuolin and Bao Guiqing in Manchuria and Yang Zengxin in Xinjiang; from chambers of commerce, diaspora associations and community leaders across Russia; from workers’ representatives, border garrisons, and both big-time and small-scale merchants. Taken as a whole, they paint a striking picture of Chinese life in Russia and the community’s engagement with the upheavals of revolution and civil war.
Editorial note: The pinyin system has been used in the transliteration of Chinese terms, and all dates have been converted from the Republican year. To correspond to the Chinese text as it appears in Zhong-E guanxi shiliao and in the original sources, however, I have elected to use traditional characters when writing in Chinese.