Population and Distribution
The Russian ethnic group in China has a population of 15,609, mainly living in Ili, Tacheng, Altay and Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. There is also a sparse distribution in Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The Russians in China are the offspring of immigrants from Tsarist Russia. Many of their ancestors migrated to border cities in China's northwest at the end of the 19th century. Later during the 20th century, more people moved into this region, (today's Xinjiang Autonomous Region), especially after the October Revolution. Theses immigrants were called 'guihua people' and their villages 'guihua village'. With the founding of the PRC in 1949, they were renamed Russian Ethnic Group.
They use their own language and written script, which belongs to the Slavic group of the Indo-European language family, when they communicate with each other. They also use the Chinese language and script in their social or official activities.
Most Russians belong to the Orthodox Eastern Church.
They living in towns usually engage in handicrafts, transport, and other commercial occupations. Some take agriculture as sideline. Those who live in rural areas are most likely to support themselves by farming and animal husbandry. They are especially good at gardening and bee keeping.
The Russians living in China have preserved the eating customs of their ancestors.
They have three meals per day, in which the lunch is the formal one. They are good at making delicious breads and cakes. They eat beef, mutton and pork. meat from horse and donkey are forbidden. Some of them, influenced by the Uigurs and Kazaks, do not eat pork either. Their favorite vegetables include cucumbers and tomatoes. Russian-style fried dishes, beef stewed with potatoes, and various kinds of soup are the most popular food on their dinner table.
The Russian men all like drinking. Beer and liquor are a must in their lives. Nearly all Russians living in Xinjiang can make wine. The wine is always regarded as a good gift for friends.
The clothing of the Russians is noted for its colorfulness. Men often wear split long robes and long trousers, or sometimes white embroidered shirts together with pantalettes. In winter, they wear leather or cotton-padded clothes and fur hats. Women like to wear short jacket and colorful skirt made of home-spun cloth embroidered with bright colored patterns. They often wear a scarf. Both men and women wear leather or felt boots with high uppers. Unmarried girls wear their hair in braids and adorn themselves with earrings, necklaces and other jewelry. Married women often bind their hair up in bobs. Men living in urban areas prefer Western-style suit, loose-sleeved shirts with embroidered collars, while women like Western-style top outer garment and skirts.
The houses of the Russian people are built with of clay and wood with walls over 50 centimeters thick. All the houses are square in shape with their roofs covered with wheat straw. Each house contains one or more bedrooms, a living room and a storage room. All the windows of the buildings face the south so that there is adequate sunshine indoors all-year round. They cover the windows with embroidered drapes, the tables with hand-knitted tablecloths, and the beds with floral patterned bedspreads.
Each Russian family in the countryside has a courtyard enclosed by earth walls. They plant flowers and fruits in the front yard and let the livestock graze in the backyard.
Due to religious reasons, 'Friday' and 'thirteen' are the most pervasive and powerful taboos in Russian culture. They never hold celebrations on Friday or on the thirteenth day in a month.
The Russians never send their friends yellow gifts because doing such implies disloyalty. They prefer gifts in blue and think of blue as a symbol of friendship.
The most important festivals of the Russian people include Easter and Christmas Day.