Russian City in Manchuria through the Eyes of the Minister of War: A.N. Kuropatkin’s Visit to Harbin in 1903

Cover Page

Cite item

Full text / tables, figures


The author considers the history of Russian Imperial Minister of War A.N. Kuropatkin’s visit to Harbin in 1903. The study is based on the Minister's diaries which he kept during the trip, a set of documents he built during the trip, as well as his official report written after the trip. The documents are stored in the Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA) and have been used for the for the first time for historical research in this article. A. N. Kuropatkin visited the new Russian city which was under construction in Manchuria from 1898 as part of his trip to the Far East, and described in detail his inspection of the city, as well as its quay, military barracks, and civil facilities, as well as the maneuvers of the troops of the Harbin garrison and border guards. The study gives a description of the barracks accommodation of the troops in the city and the problems of organizing barracks construction at that time. It is noted that A.N. Kuropatkin considered Harbin as the most important commercial and strategic center of northern Manchuria. The article provides data on the number and national composition of the city population, as well as a description of the first time the Russian Minister of War negotiated with the Chinese governor-general of the Jilin province. The studied material illustrates A.N. Kuropatkin’s understanding of the impossibility of organizing the management of the non-Russian population of the region without preserving authority the Chinese local officials and therefore there was a need to establish close cooperation with them. It is also pointed out the Minister of War had hoped increase the coordination of representatives of the Russians at the local level including Russia’s local military, diplomatic, and financial departments. A.N. Kuropatkin’s in his conclusions shows his conviction of the relative ineffectiveness of exclusively peaceful penetration into Manchuria without support by military force, a discovery which prompted him to actively engage in the further development of Harbin’s military infrastructure.

About the authors

Roman S. Avilov

St. Petersburg State University; Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS

Author for correspondence.
PhD in History, Researcher, St. Petersburg State University; Senior Researcher, Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS 7-9, Universitetskaya nab., St. Petersburg, 199034, Russia; 89 Pushkinskaya St., Vladivostok, 690001, Russia


  1. Ablazhei, N.N. “Kharbinskaia operatsiia NKVD v 1937-1938 gg. [The Kharbin operation of NKVD in 1937-1938].” Humanitarian Sciences in Siberia. Series: Russian History, no 2 (2008): 80-85 (in Russian).
  2. Ablazhei, N.N. S Vostoka na vostok: Rossiiskaia emigratsiia v Kitae [From East to East: Russian emigration in China]. Novosibirsk: SO RAN Publ., 2007 (in Russian).
  3. Ablova, N.E. Istoriia KVZhD i rossiiskoi emigratsii v Kitae (pervaia polovina ХХ v.) [The history of CER and Russian emigration in China (first part of XX century]. Minsk: BGU Publ., 1999 (in Russian).
  4. Aurilene, E.E. Rossiiskaia diaspora v Kitae (1920-1950-e gg.) [Russian Diaspora in China (1920-1950)]. Khabarovsk: Chastnaya kollektsiia Publ., 2008 (in Russian).
  5. Avilov, R.S. “The War Minister Aleksey N. Kuropatkin in Vladivostok Fortress in 1903 (using a new sources).” Ojkumena. Regional researches, no. 2 (2021): 16-28 (in Russian).
  6. Avilov, R.S. “The War Minister Aleksey Nikolayevich Kuropatkin on the Sakhalin Island (1903).” Journal of the Sakhalin Museum, no 1 (2020): 69-91 (in Russian).
  7. Bassin, M. “To the Harbin station: The liberal alternative in Russian Manchuria, 1898-1914 (Review).” Slavic Review 59, no. 3 (2000): 675-676.
  8. Belozerova, O.A. “General Alexey Nikolaevich Kuropatkin as a statesperson and military leader at the threshold and during Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Historiography review over the past two decades.” The Revue of Saint-Petersburg State University, no 17 (2014): 250-280 (in Russian).
  9. Carter, J.H. Creating a Chinese Harbin. Nationalism in International City, 1916-1932. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002.
  10. Ianchenko, D.G., Khodjakov M.V., eds. Tsentr i regiony: ekonomicheskaia politika pravitel'stva na okrainakh Rossiiskoi imperii (1894-1917) [Center and regions: the economic policy of Russian Government in the periphery of Russian Empire (1894-1917)]. 2nd ed. St. Petersburg: Saint Petersburg University Publ., 2021 (in Russian).
  11. Kapran, I.K. Povsednevnaia zhizn' russkogo naseleniia Kharbina (konets XIX - 50-e gg. XX v.) [Every-day routine of Russian people in Kharbin (last XIX - 50th of XX century]. Vladivostok: Izd-vo Dal'nevost. federal. un-ta Publ., 2011 (in Russian).
  12. Khodjakov M. V. “ ‘Yellow Russia’ of the Late XIX - Early XX Centuries in the Geopolitical Plans of the Russian Military Elite.” Modern History of Russia 8, no. 4 (2018): 880-897 (in Russian).
  13. Kotyukova, T.V. “Alexey Nikolaevich Kuropаtkin - The Last Turkestan Governor General.” The World of Politics and Sociology, no 2 (2018): 27-50 (in Russian)
  14. Kradin, N.P. Kharbin - russkaia Atlantida [Kharbin - the Russian Atlantis]. Khabarovsk: Izdatel'stvo Khvorova A.Yu. Publ., 2001 (in Russian).
  15. Krotova, M.V. Kharbin - tsentr russkogo vliianiia v Man'chzhurii (1898-1917 gg.) [Kharbin - the center of Russian influence in Manchuria 1898-1917)]. St. Petersburg: Izd-vo SPbGUEF Publ., 2010 (in Russian).
  16. Levoshko, S.S. Russkaia arkhitektura v Man'chzhurii. Konets XIX - pervaia polovina XX vv. [Russian architecture in Manchuria. Last XIX - early XX century]. Khabarovsk: Chastnaia kollektsiia Publ., 2003 (in Russian).
  17. Melikhov, G.V. Belyi Kharbin: Seredina 20-kh. [White Kharbin: the middle of 20th]. Moscow: Russkii put' Publ., 2003 (in Russian).
  18. Melikhov, G.V. Man'chzhuriia dalekaia i blizkaia [Manchuria: the long, and the near]. Moscow: Nauka Publ., 1991 (in Russian).
  19. Paine, S.C.M. “To the Harbin station: The liberal alternative in Russian Manchuria, 1898-1914 (Review).” The Russian Review 59, no. 3 (2000): 460-461.
  20. Pavlov, D.B. “Russia’s lease of Chinese Kwantung (1898-1905): a case of modernizing colonialism?” Russian History, no 1 (2018): 85-108 (in Russian).
  21. Pavlov, D.B. “The Port City of Dalniy, 1898-1904: Tradition and Innovation.” Russia and the Pacific, no 1 (2021): 8-23 (in Russian).
  22. Pisarevskaya, Ya.L. “Dve Rossii v Man'chzhurii: sotsial'naia adaptatsiia i reemigratsiia (20-e - nachalo 30-kh gg.) [Two Russian in Manchuria: the social adaptation and remigration 20Th early 30th].” The New Historical Bulletin, no 2 (2000): 4 (in Russian).
  23. Sal’nikov, V.P., ed. et al. General Kuropatkin - State and Military leader of the Russian Empire. 170th anniversary of his Birth: Collective monograph / Ed. by St. Petersburg: Foundation “University” Publ., 2018 (in Russian).
  24. Samoylov, N.A., Starovoytova, E.O., Khodjakov, M.V., and Yanchenko, D.G. “Chinese Eastern Railway - the Heritage of Two Empires: Research Perspectives.” Modern history of Russia, 17, iss. 3 (2016): 205-210 (in Russian).
  25. Vitte, S.Yu. Sobranie sochinenii i dokumental'nykh materialov: v 5 t. [Collected edition and documents in 5 volumes], vol. 1, part. 2, ch. 1. Moscow: Nauka Publ., 2002 (in Russian).
  26. Wolf, D. To the Harbin station: The liberal alternative in Russian Manchuria, 1898-1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
  27. Zabiyako, A.A., Zabiyako, A.P., Levoshko, S.S., and Khisamutdinov, A.A. Russkii Kharbin: opyt zhiznestroitel'stva v usloviyakh dal'nevostochnogo frontira [Russian Kharbin: the experience of life organization in the conditions of far frontier]. Blagoveshchensk: Amurskii gos. un-t Publ., 2015 (in Russian).

Copyright (c) 2023 Avilov R.S.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies