More than three hundred years have passed since the Albazins first appeared in China. It is remarkable that after such a long time in a foreign land this handful of Russian expatriates has not dissolved into Chinese society. The Albazins' descendents look like Chinese and speak Chinese, but they have preserved certain aspects of Russian culture.
Many people (or at least a substantial number) who have had dealings with China have heard of the Albazins, but generally know very little about them. But the Albazins are a group worth investigating, as an example of a small group of Russians who have lived in China for many generations and become integrated into Chinese society while maintaining certain national characteristics.
This subject is of interest for at least two reasons:
First, the Albazins are of interest as an example of a small group of expatriates who underwent gradual acculturization without being totally assimilated. From this we can understand the process that would likely be undergone by other Russians if they were to live in China for a long period of time.
Secondly, although there is a large amount of material that mentions the Albazins, the subject is not very well known. Most of the material is fairly fragmentary, with most authors discussing the Albazins in the context of writing about Orthodoxy in China. Sometimes the exact same information is found in the writings of different authors.
One work that deserves special mention are the articles "Orthodoxy in China" and "The Church on the Blood of Martyrs" by Dionisy Pozdnayev. Although his subject is Orthodoxy in China, not the Albazins, there is still a lot of material in them about the history of the Albazins from the early 20th century to the Cultural Revolution.
Other items that merit attention in the bibliography are items written specifically about the subject of the current thesis. There are the articles "Albazin and the Albazins, A Historical Abstract" by I. I. Serebrennikov and the article "Proliferating the Russian Orthodox Church in Tianjin and Its Environs" by Du Li Kun (Ivan Dubinin), and the book "The Albazins in China" by V. P. Petrov. All of these books and articles are of interest and contribute to the subject at hand, they still have certain shortcomings. To start with, none of the authors describe in detail how the Albazins came to be in China. Secondly, there is a certain subjectivity to the works, classifying the events of Albazin history as good and bad based on a certain predefined perception. The authors lack an adequate analysis of the historical facts in the light of the special conditions of Chinese civilization.
This thesis made both of new material, such as the articles "Orthodoxy in China" and "The Church on the Blood of Martyrs" by Dionisy Pozdnayev as well as older items such as the rather rare book "The Albazins in China" by V. P. Petrov, kindly provided by Pavel Andreevich Suslov, a Russian émigré living in the USA, articles from periodicals of the Russian Spiritual Mission in China "The Chinese Good News", specifically the articles "A History of the Albazins and the First Orthodox Mission in China" by Priest Sergey Borodin, Protopriest O. P. Rozhdestvenskiy's "Orthodox Activities in China, its Special Character and Achievements", and others.
Though there are at least a few items available about Albazin history up to the mid-20th century, there is a dearth of material about the current situation.
Part of my current work is based on information about the current situation drawn from interviews with Albazin descendants. The author was able to meet with Albazin descendents in Beijing and Tianjin from March to July of 2004. I met Du Xi (Simon Dubinin) and his wife Du Wei (Vera Dubinin), Lo Qin (Anna Romanova) and Nü Zi (Matrona). In March of 2005, the author was able to meet with Du Wei, and in Beijing met with Du Ze, the eldest daughter of the last Chinese Orthodox priest, Protopriest Du Lifu (Alexander Dubinin).
Most of the photographs shown come from Du Xi and Du Wei, as well as the Chinese source document, an article by Du Li Kun. The author of that work, Du Li Kun amended and added to the article after the death of his father, Du Xi. The geneological tree in the appendix was based on drawings by Du Xi and his spoken description.
Some information, and several photographs, were provided by the head of the Beijing Russian Club, Sergey Shilin.
Some information was also obtained during an interview with Dmitriy Napara.
From a brief analysis of the materials above it can be seen that a study of the Albazians at various periods will be based on a variety of materials and consequently the approach taken in each section of the thesis will also vary.
The overall goal of the work is to describe the Albazians' life in China over the entire time they have spent there, including the modern period, and to understand some of the reasons underlying the phenomena they have encountered.
The first chapter contains a brief summary of the historical events leading up to the Albazians sojourn in China. It also discusses two questions: why the Albazins were offered Manchurian nationality and why they accepted it.
The second section describes the Albazians arrival in Beijing and facts culled from the first period of their life there. After that comes an analysis of the Albazians' acculturation, the influence of Manchu and Han Chinese culture on them in the 17th-19th centuries as well as their interaction with the Russian Orthodox Church in China during that period. The question of how a small group of Albazians was never fully assimilated in spite of their long presence in China and the influence of local culture on them.
Chapter three focuses on the Boxer Rebellion and its impact on the Albazians, as well as some conclusions about their acculturation based on the behavior of some Albazian descendants in that difficult time, which came as a surprise for many.
The fourth section discusses the Albazians from after the Boxer Rebellion up to the Cultural Revolution, and the role the Albazians had in the 20th century in the Russian Spiritual Mission which they headed for some time.
The final portion of this thesis speaks of the current situation. Here totally new materials on the Albazians are presented: a description of the Albazians today, their relations with the Russian Embassy in China and the Russian Club in Beijing, as well as detailed histories of two Albazian families.