Majesty and Menace
A TRUE STORY ABOUT
WHITE RUSSIANS IN CHINA
by Lenore Lamont Zissermann
Mitya's Harbin author, Lenore Zissermann, lives north of Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Dimitry, and their family. A retired occupational therapist with a master of arts degree in sociology, she also has taught courses at the college level and has published several research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Lenore Lamont Zissermann
by Lenore Lamont Zissermann
In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union was pressuring its citizens in Harbin, China, to return to Mother Russia. For the family of Dimitry (“Mitya”) Nikolayevich Zissermann and other White Russians, leaving their beloved “home town” had its perils. Few wanted to labor on the collective farms—their likely fate if they returned. But where else could they go, and how would they get there?
The Manchurian settlement of Harbin, headquarters of the Chinese Eastern Railway, had grown into a multicultural city by the early 1900s with an unmistakable Russian identity, coupled with unique Chinese-Russian relations. In the ensuing years, the city survived and sometimes even thrived during the Russian Revolution, Manchuria’s Japanese occupation, the Soviets’ expulsion of Japan from the region, Chinese civil war, and China’s Communist Revolution.
Harbin’s eventual transformation from an obscure rural settlement into a strategic Chinese manufacturing center exhibiting increasing animosity toward foreigners impacted the Russians in countless ways. This is one of their stories.
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6" x 9" - 536 pages
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"Mitya’s Harbin is a touching, poignant story of a Russian family that grew up in what was then an extraordinary, international city in north-east China, until it was occupied by Chairman Mao’s Communists. It takes us back to the vanished world of Manchuria, where Russian exiles made their home in a foreign land—before history intervened and forced them on again."
-Graham Hutchings, author of
Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change
• • •
"Writing the history of Manchuria, China’s northeast, can feel, as Lenore Zissermann writes, like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. In Mitya's Harbin, she has provided a missing piece: a deeply personal tale of a White Russian born in Japanese-controlled Manchukuo who came of age in the land after it had reverted to China. Here is post-war Harbin up close: the sights, sounds, and smells of an era all-but lost, until, on these elegiac pages, now."
‒Michael Meyer, author of
In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland
and the Transformation of Rural China
• • •
"This is a warm and informative history of the life of Russian settlers in Harbin during some of the most turbulent times of the 20th century. The story is one of continuous struggle against the backdrop of dramatic and often violent change. Beginning in the age of high imperialism in the closing years of the 19th century when the Tsar obtained the rights to span Manchuria with the Chinese Eastern Railroad (CER), the tale is presented against the backdrop of the life of a young Russian boy, Mitya, and his family who lived in the magical multinational city of Harbin, the headquarters of the all-powerful railway.
"The continuous tumults that swept across Harbin from the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, 1911 Chinese Revolution, World War I, the Russian Revolution, along with the Chinese civil war, the 1929 Sino-Soviet War, 1931 Japanese invasion, World War II, the victory of Mao's revolution in 1949 are poignantly captured. But even more fascinating and touching is the story of how Mitya and this family overcame, persevered, and made Harbin their home for several generations. It is a story of place and time that has been lost forever."
-Michael M. Walker, author of
The 1929 Sino-Soviet War: The War Nobody Knew