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With winter here, the grass plains of Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia have become snow-ridden and whatever movement left, comes from the biting wind. When approaching the scattered villages bordering Russia, they seem just as vacant. Most of the inhabitants decide to move to the big cities like Ergun, that provide more work and comfort during the long subarctic winters. Nevertheless, there are those who brave the season amongst snowbound artefacts of a Russian past.

The Ergune river, meaning wide in Mongolian, is what divides Hulunbuir from Russia. Despite the off-putting name, many Russians had taken on the voyage to reach the other side of the riverbed. Most of the migration took place starting from the end of the 18th century with the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway. The migrants found themselves as construction workers, travelling merchants or later on refugees from the Russian Revolution of 1917 or the Russian Civil War. However, the 20th century was a turbulent time as political systems changed and borders became more closed off due to Russian, Chinese and Japanese struggles for power. The Hulunbuir Russians were to decide their next steps. Some repatriated, some chose to emigrate further away to countries that revolutions seemed to surpass. The relative few who stayed behind got on with their lives, raising new generations of ethnic Russians. Although those who were escaping political turmoil are long gone, they have left behind a cultural footprint, that's become ingrained in the everyday rituals of those who will return once the winter is over.  

© 2018 Jānis Žguts