Russians in Korea

Russians in Korea

Ethnic group
|group=Russians in Korea
poptime=Total population not known
region1=flagcountry|South Korea
ref1=JoongAng Daily 2004-11-08]
region2=flagcountry|North Korea
langs=Russian, Korean
rels=Predominantly Russian Orthodox
related-c=Russians in Japan

Russians in Korea do not form a very large population, but they have a history going back to before the era of Japanese colonialism in Korea. The community of Russian subjects/citizens in Korea has historically included not just ethnic Russians, but members of minority groups of Russia as well, such as Tatars, Poles, and, more recently, return migrants from among the "Koryo-saram" (ethnic Koreans whose ancestors migrated to the Russian Far East in the late 19th century) and Sakhalin Koreans.

Early history

The earliest Russian subject in Korea is believed to have been Afanasy Ivanovich Seredin-Sabatin (Афанасий Иванович Середин-Сабатин), an architect in a family who traced their roots to Switzerland; he was invited to Korea from Tianjin, China in 1884 by King Gojong. Karl Ivanovich Weber became the Russian Empire's official representative in Seoul in April 1885. [Volkov 2004] With the establishment of formal relations, more Russians began migrating into Korea throughout the 1890s, largely via Manchuria. At that time, the community was centred around the Russian Legation, opened in 1890, and the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, opened in 1903, both located in Seoul's Jeongdong (located in present-day Jung-gu). The Russian community in these days was composed largely of missionaries, diplomats, and businessmen; Russia played an important role in the Korean politics of the era, and at one point, Gojong actually lived in the Russian compound, in fear of his life after the 1895 assassination of his wife Queen Min. However, with Russia's defeat in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, Russian influence in Korea began to wane. [Clark 1994: 41-42]

The 1922 influx of Russian refugees from the fall of Vladivostok to the Red Army would completely change the face of the community. [Lankov 2003] In October of that year, more than 15,000 refugees landed at Wonsan, Kangwon. Roughly half were quickly able to obtain onward passage to Shanghai, but the refugees who had not taken valuables with them when fleeing Vladivostok were stuck in Wonsan for the winter; they relied on charitable donations and day labour for their survival. According to William Arthur Noble, an American missionary in Korea, no more than 20% were literate; they lived either on overcrowded ships, or in barely-heated customs warehouses at the docks. [Clark 1994: 43] In the spring of 1923, the refugees began to disperse, moving on to Harbin, where there was a significant community of Russians, or even to overseas destinations in Latin America. [Clark 1994: 44]

In February 1925, Japan finally recognised the Soviet Union, and handed over the old Russian Legation building to the new Soviet ambassador. By the late 1920s, there were only around a hundred Russians living in Seoul; former nobles and officials lived in Jeongdong, while a community of Tatars lived and worked in the markets near Namdaemun and Honmachi (modern-day Myeongdong). However, due to class divisions within the community, the two groups had little interaction with each other. [Clark 1994: 45] George Yankovsky, the grandson of a Polish noble exiled to Siberia, also maintained a resort in Chongjin which was popular among the Russian communities of East Asia, but virtually unknown to other westerners; when the Soviets invaded North Korea during Operation August Storm, most of the Russians still living there were arrested and forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union. [Clark 1994: 48-52]

Post-colonial era

In 1956, the Russian Orthodox Church in Seoul merged with the Greek Orthodox Church; by 1984, only one of the pre-war Russian communicants remained. [Clark 1994: 53] [Kang 2005] However, new Russian communities have also formed in various cities in South Korea. In Seoul, a "Little Russia" began to form in Jung-gu's Gwanghui-dong, near Dongdaemun, in the late 1980s. Roughly 50,000 people from post-Soviet states were estimated to live in the area in 2004, down from 70,000 several years previously due to deportations of illegal immigrants. In Busan, Russians are concentrated in the former "Texas Town" in Jung-gu's Jungang-dong; roughly 200 are estimated to live in the city permanently, with several hundred more on short-term visas, along with a large transient population of Russian sailors. [IHT 1999-12-01]

Russians in Pyongyang have also been served by Orthodox clergy sent from Vladivostok since 2002. [ 2007-05-26]

Notable individuals

* Denis Laktionov, football player
* Andrei Lankov, historian and journalist
* Park No-Ja (formerly Vladimir Tikhonov), author

See also

* Ethnic Chinese in Korea





External links

* [ Russian restaurants in Korea]
* [ Russian Korea]
* [ Russian Collection - University of Hawaii at Manoa Library]
* [ Russian Cultural Center, Seoul]
* [ Russia and North Korea]

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