The perfect place for comparative border studies?

Being here in Blagoveshensk (for a conference on a different topic), I realise how cool this place is for border studies.

On the left side the Chinese skyscrapers of Heihe, on the right the Amur embankment. The tower is a control tower, I guess for the border, but also for the safety of the swimmers in summer, because it’s placed at a public beach:)

It’s just like Tornio / Haaparanta in Finland/Sweden, or Frankfurt/Oder with Slubice in Germany/Poland, or Narva / Ivangorod in Estonia/Russia, and probably tons more such places. The Amur river connects or divides Blagoveshensk on the Russian side with HeiHe on the Chinese side. Blagoveshensk has 220000 inhabitants, almost like Heihe (211000). But the greater Heihe area has 1.7 million.

View from the Blagoveshensk Amur embankment to the Chinese side, where one sees a church-shaped building, surprise surprise

But when you are on the Russian side you don’t feel any of this disparity at first glance. It is more surprising to me how ‘Russian’ everything is. Today was a big celebration in town of the “day of Russia”,

Day of Russia celebration in Blagoveshensk public park

and it felt as if there was particular effort made to celebrate this Russian patriotism just 100 m away from China.

This reminds me of Tobias Holzlehner’s work on the Russian/Chinese border dynamics in the Russian far East. Definitely worth reading. But these are from 2006-2009. The “subverting borders” book where Anna Stammler-Gossmann has her cool chapter about the intra-Lapland border trade between Finland and Russia (p 233-255), is also based on research 10 years ago. What has changed? The migration crisis has of course had a huge influence. All that quoted research was more on how borders connect people through trade of goods. Then it was about the movement of people, and about the nature of border in general, as in Sarah Green’s work. Now it would be time to design a nice little project with fieldsites in all these neat place mentioned in the beginning, where rivers unite and divide, and what the societies and cultures on both sides make of this.  Go ahead colleagues, those who need a project, and link up to these colleagues mentioned above! I am happy to support! Florian

One thought on “The perfect place for comparative border studies?

  1. Konstantinos Zorbas

    Maybe not that relevant to Blagoveshenshk and its river border with Heihe (both of them cool places, both literally and metaphorically). Geological and climatic phenomena do not respect border regulations and they effortlessly cross from one side to another, usually making big noise. I always wondered how governments deal with such crises, as for instance, inter-regional storms, if there exists any legal or official or scientific discourse which traces their origin, and whether this discourse places special control demands on any of the parties involved in border management. I am thinking, for instance, of the devastating winds blowing from Mongolia and Inner Mongolia to China mainland.

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