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