In 2023, the Chinese city of Harbin celebrates its 125th anniversary. Timed to this event, an exhibition has been opened at St Petersburg University, for University students and staff to learn about its history. It demonstrates the stages of Harbin’s development and its relations with Russia.

Sergey Andryushin, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at St Petersburg University, spoke at the opening of the exhibition. He recalled that the province of Heilongjiang and its main city Harbin are key partners of our University in China. To date, over 10 joint research centres have been established in the region, and a representative office of St Petersburg University and a Testing Centre for Russian as a Foreign Language have been opened in Harbin.

’We consider it significant that a joint campus of St Petersburg University and the Harbin Institute of Technology will open in such an important year for the city and the province, when Harbin celebrates its 125th anniversary. It will be located in the historic centre of Harbin, including the restored historic buildings of the Chinese Eastern Railway and the Consulate General of the Russian Empire. The joint campus is a significant cultural value not only for the two universities, but also for our two countries,’ said Sergey Andryushin, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at St Petersburg University.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Wang Wenli, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in St Petersburg, noted that the exhibition has a very important meaning because it demonstrates the friendship and close cooperation between Russia and China.

Harbin is a city of great importance in the history of relations between the two countries. The economic and cultural growth of Harbin is closely connected with the development of relations between Russia and China.
Wang Wenli, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in St Petersburg

On behalf of the Consulate General, Ms Wang Wenli congratulated the participants on the opening of the exhibition. She also thanked the University in general and the teachers and students of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies in particular, for their long-term contribution to the development of bilateral relations.

Professor Alexey Rodionov, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at St Petersburg University, also addressed the audience. ’I am sure that Harbin is a city that every Russian knows. It has a special place in my personal biography because I have visited it 17 times! Only Beijing is ahead. I have been there at different seasons. I visited it on different holidays and saw its various sights, and walked in its parks. Harbin has always made a most pleasant impression on me. It is a city I am always pleased to return to,’ Professor Rodionov shared.

Elena Lebedkina, Director of the St Petersburg University Publishing House, Head of the Main Department for Exhibitions, Museum, Library and Publishing Activities Russian translations of various Chinese authors’ works published by the St Petersburg University Publishing House are very popular. Elena Lebedkina, Director of the St Petersburg University Publishing House and Head of the Main Department for Exhibitions, Museum, Library and Publishing Activities, spoke about that. Translations cover a wide range of sciences such as philology, jurisprudence, economics, traditional Chinese medicine, and other fields. ’Beauties are most remarkable here. The executive editor of this anthology was Dmitrii Maiatskii. And people truly queue for Strange Stories from a Failed Scholar’s Studio by Pú Sōnglíng. Every week, there is a request related to the publication date of the second part,’ Ms Lebedkina said.

Sinologists from St Petersburg University also delivered welcoming speeches.

Harbin has a lot of things that bring our cultures together, in music, literature, and architecture. But for me personally, the things seldom spoken about today are very important. I mean the great orientalists who worked in Harbin.
Professor Aleksandr Storozhuk, Head of the Department of Chinese Philology

’For example, Ippolit Baranov, Pavel Shkurkin, and Fedor Danilenko. A most magnificent almanac titled Vestnik of Asia was published in Harbin. Its cultural and scientific significance is extremely high. And I would very much like people today to learn more about Harbin from this perspective, among other things,’ said Professor Aleksandr Storozhuk, Head of the Department of Chinese Philology at St Petersburg University.

In his turn, Professor Nikolai Samoilov, Head of the Department of Theory of Social Development of Asian and African Countries at St Petersburg University, spoke about his first trip to Harbin in the 1980s. ’It was then that I felt that Harbin was exactly the place where the socio-cultural interaction between Russia and China had taken place. Perhaps this was what inspired me to write my doctoral dissertation, where the chapter on Harbin took a significant place,’ Professor Samoilov emphasised.

There are students from Harbin at St Petersburg University. One of them, Zhang Rui, a first-year student of the master’s programme in International Journalism, was introduced to the audience by Gulnara Sharazykova, Director of the St Petersburg University Media Centre. She spoke about the "In Free Style" project involving 15 students from China who had an internship at the Media Centre. They created video essays about their life and the path that led them to St Petersburg University. Zhang Rui’s work titled "My Best Poem" was demonstrated at the opening of the exhibition.

Dmitrii Maiatskii, Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese Philology, conducted a tour of the exhibition "The Special City of Harbin". It presents books and illustrations demonstrating different periods of the city’s development, iconic places in it and its ties with Russia. The materials for the exhibition were collected by orientalists from St Petersburg University and employees of the M. Gorky Scientific Library.

At the end of the celebration, Nikolai Samoilov delivered a lecture titled "Harbin: Far and Near". The audience could learn about the past and present of Harbin. Professor Nikolai Samoilov, who has repeatedly visited Harbin, shared his knowledge about the city and photographs from his own archive. The discussion focused on both iconic historical events and places (for example, the role of the Chinese Eastern Railway in the foundation and development of the city), and more "tourist" locations (for example, the Siberian Tiger Park and the shops of the Russian merchant Ivan Churin).