Border City: Manzhouli 满洲里 – Made in China Russian City

Imagine if Miss Disneyland and a vodka laden Russian Tycoon had a love child in a China city… 

Manzhouli is a sub-prefecture-level city located in Hulunbuir prefecture-level city, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC).  To the east, south and west it borders New Barghu Left Banner and New Barghu Right Banner, also in Hulunbuir, and Russia to the north, with which it shares a border 54 km long. The Russian townlet of Zabaykalsk is situated immediately north of Abagaitu Islet and Manzhouli”

Manzhouli has cultured its own mish-mash urban identity with kitschy architectural samples from the Classical, Baroque and Gothic built in chinese practicality and washed with bright fresh paint from the unconventional range.  The highway from the airport are flanked by stand alone architectural spaceships parked in open fields.  These individual pieces house hotels, commercial shopping, government buildings and sport centres. It is perfectly acceptable in Manzhouli to build a Matroyska-inspired park and another one dedicated to the retirement of propaganda statues to make the Russians feel perfectly at home.

Russian streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg are quaint and dotted with patinated outfits, paved in cobblestones and sprouting with architectural delights.  The only moment where one is magically transported to a European city is when the sun slowly sets in Manzhouli, ambient light gradually glows from the roadside lamps, shrouding the city in shadows and familiar skylines.  Perhaps this was the city Manzhouli was first envisaged to be.

Kevin S.K. Lim

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