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Introducing Blagoveshchensk

About 110km south of the trans-Siberian tracks, where Chinese and Russians rub shoulders, is Blagoveshchensk, a city set on the wide Amur River across from the Chinese town of Heihe. Since opening as a free trade zone in 1994, folks from either side swish-swash across the border (Russians for cheaper goods, Chinese for jobs - at lower wages than Russians). Blagoveshchensk (meaning 'good news') is less for tourism than business or gambling, but it's interesting watching Chinese tourists posing in front of tsar-era European buildings and statues of Lenin.

Settled as Ust-Zaysk military post in 1644, by the late 19th century Blagoveshchensk was outdoing Vladivostok or Khabarovsk in Sino-Russian commerce. However in 1900 Cossacks, seeking to avenge European deaths in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, slaughtered thousands of Chinese people in the city. During the years of the Cultural Revolution, citizens of Blagoveshchensk dealt with 24-hour propaganda blasted from loudspeakers across the river.