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Khabarovsk was founded in 1858 as a military post by eastern Siberia's governor general, Count Nikolai Muravyov (later Muravyov-Amursky), during his campaign to take the Amur back from the Manchus. It was named after the man who got the Russians into trouble with the Manchus in the first place, 17th-century Russian explorer Yerofey Khabarov.

The trans-Siberian rail line arrived from Vladivostok in 1897. During the Russian Civil War, the town was occupied by Japanese troops for most of 1920. The final Bolshevik victory in the Far East was at Volochaevka, 45km to the west.

In 1969 Soviet and Chinese soldiers fought a bloody hand-to-hand battle over little Damansky Island in the Ussuri River. Since 1984, tensions have eased. Damansky and several other islands were handed back to the Chinese in 1991.

The Japanese are also back - this time for business and pleasure. They make up 80% of all foreign visitors here.

Eighty per cent of Khabarovskians are native Russian-speakers. The only indigenous people here in any number are the Nanai, whose capital is Troitskoe, three hours north on the Amur.