Sino-Soviet Workers' Club in Koktokay

The Relics of Empire: Resource Extraction and the Making of Modern Xinjiang

Sino-Soviet Workers' Club in Koktokay

The town of Koktokay, in Fuyun county is located across the Irtysh River from the Number Three Ore Vein in far northern Xinjiang. The site was established as an important center for nonferrous metal production by the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. The Koktokay Workers’ Club, pictured here, was established in 1956 following the closing of the Sino-Soviet Nonferrous and Rare Metals Company in 1955 and the subsequent opening of the fully Chinese-owned Xinjiang Nonferrous and Rare Metals Company the following year. The building, once a venue for meetings, film screenings, and social events, sits opposite the Number Three Ore Vein (shown in image 15). Sitting on the club’s balcony or even on the front steps, one does not have to look hard to see the massive open-pit mine in the hills south of town. By the mid-1940s, the town boasted worker dormitories and apartments, a power plant, repair shop, and military installation (according to a docent in the local museum, Koktokay was once referred to as the “Shanghai of the West” for its tall three-story buildings). Seeking to waylay tourists on their way up to the Koktokay National Geological Park (billed as “China’s Little Yosemite”) a few miles out of town, the city has recently constructed several monuments to Koktokay’s mining past as well as to the history of Sino-Soviet interactions at the site.