Russian “Walking Street” in Burqin

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

Russian “Walking Street” in Burqin

The town of Burqin, in northern Xinjiang, was a critical port along the Irtysh River. Connected by highway to the nonferrous metal mine at Koktokay and other sites in the Altay range, Burqin played a central role in shipping high-value minerals to the Soviet Union from the 1940s into the 1960s. A Soviet consulate was established in the city in 1952, and at its heyday the shipping office was said to have 170 trucks and 35 ships at its disposal. The port began its descent into obscurity in 1965, when the last load of nonferrous metals was shipped to the Soviet Union via Burqin. Today, the town is a key point of departure for tourists traveling up to Kanas Lake. To profit off of these tourists passing through, the local government constructed the “Burqin County Russian Traditional Walking Street” in 2014. The “Russian-style” pedestrian way is squeezed between the old pastel-blue Soviet consulate tucked behind the mock Triumphal Arch (the original of which is in Moscow) and the old Sino-Soviet wharf on the Irtysh. In addition, the area boasts an eclectic mix of Russian facades, quasi-Russian monuments, a statue of Pushkin, and a giant replica of a matryoshka (Russian nesting doll).