Former Soviet Worker Dorm in Dushanzi

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

Former Soviet Worker Dorm in Dushanzi

Dushanzi has long been the centerpiece of the Soviet technical presence in Xinjiang. As early as 1907, Russian explorers and merchants eagerly sought access to the oil wealth of this region located in the foothills of the Tianshan range. During the 1930s, Soviet planners were able to play a more direct role in accessing Dushanzi’s oil wealth. From the 1930s into the 1950s, Soviet workers were housed in four apartment blocks located directly across from the Dushanzi refinery and just a short trip up to the oil springs. The apartments, like the one shown here, were constructed in the Soviet style—a style recognizable across nearly all of the Soviet operations across northern Xinjiang. Today, this building is overgrown, but others are still used as offices. Unlike the buildings constructed in Koktokay, which depends to a greater extent than Dushanzi on tourism, the Soviet roots that underlie these buildings, with only a few exceptions, are typically not publicized.