Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Secrets and Spies - The Harbin Files
I spent the weekend reading Mara Moustafine's Secrets and Spies: The Harbin Files. Then I had the opportunity to hear her speak at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival Monday night. She's an engaging speaker and it's an excellently researched book about Moustafine's family (mother Russian-Jewish; Father half-Russian Orthodox, half-Muslim) who sought sanctuary in Harbin with so many other Russians. Many of those Russians - the "Harbintsy", including some of Moustafine's family, were arrested and either executed as Japanese spies in the USSR or sent to the Gulags.
Moustafine, a Russian speaker, has done an incredible job tracking down what happened to her people - a book of incredible research that reads like a thriller. Few Russians who had gone to China wherever they settled including Shanghai, escaped Stalin's purges if they returned as he issued orders for all Harbintsy to be arrested - virtually all had at some point passed through Harbin (the Russian Orthodox church in Harbin left) and so were automatically 'guilty'.
The situation was made even worse for many as the Russian fascists were in league with the Japanese Kempetai and busy persecuting Russian Jews. I think the numbers quoted by Moustafine were 48,000 Harbintsy Russians arrested, 31,000 of who were executed and the rest sent to the Gulag.
As well as Moustafine's excellent book she is speaking soon in China at the events below and has a web site with more information too - click here. I was pleased she'd seen my recent post on the old Russian song The Hills of Manchuria sung during the Russo-Japanese War. Apparently this was a well known song among all the Harbintsy - Mara apparently had it played at her wedding!
See Mara Moustafine:
Suzhou - Suzhou Bookworm - Wednesday March 11 - 6pm
Shanghai - M on the Bund - Sunday March 15 - 11am
Beijing - Beijing Bookworm - Monday March 16 - 12:30-2pm
Chengdu - Chengdu Bookworm - Friday March 20 - 7.30pm