Russian Ethnic Minority

People of Russian ethnic minority are descendants of Russian immigrants, belonging to an ethnic group of the East Slavic people. According to the census in 2000, Russian ethnic minority of China has the population of 15,609. They inhabit 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities all over China. They mainly live in the northwestern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern part of Heilongjiang Province and northeastern part of Inner Mongolia. People of Russian ethnic minority are of European race, having white skin, brown or blue eyes, long nose, thin lips, soft and curly hair, tall and big stature, and medium hair (beard, armpit hair, etc). Russian ethnic group have features of xanthoderm (yellow race) because of intermarriage with other ethnic groups.

Russian Tap Dance

Russian Tap Dance

History and Origin

Russian ethnic group in China immigrated from Tsarist Russia in the beginning of the 18th century. In the late 18th century, large numbers of Russians immigrated into China because they could not bear the brutal rule of Tsarist Russia. In the late 19th century, before and after the October Revolution, more Russians poured from West Siberia to north Xinjiang, Northeast provinces of China and northeast Inner Mongolia. After the October Revolution, more batches of Russians came to China to flee from the war. Back then they were called “Guihua Zu (naturalization group)”, and the villages they live in were called “Guihua Cun (naturalization villages)”. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, they were recognized to be one of the ethnic minorities of China and changed name to “Russian ethnic minority”, enjoying the same equal rights as other ethnic minorities. The daily life, material and culture are basically the same as Russians in Russia.

Because it is not very long since their immigration into China, many of them still have their own families and friends in the countries of the former Soviet Union. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, their relations were resumed, and many of them asked to return to their own countries and reunite with their family. In the 1950, after the agreement of governments of China and Soviet Union, China helped those return to their own countries. In addition, some Russians moved to countries such as Australia and Canada, where they had family. Therefore, the Russian ethnic minority enjoys a decreasing number of population. 


For men, they wear silk robes and trousers, or white embroidered shirts, bloomers and octagonal caps in summer. In winter, they wear fur coats, cotton-padded coats, leather hats and felt boots. For women, they are dressed in short coats, one-piece dresses with wide lower hems and embroideries. Some of them also wear collarless embroidered shirts and white long skirts with bright-colored embroidered images. In spring and autumn, they like to wear European-style coats or dresses, bright-colored soft hats with decorative feathers. In winter, they wear skirts, long fur coats and leather boots, with woolen scarves or leather hats on the head. For both male and female, there are embroidered images of flowers on vests, plants or geometrical patterns on the collar, cuffs, chest, etc.


They mainly live on bread which is baked by them, accompanied by fried dishes. Their three meals in a day include milk and bread with butter for breakfast, bread and dishes for lunch, rice, fried dishes, pilaf and noodles for dinner which is relatively more sumptuous.

The cuisine of the Russian minority not only inherited the traditional cooking habits such as frying, stewing, deep-frying and boiling, but also absorbed some cooking characteristics of Han nationality and other ethnic groups. Their diet still keeps the traditional flavors, making various kinds of bread, cakes and desserts. They especially favor nutritious vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes. The dessert made of milk, eggs, butter and jam is imitated by other ethnic groups. Smoked sausages, hams and cocktail sausages are also liked by people of other ethnic groups. Russians like drinking wine, and are good at making various kinds of foods and beverages. Their bread and beer are very famous.

Marriage Customs

People of Russian ethnic minority have free choice of love and partners, but their marriages must be approved by their parents. They are allowed to get married to people of other ethnic groups. Their traditional ceremonies are grand and the procedures are complicated. The ceremony is firstly held at the bride’s home, where guests dine, sing, dance and have fun. Then the escorting team, consisting of the groom and his relatives and friends, will go to the bride’s home to escort her to the groom’s home. When the escort team approach the gate of the bride’s home, relatives and friends of the bride will close the gate and send a bunch of children to ask for opening-door money. After giving the money, the groom can be allowed to enter the house. According to traditional customs, the bride and groom will also need to go to the church to hold marriage ceremony. The bride will wear white gowns and hats, and stand together with the groom in front of the altar. The priest will ask if both of them agree to marry each other. After replying, the bride and groom will exchange love tokens. The priest will chant specified prayers and offer blessings to new couple. After the ceremony, the groom’s family will hold banquets and dancing parties to entertain relatives and friends. In the evening, they will have some teasing games at the couple’s chamber, which is the same as the Han nationality.

In Russian ethnic minority, father is the host of the family, in charge of the finances. After the children grow up and get married, they will start their own lives. When parents die, the legacy is shared by their children. The Orthodox Church forbids divorce, so people of Russian ethnic minority who are mainly influenced by this religion seldom divorce.


The traditional festivals of the Russian ethnic minority are closely related to their religion. On January 7 every year, they celebrate their Christmas and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. On this day, they will get together with their family after praying at the church. On March 21 every year, Easter Day comes, which is the day of Resurrection after three days when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. Forty days before Easter Day, the disciples will abstain from meat and wine, and eat only vegetarian diet. Grand commemorative activities are held on Easter Day. Fifty days after the Easter Day is Whitsunday, a festival in celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples of Christ. The main festivals for Russian minority are mainly Easter Day, Christmas, Qingming Festival and Pentecost.


It is forbidden to send yellow gifts because the people of Russian minority consider yellow as disloyalty while blue as friendship. In social circumstances, the etiquette of kissing is popular, but there are some taboos. For friends, kissing cheeks is allowed. Men are not allowed to kiss the hand of an unmarried girl, but they can kiss the back of the hand of married women. Only the seniors can kiss the forehead of young people. When walking together with an elderly, young people should not walk in the front. When a man and a woman walk together, the man cannot walk in the front. In banquets, men should not sit down before women are seated. Men should not shake hands with gloves on, when they meet an elderly or a woman; the man should firstly make a bow and wait till the other one to stretch out their hands to shake hands. 

There are many rules for guests in a family of Russian minority. The guest should firstly knock on the door and wait for the host’s permission before he or she can enter the room. The guest should take off hats after entering the room. They shouldn’t be seated on the host’s bed. If they want to smoke, they should firstly get the host’s permission. It is not allowed to light the cigarette with one piece of match for three people. When attending a family banquet, the guest should arrive 15 minutes late than the scheduled time, but no more than 15 minutes. For Russian people, the number 13 is considered inauspicious.

Russian people like eating meat, but they do not eat horse meat or donkey meat. It is forbidden to raise the glass using the left hand. A spoon must be used when drinking soup, but it is not allowed to use the left hand to grab the spoon.


For generations, the Russian ethnic minority inhabit the cold north, so their sports and entertainment are closely related to their living environment. In winter, when it is freezing and snowy, they go skiing and skating, as well as wrestling and playing football which require fast pace and much exercise. In summer, they go fishing, while in autumn they go hunting. They have the custom of spring outing. In spring, when the weather turns warmer and the flowers in full blossom, they bring food and go outdoors, dancing, having picnic and singing.

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