Damansky Island Conflict

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Damansky Island Conflict


Amur Region, Part 4


After the collapse of Sino-Soviet relations in the 1960s, the Chinese began to dispute the current borders on the argument that "unequal treaties" by the Russians had stolen Chinese territory. On March 2, 1969, the border units of the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China clashed at Damansky (Zhenbao in Chinese) Island. After fierce fighting, the Soviet border forces managed to hold control of the island. Ultimately the Chinese and Soviets would not escalate the matter any further, but the border incident demonstrated that old rivalries between the Romanov and Qing dynasties had not been swept away by Communism. Russia had only gained control of the region in the last one hundred years, and the escalation of the conflict to the level of bloodshed demonstrated that the border remained an open question to the Chinese.

Besides causing loss of life and nearly dragging two nuclear powers to war, the incident also resonated in historical memories on both sides. In China, Yang Kuisong notes how the Cultural Revolution stoked flames of both ideological assault against the Soviet "revisionists" and cultural memory of national humiliation by colonial powers. In the Soviet Union, popular imagination sprung on the fear of outposts of Russians being subsumed by waves of Chinese invaders. One poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, even went so far as to claim "Vladimir and Kiev,/you see in the smoking twilight /The new Batu Khans, /bombs rattling in their quivers." Although these examples may be the most heated examples of propaganda, they demonstrate how important this region was on a cultural level. For both nations, the Amur region, as distant as it might be from the Russian or Chinese heartlands, was as dear as Moscow or Shanghai. Just as the legal matter of the border dispute would not be resolved in this period, the societal impact of this region would resonate even in contemporary times.


Group 3


Kuisong, Yang. "The Sino-Soviet Border Clash of 1969: From Zhenbao Island to Sino-American Rapprochement." Cold War History 1, no. 1 (2000): 21-52.

For the poem cited,
Yevtushenko, Yevg. "(Poem)-ON THE RED USSURI SNOW." Current Digest of the Russian Press, The (formerly The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press) 21, no. 15 (1969): 12-13.

Image: "We will not attack unless we are attacked, if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack," Chineseposters.net. Accessed February 12, 2014. http://chineseposters.net/images/e13-783.jpg


March 2, 1969

Event Item Type Metadata


March 2, 1969

Event Type

Border dispute


Soviet Union, People's Republic of China


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