“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Kyakhta, Maimaichen, The Bloody Baron and Border Trade Towns

Posted: July 30th, 2009 | No Comments »

KyakhtaNoting James Palmer’s The Bloody White Baron biography in a post the other day the book reignited my interest in those border towns around Mongolia and Russia where there were also Chinese communities – virtually pure trading towns and very mingled up so very interesting. A few years back I travelled up around some of these towns and along the old Russian railway to places like Chita, Hailer and down to Harbin. However, I never got to Kyakhta (left) on the Russian-Mongolian border which was a major trading post between Russians, Chinese and Mongolians during the Qing period. It’s not part of the Russian Federation’s Buryat Republic with the capital at Ulan-Ude. Kyakhta originally was one of the eastern terminuses (termini??) of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

TroitskosavskPalmer has a great description too of Maimaichen (literally buy-sell town) which was adjacent to Kyakhta and where the Chinese were largely based. Palmer’s subject Baron Ungern-Sternberg ran riot in the town on a trail of slaughter and killing and a pogrom of the few hundred Jewish traders in the town. Not sure exactly what goes on nowadays in Kyakhta or Maiaichen – still points of cross border trade I think – so must arrange a trip soon.

olga storyAs far as other descriptions of Kyakhta and Maimaichen go I don’t know too many – but the non-fiction author Stephanie Williams has written a book about her grandmother Olga (Olga’s Story)who grew up in Troitskosavsk (pictured above – then a slightly windswept town near Kyakhta and now part of the town I think). I haven’t read the book though intend to but Williams has a few exerpts and pictures on her website.

By the way – a couple of people told me they didn’t where Kyakhta was:


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