July 01, 2010

Ruler of the East



1860: Vladivostok founded

vladivostok is a city of surprises – a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean built along the shores of a bay with the magical name “Golden Horn” (Золотой Рог), that leads into the “Eastern Bosporus Strait” (пролив Босфор Восточный), which in turn separates the Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula (Полуостров Муравьёва-Амурского), on which the city sits, and Russky Island (остров Русский).

In 1860, a Russian military expedition reached this peninsula, which at the time was a sort of no-man’s-land, with a sparse native population and just a few Russian and Chinese hunters and fishermen. Neither Russia nor China had any official presence, so it did not really belong to anyone. Legend has it that Russian officers were struck by the similarity between the geography here and the strait that runs through Istanbul and that this is how the Eastern Bosporus got its name. In fact, the name may have less to do with geography and more to do with Russia’s disappointed aspirations. This new, Far Eastern world opened up before Russia only five years after its hopes of gaining access to the Balkans via the Bosporus had been dashed by its utter defeat in the Crimean War. Now, treaties had just been signed with China that established the border running through these boundless coastal expanses and it seemed as if the Far East would give Russia a completely new face.


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