Putin in Shanghai, c. 1940

Here is Shanghai’s own Putin, or rather, Poutin, Trofim Fedorovich – Трофим Федорович Путин – born in Perm on 15th of April 1884 to Alexandra and Feodor. We don’t know much about him, except that he was unmarried and lived at 95 Edinburg Road. Poutin was not an intellectual, if one is to judge by the penmanship.

Shanghai on film (1901)

This dreamy video is making rounds in Shanghai-loving circles. Western women in corsets and wide-legged trousers riding on bicycles are quite something!

The machine-colorized look is getting tiresome very quickly, though. And I wonder which way was the speed "corrected"? The edited version looks even more slowed-down than the source footage.

“How I escaped bad juju and found fengshui”

Urban Exploration: Famous Shanghai ad agency Carl Crow Inc.’s offices through the years

The adventures of an office have never been so lively! This friendly blog post at MOFBA tracks the changes of Carl Crow Inc’s address by the year.

At a low point in his real estate adventures c. 1921, Carl Crow lands in a relatively obscure building at 9 Hankow Road (later renumbered 115 and 131) which suddenly turns out to be the epicenter of emergencies and crime in downtown Shanghai, according to the headlines:

Cock-Fighting Crusade: Twenty-Nine Arrests
Four Fires in Twelve Hours
Drunken Assault on Ladies: Threats to Murder and Windows Broken
Gambling in a 9 Hankow Road Flat: Twenty-Eight Chinese Charged
American Banks as Plaintiffs: Claims for Over 40,000 Taels
Office Boys Sentenced
Silk Merchant Found Dead In Local Hostelry
Small Fire Breaks Out in an Apartment

The rent must have been cheap.

The site is now redeveloped into an office high-rise.

Bzhotpa Doba Bepa Ncaebha = Vinogradova Vera Isaevna

Many of the fake graves at Song Qingling Memorial Park reproduce the Russian gravestones, usually with some errors, but this is one gets the top prize.

BZHOTPA DOBA BEPA NCAEBHA should read Виноградова Вера Исаевна, or Vinogradova Vera Isaevna, born on 27 September 1875 in Nikolaev. She was a divorcee and lived at 118/4 Route des Soeurs, bringing up her granddaughter Alexandra, daughter of Mr. and Mrs A. L. Vinogradoff, who was born in 1933 in Shanghai and whose mother, Shura Vinogradoff, died one week after her birth, on 6 October 1933, at the age of 31.

I don't have the exact date of death for Vera Isaevna, but it was after February 1943.

Alexandr Ivelsky’s memoir of 1940’s Shanghai


This is a very simply but vividly written memoir of a poor émigré's sojourn in China, from his arrival in 1924 to his departure in 1950. During this time he lived in Harbin, Tianjin and Shanghai, always scraping the bottom, working as a dockworker, a bodyguard and a truck driver. He experienced the Shanghai strike of 1925, lots of injustice in Manchuria, and also witnessed the conversion of many fellow Russians into patriotic Soviet citizens. Inoculated from this sentiment by his own bitter experience, Ivelsky was ironic about the repatriation craze.

"...[After 1945], when I was working as a truck driver for the Americans, I kept marveling at how everyone was trying to steal everything. One Russian guy managed to steal an entire truck full of blankets and sold them. The management caught him, fired him... and nothing else. The Americans were stealing too, and they had to appoint controllers to look after their own people. Once, eleven truck drivers were summoned from the motor pool. We drove to the godown, and the trucks were loaded with various canned food, presumably expired. We drove to the grounds where the cans were supposed to be extinguished. The American supervisor went into the shed, and the drivers (two Russians and nine Chinese) just kept sitting at the wheel. Suddenly, a jeep drove in, the driver asked us what we had, we pointed at the shed, the new guys went in... Then the trucks were sent back and the cans were unloaded into the same godown. There was a lot of this kind of business.

...Finally, the long awaited-for Soviet cruise ship Smolny came to Shanghai, and the repatriates began to run around like crazy and load their luggage. A giant portrait of the "Wondrous Georgian" – Joseph Stalin – decorated the deck. A huge crowd gathered on the shore – some were leaving, some were sending off their friends. A band was playing, some were dancing, some were crying. A long line formed, waiting to get on board, breathing down each other's necks. One former White Russian, now standing in the line, tried to comfort the others: "Comrades, comrades, don't shove so much. There will be plenty of time for everyone to get in and go to the motherland". One woman passenger was carrying a pair of skis, and I told her: "Finally, somebody brings the right thing."

All the passengers were dressed well and looked rich, having had time to earn some – and steal some – from the Americans. The trunks and suitcases were bursting with stuff: motorcycles, binoculars, photo cameras on long straps. As these Soviet citizens were preparing to leave Shanghai, they sold their more cumbersome property and stacked up on gold, jewelry, chains, brooches, bracelets and watches. They emptied the shelves of local jewelry stores and swept the remaining heirloom trinkets from their White émigré owners. They stuffed all these treasures into their double-walled trunks with hidden bottoms, hoping to cheat the Soviet border control. But how can you cheat ex-convicts? They know where to look. A friend of mine who was working as a loader once overheard a Soviet sailor who muttered: "No point bringing all this stuff." My friend perked his ears: "Why? Will it be expropriated?" The sailor shrugged. Of course, it will be.

The Russian diaspora's mood was swinging back and forth. Many of those who had repatriated earlier were sending coded messages to those still waiting to leave. The phrase "Life here is truly wonderful" was supposed to mean "Everything is really awful." Or, "Send me my other suitcase" meant one was stripped of all the belongings. Soon enough, the Shanghai Russians started to revoke their Soviet passports and announce it in the newspapers. But the Soviet propaganda intensified as well. The city was flooded with magazines, newspapers, movies, music, songs, all screaming: "Motherland has forgiven you; motherland is calling." Every day you'd see an announcement: "I, Ivanoff, donate this amount to the Soviet repatriation effort and I challenge my friend Sidoroff to pitch in." This chain mail went round and round, emptying the fools' pockets. Folks were calling Stalin "our brightest sun", "Father of the Nations", "the wizard of the wizards". I've never seen such obsequiousness in my life.

Some drivers in my motor pool started carrying the Soviet constitution with them and reading it during the lunch break. Not just the poor, but many rich swallowed the bait as well. It was collective madness, or my friend said, "They must be tired of bread; now they'll be chewing the rocks." A ditty was going around, with lines like "Soviet passport is burning a hole in my breast pocket; damned repatriation have pitched my wife against me. At the Soviet Club I learn the true stories of the workers' salvation. They've promised to send me to the USSR, but probably, to the very north of it."

Refugees, who resisted repatriation, are seen boarding the ship heading to Tubabao, Philippines. 1949. Life.

Top photo: George Silk, 1946.

Shanghai Zaria moves to a new office (1933)

"The new premises of the Shanghai Zaria ("Шанхайская заря"), local Russian daily newspaper, was inaugurated yesterday afternoon with an 'open house' attended by newspapermen, officials of the three municipalities and a large number of friends of the paper [358 guests total]. Refreshments were served and the various departments of this leading Slavic newspaper were thrown open for the first time to the public. The Shanghai Zaria was established in this city in 1925 on Broadway and moved soon afterward to 113 Avenue Edward VII. In 1927 the newspaper moved to 551 Avenue Joffre. Two weeks ago the present premises at 774 Avenue Joffre were leased for the newspaper. The Thriftcor Bank occupies the ground floor today."

"The publisher of Shanghai Zaria is Mrs. O. V. Lembich, and the managing director is E. S. Kaufman. Leo Arnoldoff is editor-in-chief. The staff of Shanghai Zaria numbers approximately 30 Russians and 50 Chinese. Two editions are published a day: one of about 12 pages in the morning, and one of about 4 to 6 pages at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Advertising comprises about 50% of the paper, and a large job-printing business is done. The Christmas and New Year editions are over a hundred pages. Branches are maintained in Harbin and Tientsin."

Shanghai, 19 June 1933.

Owner of the newspaper, Olga Lembich, with principal publishers and journalists Petroff, Kaufman and Arnoldov:

The old office, at 551 Avenue Joffre:

Clippings from the newspaper.

Russians beat the grim record again (1933)

Katharine Hadley, a Russian woman from Libava (some say, Kazan), came to China in 1917 and worked in cabarets in Harbin, Dairen and Hankow, occasionally dabbing in prostitution. In 1924, Katherine Hadley met the British Captain Walter Clifford Youngs, fifteen years her senior, and became his on and off paramour. At one point, she married a Eurasian man surnamed Hadley, an employee of L. Moore & Co., Auctioneers, who later committed suicide. Eventually Hadley joined Youngs in Shanghai and moved into his room in a boarding house in Yangtzsepoo. In August 1933, during a domestic fight, she stabbed him with a knife, presumably out of jealousy, practically in full view of other tenants and the landlord.

Because of her prior marriage, the murderess, then 37 years old, was tried as a British subject, and Shanghai's H. M. Police Court sentenced her to death. No foreign woman was ever executed in the Far East before, and the Russian would be the first.

Would Katharine Hadley's sentence be any different had she been a stateless Russian? There was a storm of letters of support from Shanghai public. British Women's Association organized a fundraiser to pay for filing an appeal. Former employers testified to her excellent work ethic. Even the prison wardress called her the "most cheerful inmate" she had known. Evidence was given to the effect of Youngs mistreating her, sending her to seek protection from abuse in the Foreign Women's Home.

Eventually, Katherine Hadley's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She had to serve it in England, because Shanghai did not have a proper prison for women criminals. She was last heard from when she completed her sea voyage from Shanghai to London, two years after the murder, in October 1935.