The vanishing and lingering past in two cities: Harbin and Riga

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This article compares the Russian-founded city of Harbin in Northeast China (Manchuria) to Riga, the capital of Latvia. Harbin is now the capital of Heilongjiang province, and its population is almost entirely Chinese, but during the first half of the twentieth century it had Russian and other populations as well. Riga, by contrast, still has a large Russian population, and before the Second World War it was home to large Baltic German and Jewish communities. This article discusses the Russian connection shared by Harbin and Riga and analyses the formation of cultural identities and attitudes towards traces of a multi-ethnic past in the two cities. Focusing on signs in various languages in the public space, it demonstrates what comparison across distant geographical settings may add to our understanding of urban history and memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-259
Number of pages29
JournalCitta e Storia
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Harbin
  • Latvia
  • Northeast China
  • Riga
  • Urban memory


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