J32. Guarding the Soviet-Chinese Border
A densely filled and illustrated album of a Soviet soldier’s military service as border guard in Kukuy, a small town of a few thousand in Russia’s far east near the Chinese border. In 1985, Kukuy was part of Chita Oblast (current day oblast of Zabaykalsky Krai), a Russian state with extensive borders with China and Mongolia. The soldier traveled with the Siberian Railway from Kirov to Chita Oblast.
Numerous photos of comrades and military training exercises. Our soldier posts boldly with his side-arm, including pointing it directly at the photographer. The barbed wire border fence and border observation towers figure prominently in the photographs and reminds this cataloguer of one of his favorite books, Dino Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe, wherein a military officer spends his entire life on an observation tower searching for an enemy that never comes. As one of the photos informs us of the Soviet Union: [“The border is sacred and untouchable.”]
The Russian-Chinese border is gaining in importance as Russia seeks to expand trade with the Far East (and attempt to circumvent U.S. sanctions on oil and other products). In an increasingly multi-polar world, this is a border to keep an eye on.