Monday, May 25, 2020

Moscow Paper Recalls that Tibet Could have Become Part of Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 24 – In what appears to be a response to the continuing series of articles by Chinese writers about how swaths of Siberia and the Russian Far East were once part of China and in the minds of some perhaps should be again, a Moscow newspaper has reminded Russians that Tibet, now part of China, on several occasions almost became part of Russia.

            Vzgyad journalist Dmitry Bavyrin traces this little known history from the times of the Great Game to 1950 when Beijing claimed sovereignty over Tibet, which had hitherto been independent or a contested region of disputed sovereignty, and the Soviet Union recognized the Chinese claim (

            But what is especially striking about this article is how critical Bavyrin is about Chinese repression of Tibet since that time and his blunt suggestion that the fate of the Tibet, its people, and its traditions would have been entirely different if someone other that China had assumed control over Tibet. 

            Bavyrin is careful to suggest that this is all a question of alternative history and entirely part of the past. He even says that Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to dispatch US Army Colonel Ilya Tolstoy, the grandson of the great writer, to Lhasa for talks during World War II can be “considered the last episode of Russian involvement in the fate of Tibet.”

            But many in Russia and even more in China will see this article as a reflection of growing tensions between Moscow and Beijing and a sign that the Russians have not given up on stirring the ethnic pot within China if the Chinese insist on talking about the Chinese past of Siberia and the Russian Far East. 

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