From the Tsar’s Railway to the Red Army
It is a little known fact that during World War I Russia received the majority of Chinese wartime laborers working overseas. Despite assurances that they would not be involved in the war, thousands of Chinese workers dug trenches and carried ammunition for troops on the Eastern Front under brutal conditions. Then, in 1917, life for the Chinese worsened with the Bolshevik Revolution’s arrival. Some of the workers signed up to fight for the Red Army and many were left stranded in Russia, unemployed and destitute. Their plight has been described as the most tragic episode in 400 years of Chinese emigration. The men had crossed the border into Russia with dreams of earning enough money to build a house or business for their family at home. None could have imagined the hell that awaited them.