The city of Dalian was established by Imperial Russia in 1898 as Dalny, within the larger Guandong Leased Territories. They would hold it for only seven years before relinquishing it to Imperial Japan. That said, they managed to stamp their own identity onto the landscape of the city.
Aside from Nicholas Square, the other landmark dating from the Russian era is what is known today as Russian Street 俄罗斯风情街. This street – the oldest and first street laid down in the city, was previously known as Engineer Street улица Инженерная, purportedly after the Russian architect, K. G. Skolimovskii, who master-planned the city.
Engineer Street is marked at both ends by a significant monument – at the beginning of the street stands the former Russian Library, built in 1900 in an effusive, Victorian / Bavarian / Swiss style, reminiscent of fairytale castles in the Alps. At the other end of the street stands the former Dalny City Hall, also built in 1900, in a more traditional Russian style the likes of which may be found in St Petersberg.
While the Library itself has been immaculately restored and today houses an art museum, the City Hall stands empty and somewhat derelict, awaiting a decision as to what else it could be used for. In the meantime, the square in which it stands is surrounded by high-rise apartments.
In between Library and City Hall extends today’s Russian Street, where there are apparently 8 instances of Russian-era architecture still standing and rather sensitively restored. These stand amidst new buildings the Chinese have built in a “Russian-style” in the 1990s, when the former mayor of Dalian, Mr Bo Xilai, had the idea of restoring and repositioning the street as a sort of Russian-style themed shopping street.
It isn’t easy to distinguish between the authentic buildings and the new ones. In the gallery below, documenting my walk through the street from end to end, I try my best to do so.
Russian Street was the heart of a residential area – around the main street itself stand dozens of old villas and houses, most likely built in the Japanese era. Some have been demolished, but whole tracts of them had been restored and transformed into a new luxury hotel in what I can only call a “generic European fairytale style” the Japanese were extremely good at, and – so it seems – the Chinese seem to be catching on to.
It was a fitting transition between Russian and Japanese Dalian.