Friday, February 28, 2014

Russian tiger hunters on the slopes of Baekdusan

I hadn't realized Andrei Lankov has a blog, which I discovered the other day. Lots of interesting things to be read there, but one not-well-known story is that of the White Russians who fled the Red Army's victory in the Russian Civil War in 1922 and ended up in Korea. There were in fact several thousand White Russians who spent the winter in Wonsan that year before most moved on to other places. The story of those who remained can be found in several places, most notably Donald Clark's Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience, 1900-1950, a book well worth reading, as well as Mary Linley Taylor's A Chain of Amber. One of the more interesting families were the Yankovskys, who ran a resort near Baekdusan; Lankov tells their story here. (Mary Linley Taylor also wrote a book about the resort called The Tiger's Claw, but I've never read it.)  Their story didn't end so well; to run such a venture in colonial Korea required ties with the Japanese authorities, and this, along with the fact that they were White Russians, did not serve them well when the Red Army poured into Korea at the end of World War II.

I saw a old movie poster in a restaurant the other day with Yul Brynner on it, which reminded me of this story, since he visited the Yankovskys' resort in the 1930s, so it was a little odd to discover Professor Lankov's blog a few days later and see their story right near the top.

No comments: