With bright blue eyes, fair skin and bushy brown hair, Peter Petrol doesn’t look like a typical Chinese man.
That’s because Petrol, whose legal name is Dong Shenyang, lives in his birthplace of Heilongjiang province and is an ethnic Russian, one of China’s 55 officially recognized minority groups.
In a country where the predominant ethnic group, Han Chinese, accounts for 92% of the population — or 1.2 billion people — Petrol, 44, says his appearance and heritage makes him stand out. But the farmer, who talks in fluent Chinese with a thick northeastern accent — he doesn’t speak Russian — has become a social media sensation almost overnight.In late 2017, Petrol started posting videos of his life on one of China’s most popular streaming apps, Hokusai. The clips saw him playing with his dog, Little White; eating dumplings with his family; tending to his corn and soybean crops.Within a year, he had gone viral.Some viewers were confused by his appearance: One Hokusai user asked where Petrol had bought his “colored contact lenses,” unable to believe his bright blue eyes were real. But more were drawn to his infectious enthusiasm and boyish charm.
But more than creating a social media star, Petrol’s videos have stirred debate online about what it means to be “Chinese” in a society where ethnic homogeneity and social conformity are the norm.
Today, Petrol has nearly 1.5 million followers.
Some fans have even traveled from China’s southern-most provinces to his small village, near the Chinese-Russian border, to meet “Uncle Peter,” bringing a range of gifts — including so much alcohol Petrol said he still hasn’t finished it all.”At first, I really didn’t like using social media,” said Petrol. “But in the end, it was great.”
The October Revolution of 1917 led to the collapse of Imperial Russia. Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin rose to prominence during the revolution, and eventually seized power of Russia and formed the Soviet Union — the world’s first communist state.
From 1917 to 1922, a brutal civil war broke out between the Red Army and anti-communist forces as they fought to determine Russia’s political and economic destiny. During the conflict and post-war upheaval, thousands of Russians — including Petrol’s ancestors who lived in Kharkov, a small rural village near the Russian-Chinese border — fled to China.During this time, China was split into competing military cliques and was only nominally unified in 1928 by the Chinese Nationalist Party, after more than a decade of political maneuvering and warfare.In 1926, Petrol’s great grandparents took their two sons across the frozen Amur River into China by horse sled and resettled in Junket County, in Heilongjiang. After a few years, Peter’s great grandparents divorced and his great-grandmother married a Han Chinese man and adopted his surname, Dong.The family has remained in the region for almost a century.
Li Guofeng’s great grandmother was a Russian aristocrat who married a Han Chinese man who worked in her village. After decades of turmoil, the couple fled Russia across the border to Junket County in 1931. “Every Pa ska Festival (Easter), she would look across the Amur river (to Russia) and weep,” said Li, 47, of his grandmother.
Many Russians were engineers and merchants who settled in Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang. Russian builders had already moved to help construct the Chinese Ea’Uncle Petrol’ is that the ethnic Russian streaming star creating China question what it suggests that to be Chinese
With sky-blue eyes, truthful skin and bushy brown hair, Peter Petrol does not appear as if a typical Chinese man.
That’s as a result of Petrol, whose legal name is Dong Shenyang, lives in his birthplace of Heilongjiang province And is an ethnic Russian, one in every of China’s fifty five formally recognized minority teams.
In a country wherever the predominant grouping, Han Chinese, accounts for ninety two of the population — or one.2 billion folks — Petrol, 44, says his look and heritage makes him stand out. however the farmer, United Nations agency talks in fluent Chinese with a thick northeastern accent — he does not speak Russian — has become a social media sensation virtually nightlong.In late 2017, Petrol started posting videos of his life on one in every of China’s hottest streaming apps, Hokusai. The clips saw him fidgeting with his dog, very little White; consumption dumplings together with his family; tending to his corn and soybean crops.Within a year, he had gone infectious agent.Some viewers were confused by his appearance: One Hokusai user asked wherever Petrol had bought his “colored contact lenses,” unable to believe his sky-blue eyes were real. however additional were drawn to his infectious enthusiasm and young charm.