Chinese Eastern Railway

Chinese Eastern Railway
The routing of the main line of the Chinese Eastern Railway (Manzhouli to Harbin to Suifenhe), and its southern branch (Harbin to Dalian). After 1905, most of the southern branch (from Changchun to Dalian) became the Japan-run South Manchuria Railway

The Chinese Eastern Railway or (CER; Chinese: 东清铁路) (also known as the Chinese Far East Railway) was a railway in northeastern China (Manchuria). It connected Chita and the Russian Far East. English-speakers have sometimes referred to this line as the Manchurian Railway. Russians know it as "Китайско-Восточная железная дорога", or КВЖД (Kitaysko-Vostochnaya zheleznaya doroga, KVZhD).

The southern branch of the CER, known in the West as the South Manchuria Railway, became the locus and partial casus belli for the Russo-Japanese War and the Second Sino-Japanese War (including incidents leading up to the latter from 1927).

The administration of the CER and the Chinese Eastern Railway Zone was based in Harbin.


History of the line

The Trans-Siberian Railway line around Manchuria in red; the Chinese Far East Railway, which runs across Manchuria, not shown. (The Soviet Baikal Amur Mainline in green.)

The Chinese Eastern Railway, a single-tracked line, provided a shortcut for the world's longest railroad, the Trans-Siberian Railway from near the Siberian city of Chita via Harbin across northern inner Manchuria to the Russian port of Vladivostok. This route drastically reduced the travel distance required along the originally proposed main northern route to Vladivostok (this originally proposed route lies completely on Russian soil, but was completed a decade later than the Manchurian "shortcut").

In 1896 China granted a construction concession through northern Inner Manchuria, running from near Chita via Harbin to Vladivostok, and construction was drastically accelerated after Russia concluded a twenty-five year lease of Liaodong from China.

Construction of the CER started in July 1897 along the line Tarskaya (east of Chita) – Hailar – Harbin – Nikolsk-Ussuriski. Officially, traffic on the line started in November 1901, but regular passenger traffic from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok across the Trans-Siberian railway started in July 1903.

In 1898, a 550-mile (880-km) spur-line, most of which later formed the South Manchuria Railway, was started from Harbin down through eastern Manchuria, along the Liaodong Peninsula, to the ice-free deep-water port at Lüshun, a town almost at the tip of the peninsula, which Russia was fortifying and overhauling into a first-class strategic naval-base and marine coaling- station for its Far Seas Fleet and Merchant Marine. This town was known in the west as Port Arthur, and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) was essentially fought over who would possess this region and its excellent harbor, as well as whether it would remain open to traders of all nations (Open Door Policy).

Cossacks guard the CER bridge over the Sungari River in Harbin during the Russo-Japanese War (1905)

The Chinese Eastern Railway was essentially completed in 1902, beating the stretch around Lake Baikal by a few years. Until the Circumbaikal portion was completed (1904–1905; double-tracked, 1914), cargo on the Trans-Siberian Railway had to be trans-shipped by ferry almost a hundred kilometers across the lake (from Port Baikal to Mysovaya).

The Chinese Eastern Railway became important in international relations. After the first Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Russia gained the right to build the Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria. They had a large army and occupied Northern Manchuria, which concerned the Japanese. Russia pressed China for a "monopoly of rights" in Manchuria, but China reacted to this by an alliance with Japan and the United States against Russia.[1]

The Lüshun train station, built during the period of the Russian control

During the Russo-Japanese War, Russia lost both Liaodong Peninsula and much of the South Manchurian branch to Japan. The rail line from Changchun to Lüshun - transferred to the Japanese control - became the South Manchuria Railway.

A CER executive car

During 1917-1924 (Russian Civil War) the Russian part of the CER came under the administration of the White Army.

After 1924, the USSR and China administered the Northern CER jointly, while Japan maintained control of the southern spur-line.

The Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929 was fought over the administration of the Northern CER.

In 1935 the USSR had to sell all its rights in the CER to the Manchukuo government.

From August 1945, the CER again came under the joint control of the USSR and China. Somewhat reversing Russia's stinging losses in 1904-1905, after World War II, the Soviet Government insisted on occupying the Liaodong Peninsula but allowed joint control over the Southern branch with China; all this together received the name of the "Chinese Changchun Railway" (Russian: Кита́йская Чанчу́ньская желе́зная доро́га). 

In 1952, the Soviet Union transferred (free of charge) all of its rights to the Chinese Changchun Railway to the People's Republic of China.

See also


  1. ^ Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, 1st edition.
  • Sören Urbansky. Kolonialer Wettstreit: Russland, China, Japan und die Ostchinesische Eisenbahn 2008, Campus Publishers, Frankfurt/New York, 250 pp.
  • Mara Moustafine. Secrets and Spies: The Harbin Files. A Vintage Book series, Random House, Australia Pty Ltd, 468 pp.
  • F.R. Sedwick, (R.F.A.), The Russo-Japanese War, 1909, The Macmillan Company, N.Y., 192 pp.
  • Colliers (Ed.), The Russo-Japanese War, 1904, P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 128 pp.

External links

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