In the past, the masters of the Ussuri land were the nomadic Manchu people, whose descendants went on to form the Qing dynasty that ruled China during the 17th-19th centuries. This was the periphery of the Qing dynasty’s territory, and, in the 1850s, China conceded its rights to the lands beyond the Amur and Ussuri Rivers to Russia. Governor Nikolay Muravyov, while inspecting the new lands, found a certain bay on the shore of the Sea of Japan to be so cozy that he exclaimed «we shall own the East from here!» The Chinese called this bay Haishenwai («Trepang Bay»), whereas the Russians named it the Golden Horn. The nearby strait became the Eastern Bosporus, and they started to build a
city on the shores.
At first, Vladivostok remained a small paramilitary port. People arrived here from Russia via Odessa (at that time, Odessa was part of the Russian Empire), a fact that is brought to mind today by the abundance of Ukrainian surnames. The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway spurred an economic boom and five-fold population growth over several years. This boom period is recalled in the magnificent colonial 19-20th century architecture on the city’s
central streets—Svetlanskaya Street, Aleutskaya Street, and Okeansky Prospekt. The most luxurious homes are associated with the names of German merchants, from whom Yul Brynner—who went on to become a Hollywood star—descended. The Americans and Poles did not fall too far behind the Germans, and therefore you notice the steeples of Lutheran and Catholic churches in the city’s landscape.