This magnificent intercontinential railway project was built in the late 19th century and finished in the early 20th. Under the command of Tsar emperor Alexander III, his initial aim was to relocate Russian population into remote Siberian and start to exploit the natural resources in the far east. The whole project was divided into 7 sections, crossing forest, mountains, numerous rivers and around lakes. Altogether more than 50,000 construction workers including cheap Chinese and Korean migrants, as well as prisoners, convicts and exiles were involved in laying the rail, and some of them couldn’t survive against freezing cold weather, deadly mosquito and poisonous bug bites, diseases and even tiger!
Besides adversed physical condition, those workers were also stressed mentally, as they were so far away from home, and their wages were exploited by the constructors.
At that moment, Tsar government was almost practising absolutism, since they had to protect or even expand their territories, they started wars with countries like Japan, Britian and France. In 1905, a group of Orthodox priests protested peacefully against warfare, but they were all killed by the government, which is known as “Bloody Sunday”. This event finally lead to various riots throughout the countries, the strikes of the railway workers were the most famous of all! Need not to say, some of them were killed by the dictator and his army…
Although finally the railway was mostly finished by the 1900s, the conflicts between peasants and government never subsided. Eventually the rise of Lenin overthrew the Tsar in 1917 during the World War I, and transform USSR into the biggest communist country in the world, until now… which gives hope to the lower class, sharing the resources equally among the nation.
Today we can ride on the longest railway in the world peacefully (apart from the specific smell on board as described by my Russian friend), I would like to thank those workers who built this a century ago. This is by far the coolest train ride experience I have ever had, mostly attributed to the funny conversation with local Russians who speak zero English! Their English is worse than my mum, but I can understand that they have all kinds of resources (wood, coal, animals…), who cares about learning English to trade with the world? Haha….