The Sino-Soviet Border War of 1969, Volume 1

First Clash at Damansky Island

Dmitry Ryabushkin, Harold Orenstein

Examines, among other things, the historical and political precursors of the 1969 events, the reaction to them in different countries, and the battle of 2 March 1969.
Publication date:
May 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Illustration :
65 b/w photos, 3 colour profiles, 6 colour figures, 8 b/w & 1 colour maps
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781914059230

Dimensions : 297 X 210 mm
Not Yet Published. Available for PreOrder.


The victory of the communists in the Chinese civil war resulted in the formation of a new socialist state in Asia - the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Soviet leadership was the first to recognise the PRC, and subsequently provided China with considerable economic, scientific, and military assistance. After Stalin's death, however, relations between Moscow and Peking began to rapidly deteriorate, the main reasons being the disagreements regarding Stalin's legacy and the principles of co-existence with capitalist states.

With the beginning of the so-called 'cultural revolution' in the PRC, these disagreements intensified: the two sides in the ideological conflict accused each other of revisionism, dogmatism and nationalism. Economic failures and social chaos forced the PRC leadership (first and foremost, Mao Zedong personally) to seek a method for divesting itself of the responsibility for what had taken place. As a solution, they organised a military conflict on the border with the Soviet Union - one that was adequate enough to mobilise and rally the people around the PRC leadership, while at the same time insignificant enough in scale to prevent it from escalating into a full-fledged war.

On 2 March 1969, a specially prepared Chinese army detachment made a surprise attack on the Soviet border guards who were patrolling the border sector in the area of Damansky Island on the Ussuri River. In the subsequent battle, the dead alone on both sides numbered more than 50. Two weeks later, on 15 March 1969, a much larger battle took place in this same area, in which the two sides used artillery and armoured vehicles; the casualties numbered in the hundreds.

There were conflicts along the entire Sino-Soviet border - from Primorye to Central Asia - in the following weeks and months. Although smaller in scale than the Damansky events, men still died in them. Shooting on Damansky continued practically into mid-September.

On 13 August 1969 there occurred one more large-scale military clash, in the area of Lake Zhalanashkol, after which the political leadership of the USSR and PRC recognised the very real possibility that the border war might escalate into a full-scale war, with the potential use of nuclear weapons.

The first volume of this two-part mini-series examines, among other things, the historical and political precursors of the 1969 events, the reaction to them in different countries, and the battle of 2 March 1969. Principal attention is focused on a detailed chronological description of the battle, Soviet and Chinese tactics, and the weapons used. Inasmuch as the present state policies in Russia and China are aimed not only at keeping silent about the 1969 events, but also opposing any attempts to study what happened in detail, the authors have relied on finding veterans of the battles and obtaining from them documentary evidence of those distant events. The authors believe that this study is the most detailed and objective work on the theme of the 1969 Sino-Soviet border war.