The intensive migration from China to Russia’s Far East began in the second half of the 19th century. It was mostly men who then married local women from among the indigenous Udege, Nanai, and Oroch peoples. Thus a new ethnic group emerged —the Taz. In 1960-70s, when the conflict between the USSR and China escalated, a reversed process took place—a campaign forcing the Chinese out of the USSR unfolded. Even though officially the Taz people were not oppressed, according to the data from the 2010 census, their population in Primorsky Krai was only 200 people. Along with the Chinese immigrants themselves, everything related to them was repressed as well. The Taz language, which emerged as a mix of Chinese, Udege, and Nanai, was banned. Erasing the language meant also erasing the culture of the people, as it is through language that experience, values, folklore, tradition, and the worldview are passed down to next generations. It turned out that most of the Taz lived in the village of Mikhailovka–420 kilometers from Vladivostok, where they were moved back in 1938.
Nowadays, the population of Taz is hardly more than several dozen people. The contemporary world with its mobility, blurred borders, and total globalization does not help preserve the culture either. As the Taz do not receive any assistance from the government, they are losing their uniqueness. Talking about the Taz language, its last native speakers say: “I understand but can’t say anything.” For this photoshoot, they wrote down those words and phrases that they still remember.