On August 16, 1897 - an official date that started construction of Chinese East Railway (KVZhD in Russian), which connected Siberia with Sea Area (Primorsky Krai) through territory of China in Manchuria. The beginning of construction of road and settlements along its line it is necessary to consider June 11, 1898. For safety of KVZhD they had formed the KVZhD Security guard.
On December 26, 1897 with the first echelon of Security guards by steamship from Odessa has arrived to Vladivostok the priest Fr Alexander Zhuravsky who was appointed protopresbyter of military and sea clergy in KVZhD Security guard.
When in the spring of 1899 by steamships on river Sungari have started to arrive to the future area of Harbin agents and workers for construction of KVZhD and Security road guard (in 1899 in Harbin lived 14,000 Russian citizens), priest Alexander Zhuravsky has started church services in carpet tent which stood in a grove of Harbin manor, near the place where the house of General Horvat subsequently was located. During divine services the chorus made of Cossacks Security guards was singing. On holy antimension, given out by Archbishop Justin of Kherson and Odessa on October 5, 1897, was written: "For religous rite in a movable church (not permanent) named for Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia". By the winter, however, the church was arranged in one of the temporary barracks, in that premise in which subsequently has existed Old Harbin.
The Second priest of Security guards was Fr Stefan Belinsky. In June, 1899 the dispatch of Board of Society KVZhD has been received dated June 11th to Chief engineer Jugovich: "the Board joins your offer to start a church in the name of St. Nicholas, concerning blessing today the communications with the protopresbyter", and also the dispatch from June 12th from the protopresbyter Fr Zhelobovsky with the permission "to arrange a wooden church in railway settlement Sungari on highest approved project of Board of the Society, - according to desire of celebrants - in the name of St Nicholas." Construction of this temple (subsequently it became the cathedral of the Diocese of Harbin) has been begun on October 1, 1899, the Temple soon has been constructed. On May 24, 1900, on the basis of dispatch from the protopresbyter Fr Zhelobovsky Right Reverend Bishop Evsevy of Vladivostok has given his blessing to consecrate the church in Harbin to the local priest Fr Alexander Zhuravsky; followed by the decree to name him as priest-in-charge of the St Nicholas church. He was also given the holy antimension for religous rite.
Manchuria, occupied by Russian armies, on the 24 — 29th of November 1900 the Synod has ruled to let Transbaikalian Bishop Mefody (subsequently metropolitan of Harbin) take pastoral care of the Orthodox faithful of Northern Manchuria.
Yihetuan uprising in China has forced to temporarily stop the construction of KVZhD. Russian road builders have been compelled to leave western sites of KVZhD in Transbaikalia, from east - to small settlement Pogranichnaja/Border, from southern - to Port Arthur, from central - to Harbin. Families of KVZhD employees have left Harbin to Khabarovsk. On July 13, 1900, defenders of KVZhD have fought off the approach of "Yihetuan" to Harbin (in memory of this event in Harbin annually religious procession from the cathedral to an old cemetery and communal grave was made, where thirty heroically lost defenders of Harbin were buried). With arrival on July 21st of Russian armies by ships on Sungari to Harbin the danger to city passed, and Russian armies who came from Transbaikalian, Seaside and Priamurskoj areas have gradually put things in order in all territory. During revolt basically east line of KVZhD has suffered, where mainly the Chinese population has lived. The western line which was passing on territory of the Inner Mongolia, has remained almost intact.
By the middle of September, 1900 in the Old-Harbin church the divine services have resumed. They were stopped in July in connection with disorders and temporary removal of church property to quay of Sungari.
On December 5, 1900 Saint Nicholas Cathedral has been consecrated in New Harbin by priests: Fr Alexander Zhuravsky, Fr Stefan Belinsky and Fr Iakov Matkovski not far from the railroad station. It was constructed of logs, in style of Russian tent churches. The cathedral was crowned with five domes, decorated as well as a belfry, with shashechnym? covering. The foundation of the cathedral was in the form of a cross.
At the end of 1900 were appointed as protopresbyters to Security guard priests: Fr Ksenofont Konsadsky - to Dalian, Fr I. Pavlov - to Telin and Yingkou and Fr Kedrov - to western line of KVZhD. In Hailar and Qiqihar in temporarily remaining there military Cossack regiments also military priests served.
In January 1901 Security guard of KVZhD has been reformed to Zaamursky District of the Separate Corp Border guards and all priests of Security guards have found themselves in Zaamursky district.
In 1901 church-schools have been constructed in Dalian and Yimianpo. Construction of church-schools based on a standard project approach, have started also on other sites of KVZhD. The priest Fr Zhuravsky appointed on December 5, 1901 to head the clergy of former Security guard, under the order of protopresbyter of military and sea clergy has received blessing to consecrate the constructed churches, for which he has received antimension, from Right Reverend Bishop Evsevy. Together with other priests Fr Zhuravsky has made consecration of churches in Dalian (1901), Bohetu (on December 11, 1902), and in little station at Pogranichnaja/Border (December 21, 1902). Churches have been consecrated with commemoration during service of the local ruling bishop — Right Reverend Innokenty, Bishop of Perejaslavsk, the Chief of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Beijing. The church utensils for churches were received with support of KVZhD.
Fr Matkovsky has been appointed the priest-in-charge of the church in Yimianpo, and Fr Solomon Imermishvili has served at the Pogranichnaja/Border station in Suifenhe.
On July 1, 1903, since time of transition of KVZhD to correct exploitation, railroads orders have declared all priests of railroad in church department to be in the service of KVZhD. Head of railroad General Horvat has given them a number of privileges (using service cars of the railway, using telegraph free-of-charge, etc.).
By the Decree of the most Holy Synod from May 29, 1903 it has been decided to subordinate clergy and the Orthodox faithful of Northern Manchuria to the Chief of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Beijing, Right Reverend Bishop Innokenty (Figurovsky). On October 1903, Bishop Innokenty has begun to visit the diocese on the KVZhD, making divine services in churches on all extent of railroad, and in halls of 3rd classes at large stations. On November 2, 1903, Bishop Innokenty has appointed the chancellor of churches of KVZhD Fr P. Bogdanov. Priest Alexander Zhuravsky has been appointed to the staff of District Zaamursky Border guards. Fr Alexander and some others, not wishing to be in charge of the Beijing Mission, have moved to Russia to the posts of military priests. Bishop Innokenty has made consecration of churches constructed on KVZhD at Hengdaohezi station - on November 1, 1903, in Qiqihar - on November 4, 1903, at Manzhouli station - on November 6, 1903, at station Gongzhuling - on November 9, 1903. By year 1904 - 12 priests served in Manchuria. Churches of Manchuria alongside with satisfying religious needs served also as the centers of school education, so there was born a new type of a church - church-school. All clerics were recommended to conduct spiritually-moral conversations with Border guards, and also to teach the Divine Law at initial railway schools. At churches, church libraries have been arranged.
In 1903 Bishop Innokenty has founded subsidiaries of the Beijing Mission in Harbin (the subsidiary was situated on Pier. His first priest-in charge was Hieromonk Leonty, subsequently - bishop of Samara) and at Manzhouli station. During the Russian-Japanese war of 1904 he has instituted the Brotherhood of Orthodox Church in China with branches established by his blessing in all parishes of Manchuria. Priests-chairmen of branches of the Brotherhood weekly informed Bishop Innokenty about the activity of Brotherhood.
The major goal of activity of the brotherhood - rendering assistance to the wounded Russian soldiers. For this purpose with support of the Beijing Mission in Harbin the hospital has been constructed at Blagoveshchensk church Subsidiary. For needs of wounded the Brotherhood gave funds in Tokyo. Twice a month the Brotherhood published a magazine "News of the Brotherhood of Orthodox Church in China" (subsequently it was published in Beijing till closing of the Russian Spiritual Mission under the name "Chinese Good News").
In February 1905 in view of withdrawal of Russian army and in connection with approach of Japanese army — altar tables, bells, iconostasis's and church utensils of Liaolian and Gongzhuling churches have been transported to Harbin for storage. Priests-in-charge of the closed churches were appointed to Hailar and Manchuria. Church money subsequently has gone for construction of the Holy Dormition church in Harbin.
An interesting case is connected with evacuation of Russian army from Manchuria. At railroad station of Xing'an Bohetu railway on donations of local forest businessman and workers of Xing'an tunnel local company of timber industry guards have constructed a small church. The commander of the company has invited Hieromonk Agafon, who was earlier under auspices of one of the Red Cross communities, to remain and serve in local Xing'an church; the application also has been sent to the Metropolitan of Moscow. However, neither the commander of the company, nor Father Agafon, has addressed himself to the local ruling bishop Innokenty. Hieromonk Agafon in the meantime, not waiting for the blessings of the clergy administration, served liturgies and made other services in the church. As wedding and baptismal documents issued by him were notarized by a commander's stamp and did not have value of birth certificates, civil management of KVZhD has disposed to send Hieromonk Agafon from area of Manchuria. Bishop Innokenty has forbidden divine services in the constructed church, and it had remained closed up to subordination in 1907 of churches of KVZhD to the Vladivostok bishop.
In 1905 with support of KVZhD has been constructed and consecrated the church-school in Zhalainuo'er (Jalai Nur) mines.
From January 1906 the member of the Beijing Mission Archimandrite Avraamy (Chasovnikov) has temporarily been appointed as the head of KVZhD churches. After dismissal of former chancellor Father P. Bogdanov from staff in his place has been appointed Father Leonid Pekarsky as priest-in-charge of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Harbin. From October 3, 1906, he also became the chancellor of churches of Manchuria.
In Harbin, in Military School small town (the special settlement created in the city for military needs) has been built a wooden church for the soldiers and officers of rear of the army. With evacuation and departure of army 4th division from Harbin the building of this church has been donated to the population of Harbin.
On February 11, 1907 in Harbin on the ground belonging to Girinsky office, with diligence of Russian merchant of I. F. Chistjakov had been solemnly put a stone in the base of first not railway, parish churches of Manchuria - a church in the name of Saint Sofia, Lord's Wisdom, situated down in area of Quay on Sungari. Only in 20 days after that its solemn consecration took place.
In 1907 district dean of Harbin's clergy Fr Leonty Pekarsky in Harbin was started the beginning of churches: Iveron - on May 27th, St Alexis - on July 10th, Dormition (Uspensky) on the new cemetery - on June 29th. On December 24, the Hospital church has been consecrated at hospital of Zaamursk District Boundary guards.
By the decree No. 9014 of August 8, 1907, churches and clergy of Northern Manchuria have been withdrawn from submission of the Beijing Mission and transferred under jurisdiction of the ruling bishop of the Vladivostok diocese, Right Reverend Archbishop Evsevy. During management of parishes of Northern Manchuria by Vladivostok Right Reverend there has been formed a separate deanery district (military churches have not been included in it). Submission of the Vladivostok eparchial authority has favorably affected development of a church life in Manchuria as the unity of management of KVZhD and Ussurijsk road promoted active communications between Vladivostok and Harbin. Vladyka Evsevy in 1908 for the first time has visited Harbin. On November 22, 1908, he has made great consecration of Dormition (Uspensky) church on the New cemetery, and on November 23rd has consecrated the St Sofia church on the Quay (which was built on donations of Russian Port-Arthur military).
After decision-making local Council of 1917 the church life has quickened. On blessing of the eparchial administration Temporary Manchurian District Church Council was established from 6 elected members from clergy and 3 from laymen. Chairman of this council was appointed teacher of God's Law of Commercial schools, Priest Innokenty Petelin. In all parishes they have been founded parish councils. During replacement of vacant posts of priests in parishes the ancient principle of elected clergy has started to be applied.
With reception of "Definitions of the Holy Council about administration of Orthodox Russian Church" and "Regulations about Orthodox Parishes" Temporary District Church Council has been transformed to District Diocese Council. Parish Council in all parishes of Manchuria also was reelected.
In 1917 the Vladivostok Eparchial congress of clergy and laymen has decided to petition for establishing for churches of Manchuria of a special bishop (Vladivostok Eparchial news.1917, No. 15-16. page 408)
In 1917 - 1918 Parish councils have constructed a number of shelters, printing houses, soup kitchens, etc. for social needs of Orthodox inhabitants of Manchuria. Charity was absolutely an integral part of a church life.
As a result of mass emigration from Russia to China in 1918 - 1920 many Orthodox clergy arrived in Harbin, including bishops of frontier dioceses with China. The newly arrived clergy has been employed in parishes of Harbin diocese basically as assistants to regular clergy and also taught in Harbin's educational institutions the Divine Law. In connection with the termination of the communication with Russia in Harbin in 1918 they have constructed a candle factory.
In the end 1920 in Harbin it has been founded Holy Iveron Mother of God Brotherhood main care of it became the help to Russian emigrants and missionary anti sectarian activity among the population of Manchuria.
On March 29, 1922 "temporary" in the area away from KVZhD by the decree of Bishops of the Synod of the Church Abroad was founded an independent deanery with faculty in Harbin - this event started the period of the Orthodox flock of Manchuria being in the Church Abroad schism. The faculty was headed by archbishop of Orenburg and Turgajsky Mefody with a new title of "Harbin and Qiqihar".
Churches of Harbin and Manchuria through participation in divine services, church schools, charity and publishing work have united ten thousands of people. Russian Orthodox Church not only promoted preservation of national roots in Russian Diaspora, but also has enabled people of Manchuria and China to understand the role of Orthodox Church in the Russian society in the beginning of XX century. In a public, social and cultural life of Manchuria of that time the dominating atmosphere was favorable for acceptance of Orthodoxy by local population.