Works of literature that feature the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian taiga are extremely rare; the only ones that immediately come to mind are The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, about Evenki along the Heilongjiang-Russian border, and the (true) story of Dersu Uzala, a Nanai introduced to the world in Vladimir K Arsenyev’s now century-old Across the Ussuri Kray: Travels in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains.

In Russia’s far east, meeting a person alone in the wilderness is usually a bad thing. Some recluses in this remote region might be criminals of one kind or another: those hiding from law enforcement or those hiding from other criminals. But when conservationist Jonathan C Slaght ran into a man with “a crazy look in his eyes” and one missing finger living alone in an abandoned World War II hydroelectric station, rather than make a quick exit, he took the hermit up on his offer to spend the night.

The Sino-Russian relationship is often seen by the West (for which, read the USA) as a sort of counterpoint to Sino-American relations with Russia ready to step in when the US takes a step back. Sören Ubansky’s recent book is one of the periodic but salutary reminders that China and Russia’s mutual dealings are not just centuries old but have also for the most part had little to do with third parties.