Treaty of Nerchinsk

Last updated
Treaty of Nerchinsk
Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689).jpg
A copy of the Treaty of Nerchinsk in Latin
TypeBorder treaty
SignedAugust 27, 1689 (1689-08-27)
Location Nerchinsk
ExpirationMay 28, 1858 (1858-05-28)
Wikisource-logo.svg Wikisource
The Amur basin. Nerchinsk is part way up the Shilka. The Stanovoy Range extends along the northern edge of the Amur basin. Amurrivermap.png
The Amur basin. Nerchinsk is part way up the Shilka. The Stanovoy Range extends along the northern edge of the Amur basin.
Changes in the Russo-Chinese border in the 17th-19th centuries Ct002999.jpg
Changes in the Russo-Chinese border in the 17th–19th centuries

The Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689 was the first treaty between Russia and China under the Qing dynasty. The Russians gave up the area north of the Amur River as far as the Stanovoy Range and kept the area between the Argun River and Lake Baikal. This border along the Argun River and Stanovoy Range lasted until the Amur Acquisition via the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Convention of Peking in 1860. It opened markets for Russian goods in China, and gave Russians access to Chinese supplies and luxuries.


The agreement was signed in Nerchinsk on August 27, 1689. [1] The signatories were Songgotu on behalf of the Kangxi Emperor and Fyodor Golovin on behalf of the Russian tsars Peter I and Ivan V.

The authoritative version was in Latin, with translations into Russian and Manchu, but these versions differed considerably. There was no official Chinese text for another two centuries, [2] but the border markers were inscribed in Chinese along with Manchu, Russian and Latin. [3]

Later, in 1727, the Treaty of Kiakhta fixed what is now the border of Mongolia west of the Argun and opened up the caravan trade. In 1858 (Treaty of Aigun) Russia annexed the land north of the Amur and in 1860 (Treaty of Beijing) took the coast down to Vladivostok. The current border runs along the Argun, Amur and Ussuri rivers.


Treaty of Nerchinsk is written in other languages as follows:


The northern border of "Chinese Tartary", as shown on this map from 1734, was more or less the Sino-Russian border line settled at Nerchinsk. Nerchinsk itself is shown on the map (on the Russian side of the border) as well. CEM-44-La-Chine-la-Tartarie-Chinoise-et-le-Thibet-1734-NE-2571.jpg
The northern border of "Chinese Tartary", as shown on this map from 1734, was more or less the Sino-Russian border line settled at Nerchinsk. Nerchinsk itself is shown on the map (on the Russian side of the border) as well.
The Qing Empire with provinces in yellow, military governorates and protectorates in green, tributary states in orange. Qing Empire circa 1820 EN.svg
The Qing Empire with provinces in yellow, military governorates and protectorates in green, tributary states in orange.

From about 1640, Russians entered the Amur basin from the north, into land claimed by the Qing dynasty which at this time were just beginning their conquest of the Ming dynasty. The Qing had, by the 1680s, completed the conquest of China proper and eliminated the last Ming successor states in the south. [4] With the Qing dynasty now firmly in control of the South, it was in a position to deal with what they saw as Russian encroachment in Manchuria, the ancient homeland of the ruling Aisin Gioro clan. [5] By 1685 most of the Russians had been driven out of the area. See Sino–Russian border conflicts for details.

After their first victory at Albazin in 1685, the Qing government sent two letters to the Tsar (in Latin) suggesting peace and demanding that Russian freebooters leave the Amur. The Russian government, knowing that the Amur could not be defended and being more concerned with events in the west, sent Fyodor Golovin east as plenipotentiary. Golovin left Moscow in January 1686 with 500 streltsy and reached Selenginsk near Lake Baikal in October 1687, from whence he sent couriers ahead. It was agreed the meeting would be in Selenginsk in 1688. At this point the Oirats (western Mongols) under Galdan attacked the eastern Mongols in the area between Selenginsk and Peking and negotiations had to be delayed. To avoid the fighting Golovin moved east to Nerchinsk where it was agreed that talks would take place. Qing troops with a size of 3,000 to 15,000 soldiers under the command of Songgotu left Peking on June 1689 and arrived in July. Talks went on from August 22 to September 6.

The language used was Latin, the translators being, for the Russians, a Pole named Andrei Bielobocki and for the Chinese the Jesuits Jean-Francois Gerbillon and Thomas Pereira. To avoid problems of precedence, tents were erected side by side so that neither side would be seen as visiting the other. Russian acceptance of the treaty required a relaxation of what had been, in Ming times, an iron rule of Chinese diplomacy, requiring the non-Chinese party to accept language which characterized the foreigner as an inferior or tributary. [6] [7] The conspicuous absence of such linguistic gamesmanship from the Treaty of Nerchinsk, [8] together with the equally conspicuous absence of Chinese language or personnel, suggests that the Kangxi Emperor was using the Manchu language as a deliberate end-run around his more conservative Han bureaucracy. The Yuan dynasty's rule of Mongol tribes living around Lake Baikal was claimed by the Qing, who incited the defection of the Nerchinsk Onggut and Buryat Mongols away from the Russians. [9]

The Qing dynasty wished to remove the Russians from the Amur. They were interested in the Amur since it was the northern border of the original Manchu heartland. They could ignore the area west of the Argun since it was then controlled by the Oirats. The Kangxi Emperor of China also wished to settle with Russia in order to free his hands to deal with the Dzungar Mongols of Central Asia, to his northwest. [10] [11] The Qing dynasty also wanted a delineated frontier to keep nomads and outlaws from fleeing across the border. [12]

The Russians, for their part, knew that the Amur was indefensible and were more interested in establishing profitable trade, which the Kangxi Emperor had threatened to block unless the border dispute were resolved. [13] Golovin accepted the loss of the Amur in exchange for possession of Trans-Baikalia and access to Chinese markets for Russian traders. The Russians were also concerned with the military strength of the Qing dynasty, who had demonstrated their capability, in 1685 and 1686, by twice overrunning the Russian outpost at Albazin. [14]

At this time, Russia could not send large forces to the Far East, starting a war with the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, the Dzungars captured Mongolia, threatening the Qing dynasty, so Russia and Qing dynasty were inclined to sign a peace treaty as soon as possible.. [15]

The border

The agreed boundary was the Argun River north to its confluence with the Shilka River, up the Shilka to the "Gorbitsa River", up the Gorbitsa to its headwaters, then along the east-west watershed through the Stanovoy Mountains and down the Uda River (Khabarovsk Krai) to the Sea of Okhotsk at its southwest corner.

The border west of the Argun was not defined (at the time, this area was controlled by the Oirats). [16] Neither side had very exact knowledge of the course of the Uda River. The Gorbitsa is hard to find on modern maps.

Treaty details

The treaty had six paragraphs: 1 and 2: definition of the border, 3. Albazin to be abandoned and destroyed. 4. Refugees who arrived before the treaty to stay, those arriving after the treaty to be sent back. 5. Trade to be allowed with proper documents. 6. Boundary stones to be erected, and general exhortations to avoid conflict.

Economic aspects

The treaty was "a triumph of intercultural negotiation" that gave Russians access to Chinese markets for expensive furs; Russians purchased porcelain, silk, gold, silver, and tea as well as with provisions for the northern garrisons. [17] The cross-border trade created a multiethnic character to Nerchinsk and Kyakhta in Siberia. They became locales for the interaction of Russian, Central Asian, and Chinese cultures. The trade extended European economic expansion deep into Asia. Profitable trade fell off in the 1720s because the policies of Peter I limited private initiative and ended Siberia's role as a major economic link between the West and East. [18]

Later developments

Russian interest in the Amur River was revived in the 1750s. In 1757 Fedor Ivanovich Soimonov was sent to map the area. He mapped the Shilka, which was partly in Chinese territory, but was turned back when he reached its confluence with the Argun. In 1757 Vasili Fedorovich Bradishchev was sent to Peking to investigate the possibility of using the Amur. He was received cordially and given a definite no. After that the matter was dropped. [19]

In 1799, when Adam Johann von Krusenstern visited Canton he saw an English ship that had brought furs from Russian America in five months as opposed to the two years or more for the Okhotsk–Yakutsk–Kyakhta route. He saw that this could replace the overland trade. He submitted a memoir to the Naval Ministry which led to his command of the first Russian circumnavigation. He was able to sell American furs at Canton after some official resistance. Only when he returned to Kronstadt did he learn that his presence in Canton had provoked an edict making clear that Russian trade with the Middle Kingdom would be confined to Kyakhta. [20]

For the rest see Treaty of Kyakhta and Amur Acquisition.

See also


  1. Krausse, Alexis Sidney (1899). Russia in Asia: a record and a study, 1558-1899. G. Richards. pp.  330–31. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  2. On the difference between version of the treaty, see V. S. Frank, "The Territorial Terms of the Sino-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk, 1689", The Pacific Historical Review 16, No. 3 (August 1947), 265–170.
  3. Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, 281.
  4. Elman, Benjamin A (2007), "Ming-Qing border defense, the inward turn of Chinese Cartography, and Qing expansion in Central Asia in the Eighteenth Century", in Diana Lary (ed.) Chinese State at the Borders. Univ. Wash. Press, pp. 29–56.
  5. Ellman (2007: 47)
  6. Fairbank, John K (1986), The Great Chinese Revolution: 1800-1985. Harper & Row, pp. 36-37.
  7. Keay, John (2009), China: a History. Basic Books, pp. 439-440
  8. Elman 2007:50-51)
  9. Peter C Perdue (30 June 2009). China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia. Harvard University Press. pp. 167–169. ISBN   978-0-674-04202-5.
  10. Elman 2007: 50)
  11. Perdue, Peter C (1996), "Military mobilization in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century China, Russia, and Mongolia". Modern Asian Studies 30: 757-793, 763-764.
  12. Gang Zhao (2006), "Reinventing China: Imperial Qing ideology and the rise of modern Chinese national identity in the early Twentieth Century". Modern China 32: 3-30, 14.
  13. Elman 2007: 47)
  14. Black, Jeremy (1999), War in the Early Modern World: 1450-1815. UCL Press., p. 98.
  15. Christopher I. Beckwith (16 March 2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. pp. 235–. ISBN   978-1-4008-2994-1.
  16. Hsu, Immanuel C.Y. (1990), The Rise of Modern China, Oxford University Press, p117
  17. Peter C. Perdue, "Nature and Power: China and the Wider World." Social Science History 37.3 (2013): 373-391.
  18. Eva-Maria Stolberg, "Interracial Outposts in Siberia: Nerchinsk, Kiakhta, and the Russo-Chinese Trade in the Seventeenth/Eighteenth Centuries." Journal of Early Modern History 4#3-4 (2000): 322-336.
  19. Foust, Muscovite and Mandarin p. 245-250
  20. Foust, page 319-32

Related Research Articles

Amur Major river in eastern Russia and northeastern China

The Amur, or Heilong Jiang, is the world's tenth longest river, forming the border between the Russian Far East and Northeastern China. The Amur proper is 2,824 kilometres (1,755 mi) long, and has a drainage basin of 1,855,000 square kilometres (716,000 sq mi). Including its source river Argun, it is 4,440 km (2,760 mi) long. The largest fish species in the Amur is the kaluga, attaining a length as great as 5.6 metres (18 ft). The river basin is home to a variety of large predatory fish such as northern snakehead, Amur pike, taimen, Amur catfish, predatory carp and yellowcheek, as well as the northernmost populations of the Amur softshell turtle and Indian lotus.

Treaty of Aigun

The Treaty of Aigun was an 1858 treaty between the Russian Empire, and Qing Dynasty of China, the Manchu rulers of China, that established much of the modern border between the Russian Far East and Manchuria, which is now known as Northeast China. It reversed the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) by transferring the land between the Stanovoy Range and the Amur River from China to the Russian Empire. Russia received over 600,000 square kilometres (231,660 sq mi) from Manchuria.

Outer Manchuria

Outer Manchuria or Russian Manchuria is a term for a territory in Northeast Asia that is part of Russia and had formerly belonged in a phase of history to the Qing dynasty. It is considered part of Manchuria. Russia annexed this territory by way of the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Treaty of Peking in 1860 and absorbed the area. The northern part of the area was in dispute between 1643 and 1689.

Argun (Amur)

The Argun or Ergune is a 1,620-kilometre (1,010 mi) long river that forms part of the eastern China–Russia border, together with the Amur. Its upper reaches are known as Hailar River in China. The Argun marks the border between Russia and China for about 944 kilometres (587 mi), until it meets the Amur.

The Treaty of Kyakhta, along with the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), regulated the relations between Imperial Russia and the Qing Empire of China until the mid-19th century. It was signed by Tulišen and Count Sava Lukich Raguzinskii-Vladislavich at the border city of Kyakhta on 23 August 1727.

History of Sino-Russian relations

Prior to the 17th century China and Russia were on opposite ends of Siberia, which was populated by independent nomads. By about 1640 Russian settlers had traversed most of Siberia and founded settlements in the Amur River basin. From 1652 to 1689, China's armies drove the Russian settlers out, but after 1689, China and Russia made peace and established trade agreements.

The Lifan Yuan was an agency in the government of the Qing dynasty which supervised the Qing Empire's frontier Inner Asia regions such as its Mongolian dependencies and oversaw the appointments of Ambans in Tibet.

Yishan, courtesy name Jingxuan, was a Manchu lesser noble and official of the Qing dynasty. He is best known for his failure to defend Guangzhou (Canton) from British forces during the First Opium War, and for signing the treaties of Kulja and Aigun with the Russian Empire in 1851 and 1858 respectively.

Albazino Village in Skovorodinsky District of Amur Oblast, Russia

Albazino is a village (selo) in Skovorodinsky District of Amur Oblast, Russia, noted as the site of Albazin (Албазин), the first Russian settlement on the Amur River.

Sino-Russian border conflicts Series of conflicts between China and Russia

The Sino-Russian border conflicts (1652–1689) were a series of intermittent skirmishes between the Qing dynasty, with assistance from the Joseon dynasty of Korea, and the Tsardom of Russia by the Cossacks in which the latter tried and failed to gain the land north of the Amur River with disputes over the Amur region. The hostilities culminated in the Qing siege of the Cossack fort of Albazin (1686) and resulted in the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689 which gave the land to China.

Albazinians Chinese descendants of Russian Cossacks

The Albazinians are one of the few groups of Chinese of Russian descent. There are approximately 250 Albazinians in China who are descendants of about fifty Russian Cossacks from Albazin on the Amur River that were resettled by the Kangxi Emperor in the northeastern periphery of Beijing in 1685. Albazin was a Russian fort on the Amur River, founded by Yerofey Khabarov in 1651. It was stormed by Qing troops in 1685. The majority of its inhabitants agreed to evacuate their families and property to Nerchinsk, whereas several young Cossacks resolved to join the Manchu army and to relocate to Beijing. See Sino-Russian border conflicts.

Siberian River Routes Main ways of communication in the Russian Siberia before the 1730s

Siberian River Routes were the main ways of communication in Russian Siberia before the 1730s, when roads began to be built. The rivers were also of primary importance in the process of Russian conquest and exploration of vast Siberian territories eastwards. Since the three great Siberian rivers, the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena all flow into the Arctic Ocean, the aim was to find parts or branches of these rivers that flow approximately east-west and find short portages between them. Since Siberia is relatively flat, portages were usually short. Despite resistance from the Siberian tribes, Russian Cossacks were able to expand from the Urals to the Pacific in only 57 years (1582-1639). These river routes were crucial in the first years of the Siberian fur trade as the furs were easier to transport over water than land. The rivers connected the major fur gathering centers and provided for relatively quick transport between them.


Novoselenginsk is a rural locality in Selenginsky District of the Republic of Buryatia, Russia, located on the Selenge River south of Lake Baikal. Formerly called simply Selenginsk, it was one of the most important towns in Siberia before 1800.

The Amur Annexation was the annexation of the southeast corner of Siberia by the Russian Empire in 1858–1860 through a series of unequal treaties forced upon the Qing dynasty. The two areas involved are the Priamurye between the Amur River and the Stanovoy Range to the north and the Primorye which runs down the coast from the Amur mouth to the Korean border, including the island of Sakhalin. The territory of Outer Manchuria was formerly under the administration of Qing China.

Jaxa (state) 17th century microstate in North Asia

Jaxa was a 17th century microstate in North Asia with a capital in Albazino existing between 1665 and 1685. It was located on the border of Tsardom of Russia and Qing China. The language commonly used in the state was Polish.

The Qing dynasty was founded by the Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria in the 17th century and became known by various names. Although it was established by the Manchu people, a Tungusic people ethnically unrelated to the native Han, it was widely known in English as China or the Chinese Empire both during its existence, especially internationally, and after the fall of the dynasty.

Qing dynasty in Inner Asia Historical territories of the Manchu-led Qing empire

The Qing dynasty in Inner Asia was the expansion of the Qing dynasty's realm in Inner Asia in the 17th and the 18th century AD, including both Inner and Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang.

Siege of Albazin

The Siege of Albazin was a military conflict between the Tsardom of Russia and the Qing dynasty from 1685 to 1686. It ultimately ended in the surrender of Albazin to the Qing and Russian abandonment of the Amur River area in return for trading privileges in Beijing.

Events from the year 1685 in China.

Events from the year 1689 in China.