Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881)

Last updated

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881) (Chinese :聖彼得堡條約), also known as Treaty of Ili (Chinese :伊犁條約), was a treaty between the Russian Empire and the Qing dynasty that was signed in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 24 February [ O.S. 12 February] 1881. It provided for the return to China of the eastern part of the Ili Basin region, also known as Zhetysu, which has been occupied by Russia since 1871 during the Dungan Revolt. [1] [2]



China Xinjiang rel location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Jade Gate
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Clear pog.svg
Clear pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Lake Balkash
Solid blue.svg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Jade Gate
The Kulja territory is north of the Tien Shan and south of the Borohoro Mountains. It is the upper valley of the Ili River which flows into Lake Balkash.

During the Russian conquest of Turkestan, Russia gained control of eastern Kazakhstan up to the current Chinese border. During the Dungan Revolt, China lost control of much of its western territory, and power passed to various factions. [3] In 1871, Russia occupied the Ili territory. There was talk of permanent annexation, but Saint Petersburg declared that it was occupying the territory to protect its citizens. [4] Chinese authority in Xinjiang was re-established by 1877.[ citation needed ]

Wanyan Chonghou was sent to Russia to negotiate. In September 1879, he concluded the Treaty of Livadia. Russia would retain the Tekes valley at the southwest end of the Ili Valley and passes over the mountains to the Tarim Basin. China would pay 5 million rubles, and various trade concessions were made. In January 1880 Chonghou returned to Peking and was greeted with indignation. He was declared to have betrayed his country and was arrested and then sentenced to death.

Zeng Jize was appointed as the new ambassador. Russia refused to negotiate unless Chonghou was released, and it was backed by the other powers. In August 1880 Chonghou was released, and negotiations resumed. [5]

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg was concluded on 24 February [ O.S. 12 February] 1881 and ratified within six months. Two years later (March 1883), Russia evacuated the province. There were some minor border problems, and a final protocol was signed on 31 October [ O.S. 19 October] 1883.

Russia was represented by Nicholas de Giers, the head of the Asiatic Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry (he would become Minister in 1882), and by Eugene Bützow, Russia's ambassador in China.[ citation needed ]


According to Article 1, Russia agreed to return most of the occupied area to China. The Chinese government agreed in Article 2 to hold the residents of the area, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, harmless for their actions during the rebellion. The residents of the area would be allowed by Article 3 to stay or to move to Russia and would be asked about their choice before the withdrawal of the Russian troops.

Under Article 6, the Chinese government would pay Russia 9,000,000 "metal rubles" (Russian : металлических рублей; French : roubles métalliques; probably, silver roubles were meant) to serve as a payment for the occupation costs, as compensation for the claims of Russian subjects who lost their property during the rebellion, and as material assistance to the families of Russian subjects who were killed during the rebellion.

Article 7 set the new border in the Ili Valley. The area west of the border was retained by Russia "for the settlement of the region's residents who will choose to become Russian subjects and will have to leave the lands that they have owned" east of the new border.

The treaty also provided in Article 8 for minor adjustments of the border between the two countries in the area east of Lake Zaysan (now East Kazakhstan Province borders on the northern part of Xinjiang's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture).

Article 10 allowed Russia to expand its consular network in the northwestern parts of the Chinese Empire (Xinjiang, Gansu, and Outer Mongolia). Besides the consulates in Ili City (Kulja), Tarbagatai (Chuguchak, Tacheng), Kashgar and Urga (Ulan Bator) that had been provided for in earlier treaties (see Treaty of Kulja, 1851), Russia would open consulates in Suzhou (Jiuquan), and Turpan. In Kobdo (Khovd), Uliasutai (Uliastai), Hami (Kumul), Urumqi, and Gucheng (Qitai), Russia would be allowed to establish consulates later, as would be required by the volume of trade.

Article 12 affirmed the right of duty-free trade for Russian traders in Mongolia and Xinjiang. The treaty also contained various provisions designed to facilitate activities of Russian merchants and to regulate bilateral trade. An appendix to the treaty specified the list of border crossings that both countries were to operate.


The Treaty of Saint Petersburg was perceived as a huge loss and step backward by many in Russia, such as by Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin and the notable military commander Aleksei Brusilov. [6]

Several thousand Dungan (Hui) and Taranchi (Uyghur) families made use of the treaty to move to Russian-controlled territory, today's south-eastern Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan. While some of them soon returned to China, most stayed in Russian domains, and their descendants have lived in Kazakhstan and Northern Kyrgyzstan ever since.

The border between the two empires set by Article 7 of the treaty remains the border between Kazakhstan and China.

Historians have judged the Qing dynasty's vulnerability to western imperialism in the 19th century as being due primarily to its naval weakness; centuries of deliberate isolation meant the Qing’s maritime forces were woefully outmatched against their European counterparts. In contrast, the Qing achieved some military success against westerners fighting on land. Historian Edward L. Dreyer stated, "China's nineteenth-century humiliations were strongly related to her weakness and failure at sea. At the start of the Opium War, China had no unified navy and no sense of how vulnerable she was to attack from the sea; British forces sailed and steamed wherever they wanted to go.... In the Arrow War (1856-60), the Chinese had no way to prevent the Anglo-French expedition of 1860 from sailing into the Gulf of Zhili and landing as near as possible to Beijing. Meanwhile, new if not exactly modern Chinese armies suppressed the midcentury rebellions, bluffed Russia into a peaceful settlement of disputed frontiers in Central Asia, and defeated the French forces on land in the Sino-French War (1884-85). But the defeat of the fleet, and the resulting threat to steamship traffic to Taiwan, forced China to conclude peace on unfavorable terms." [7]

The Qing dynasty forced Russia to hand over disputed territory in the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881) in what was seen as a "diplomatic victory" against Russia. [8] [4] Russia acknowledged that Qing China potentially posed a serious military threat. Mass media in the West then portrayed China as a rising military power because of its modernization programs and as a major threat to the Western world. They even invoked fears that China would manage to conquer western colonies like Australia. [9]

British observer Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger proposed an Anglo-Chinese alliance to check Russian expansionism in Central Asia.

During the Ili crisis, while Qing China threatened to go to war against Russia over the Russian occupation of Ili, British officer Charles George Gordon was sent to China by Britain to advise on its military options against Russia in a potential war. [8]

The Russians observed that the Chinese were building up their arsenal of modern weapons during the Ili crisis, and the Chinese bought thousands of rifles from Germany. [10] In 1880, massive amounts of military equipment and rifles were shipped via boats to China from Antwerp, as China purchased torpedoes, artillery, and 260,260 modern rifles from Europe. [10]

Russian military observer D. V. Putiatia visited China in 1888 and found that in Northeastern China (Manchuria) along the Chinese-Russian border, the Chinese soldiers were potentially able to become adept at "European tactics" under certain circumstances and were armed with modern weapons like Krupp artillery, Winchester carbines, and Mauser rifles. [10]

Compared to Russian-controlled areas, more benefits were given to the Muslim Kirghiz (Kazakhs) in the Chinese-controlled areas. Russian settlers fought against the Muslim nomadic Kirghiz, which led the Russians to believe that the Kirghiz would be a liability in any conflict against China. The Muslim Kirghiz were sure that in a war, China would defeat Russia. [10]

Russian sinologists, the Russian media, the threat of internal rebellion, the pariah status inflicted by the Congress of Berlin, and the negative state of the Russian economy all led Russia to concede and to negotiate with China in Saint Petersburg and to return most of Ili to China. [8]


According to Chatham House sources, the Tajikistan part of Pamirs were more or less transferred during this treaty, and incorporated into what is now Tajikistan, with remaining parts such as Taxkorgan valley staying in Chinese hands. China has historic claim to Pamir Mountains as Chinese land and is mentioned in millennia old texts as fabled realms, in addition being part of Qing lands, although exactly which land hasn't been clarified nor given official importance.

See also


Related Research Articles

Irtysh River in China, Kazakhstan and Russia

The Irtysh is a river in Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. It is the chief tributary of the Ob and is also the longest tributary river in the world.

Lake Zaysan

Lake Zaysan is a freshwater lake, ca. 1,810 km² (700 mi²), in eastern Kazakhstan, in a hollow between the Altai and the Tarbagatai Mountains. It is the largest lake in the East Kazakhstan Region.

Dungan people

Dungan is a term used in territories of the former Soviet Union to refer to a group of Muslim people of Hui origin. Turkic-speaking peoples in Xinjiang Province in Northwestern China also sometimes refer to Hui Muslims as Dungans. In both China and the former Soviet republics where they reside, however, members of this ethnic group call themselves Hui because Dungans are descendants of Hui that came to Central Asia.

Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture Sub-provincial autonomous prefecture in Xinjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Ili is an autonomous prefecture for Kazakh people in Northern Xinjiang, China, one of five autonomous prefectures in Xinjiang. Yining City is its capital. It is bordered by Mongolia, Russian Federation and Republic of Kazakhstan on the northeast to southwest, with a boundary line of 2,019 kilometers. Including Khorgas, Bakhty (巴克图) and Jeminay, there are 9 ports of entry at the national level. With the unique location advantage, Ili has been an important commercial hub and international channel of opening up to the west.

Zuo Zongtang

Zuo Zongtang, Marquis Kejing, sometimes referred to as General Tso, was a Chinese statesman and military leader of the late Qing dynasty.

Ili (river) River in Central Asia, through northwest China and southeast Kazakhstan

The Ili is a river situated in Northwest China and Southeastern Kazakhstan. It flows from the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to the Almaty Region in Kazakhstan.

Yining County-level city in Xinjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Yining, also known as Ghulja or Qulja and formerly Ningyuan (寧遠), is a county-level city in Northwestern Xinjiang, People's Republic of China and the seat of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. Historically, Yining is the successor to the ruined city of Almaliq in neighbouring Huocheng County. Yining is the third largest city in Xinjiang after Ürümqi and Korla.

Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) Muslim minority revolt against Qing dynasty China

The Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) or Tongzhi Hui Revolt or Hui (Muslim) Minorities War was a war fought in 19th-century western China, mostly during the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor of the Qing dynasty. The term sometimes includes the Panthay Rebellion in Yunnan, which occurred during the same period. However, this article relates specifically to the uprising by members of the Muslim Hui and other Muslim ethnic groups in China's Shaanxi, Gansu and Ningxia provinces, as well as in Xinjiang, between 1862 and 1877.

The Treaty of Kulja was an unequal treaty between Qing China and the Russian Empire, signed in 1851, opening Kulja and Chuguchak to Sino-Russian trade. Prepared by the first Russian consul to China, Ivan Zakharov, the treaty was preceded by a gradual Russian advance throughout the nineteenth century into Kazakhstan in direct competition with British efforts to impose self-advantageous trade terms on China.

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.

Yang Zengxin

Yang Zengxin was the ruler of Xinjiang after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911 until his assassination in 1928.

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.

China–Kazakhstan border

The China–Kazakhstan border or the Sino-Kazakhstan border, is the international border between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Kazakhstan. The border line between the two countries has been largely inherited from the border existing between the Soviet Union and the PRC and, earlier, between the Russian Empire and the Qing Empire; however, it has been fully demarcated only in the late 20th and early 21st century. According to the international boundary commissions that have carried out the border demarcation, the border is 1,782.75 km (1,107.75 mi) long.

Kyrgyz in China

The Kyrgyz are a Turkic ethnic group and form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are 202,500 Kyrgyz in China. They are known in China as Kē'ěrkèzī zú.

China–Kyrgyzstan border

The China–Kyrgyzstan border is 1,063 km (661 mi) in length and runs from the tripoint with Kazakhstan following a roughly south-west line across various mountain ridges and peaks of the Tian Shan range down to the tripoint with Tajikistan. The border divides Issyk-Kul Region, Naryn Region and Osh Region in Kyrgyzstan from Aksu Prefecture and Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

The Treaty of Tarbagatai of 7 October [25 September O.S.] 1864 was a border protocol between Qing China and the Russian Empire that defined most of the western extent of their border in central Asia, between Outer Mongolia and the Khanate of Kokand. The signatories were, for Russia, Ivan Zakharov, consul-general of Ili, and Ivan Fedorovich Babkov, colonel of the Separate Siberian Corps of the General Staff, and, for China, Ming I, general of Uliastai; Hsi Lin, amban of Tarbagatai; and Bolgosu, Tarbagatai brigade commander. By this agreement, Russia gained about 350,000 square miles of territory at the expense of Chinese Xinjiang, and Lake Balkhash went from lying on the border to being entirely surrounded by Russia. It is sometimes numbered among the "unequal treaties". Most of this land transfer was rural and related to water rights. The city of Almaty is the most prominent urban center to have been built on this formerly Qing land. Nearby Bishkek, sacked four years earlier, appears not to have ever been officially under Qing suzerainty, but perhaps loosely associated.

The Qing reconquest of Xinjiang was the event when the Qing dynasty in China reconquered Xinjiang after the Dungan Revolt in the late 19th century. After a century of Qing rule, the Uzbek adventurer Yakub Beg conquered almost all of Xinjiang during the revolt, but it was eventually defeated by the Qing General Zuo Zongtang. Furthermore, Qing China recovered the Gulja region through diplomatic negotiations with the Russian Empire and the Treaty of Saint Petersburg in 1881. Xinjiang was converted into a province in 1884.

Muzart Pass

The Muzart Pass, Muz-art Pass, or Muzat Pass is a high mountain pass that crosses the Tian Shan mountains in Xinjiang, China. It connects the city of Aksu in Tarim Basin with the city of Yining (Kulja) in the upper Ili River valley. It is located on the county boundary between Zhaosu County in Ili Prefecture and Baicheng County in Aksu Prefecture. The route over Muzart Pass is more commonly referred to as Xiate Trail by the Chinese, Xiate being the name of the village in Tekes River valley at the base on the northern side of the route.

Treaty of Livadia 1879 treaty between the Russian Empire and the Qing dynasty

The Treaty of Livadia was an unequal treaty between the Russian Empire and the Chinese Qing dynasty signed in Livadiya, Crimea, on 2 October 1879, wherein Russia agreed to return a portion of the lands it had occupied in Xinjiang during the Dungan Revolt of 1862–1877. Even though Qing forces had reconquered the area, the resulting treaty was extremely unfavorable to China. As a result, the Qing government refused to ratify it and the emissary who made the negotiations was sentenced to death. Seventeen months later, the two nations signed the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, which apart from territorial matters, largely had the same terms as the Treaty of Livadia.

Yettishar Turkic state ruled from Kashgar

Yettishar, commonly known as Kashgaria, was a short-lived Sunni Muslim Turkic state with predominantly Uyghur population that existed in Xinjiang between 1867 and 1877 during the Dungan Revolt against the Qing dynasty. The seven cities were Kashgar, Khotan, Yarkand, Yangishahr, Aksu, Kucha and Korla. In 1873, the state was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as a vassal.


  1. Historical Atlas of the 19th Century World, 1783-1914. Barnes & Noble Books. 1998. p. 5.19. ISBN   978-0-7607-3203-8.
  2. "TSENG CHI-TSE". Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  3. Fields, Lanny B. (1978). Tso Tsung-tʼang and the Muslims: statecraft in northwest China, 1868-1880. Limestone Press. p. 81. ISBN   0-919642-85-3 . Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  4. 1 2 James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 135–. ISBN   978-0-231-13924-3.
  5. Paine, S. C. M. (1996). "Chinese Diplomacy in Disarray: The Treaty of Livadia". Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier . M.E. Sharpe. pp.  133–145. ISBN   9781563247248 . Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  6. РУССКО-КИТАЙСКИЕ ПЕРЕГОВОРЫ О ВОЗВРАЩЕНИИ КУЛЬДЖИ. ЛИВАДИЙСКИЙ (1879) и ПЕТЕРБУРГСКИЙ (1881) ДОГОВОРЫ Archived 2008-04-14 at the Wayback Machine \\ в кн. Моисеев В.А. Россия и Китай в Центральной Азии (вторая половина XIX в. - 1917 г.). - Барнаул: АзБука, 2003. - 346 с. ISBN   5-93957-025-9 стр 199
  7. PO o, Chung-yam (28 June 2013). Conceptualizing the Blue Frontier: The Great Qing and the Maritime World in the Long Eighteenth Century (PDF) (Thesis). Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. p. 11.
  8. 1 2 3 John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Late Chʻing, 1800-1911, pt. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 94–96. ISBN   978-0-521-22029-3.
  9. David Scott (7 November 2008). China and the International System, 1840-1949: Power, Presence, and Perceptions in a Century of Humiliation. SUNY Press. pp. 104–112. ISBN   978-0-7914-7742-7.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Alex Marshall (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917. Routledge. pp. 78–85. ISBN   978-1-134-25379-1.