Treaty of Nerchinsk - The First Treaty between Russia and China
The Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) (Chinese: 尼布楚条约) was the first treaty between Russia and China. The Russians gave up the area north of the Amur River and east of the mouth of the Argun River but kept the area between the Argun River and Lake Baikal.
The agreement was signed in Nerchinsk on August 27, 1689. The signatories were Songgotu on behalf of the Kangxi Emperor and Fedor 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, but the border markers were inscribed in Chinese along with Manchu, Russian and Latin.
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.
From about 1640, Russians entered the Amur basin from the north, into land claimed by the Manchus who at this time were just beginning their conquest of China. By 1685 most of the Russians had been driven out of the area. For this, see Russian-Manchu border conflicts.
After their first victory at Albazin in 1685, the Manchus 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. The Manchus with 3,000 to 15,000 soldiers under Songgotu left Peking June 1689 and arrived in July, (March remarks that there were no Mandarins with them since the journey had to be made on horseback and few Chinese gentlemen had mastered this undignified skill). 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.
The Chinese wanted to remove the Russians from the Amur but were worried about possible Russian support for the western Mongols. They also wanted a delineated frontier to keep nomads and outlaws from fleeing across the border. They were interested in the Amur since it was the northern border of the Manchu heartland. They could ignore the area west of the Argun since it was then controlled by the Oirats. The Russians knew that the Amur was indefensible and were more interested in establishing profitable trade. Golovin accepted the loss of the Amur in exchange for possession of Trans-Baikalia.
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). The Gorbitsa is hard to find on modern maps. Google Earth shows a Gorbitsa River as a tributary of an unnamed river that flows south to join the Shilka about 35 km east of Nerchinsk. If this is the Gorbitsa, Russia would have had a long narrow beak between the Shilka and Argun. Neither side had very exact knowledge of the course of the Uda River.
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.