Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin

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Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin was a Russian naval captain who led a significant Russian mission to Japan and Ryûkyû in 1853-1854, which ended in the signing of treaties between Russia and those two island nations.

Putyatin first arrived in Nagasaki on August 22, 1853 (on the Gregorian calendar used in Western Europe & the United States; 7/18 on the Japanese calendar) aboard the Pallada. His fleet then made port at Naha, the primary port of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, from February 8th to 21st the following year (Ansei 1/1/11-24). Iosif Goshkevich and a Russian Orthodox priest named Avvakum served as interpreters for the Russian mission, and were surprised to discover that a man Avvakum knew fairly well from his time in Beijing some twelve or thirteen years earlier, Makishi Chôchû, received them and served as interpreter for the Ryukyuan side during their time in Naha.[1]

The Crimean War broke out on March 27 that year (2/24 on the Japanese calendar), and on September 7 (int.7/15), Rear Admiral Sir James Stirling of the British Royal Navy led four ships to Nagasaki with aims of attacking Putyatin. Putyatin fled, but returned on November 8 (9/18) with a fleet headed by the Diana, landing first at Hakodate, then Osaka, where they were told to make port at Shimoda instead. During much of his interactions with shogunate officials, Moriyama Einosuke (a student of Ranald MacDonald) served as interpreter.[2]

In the meanwhile, in 1854, expeditionary forces of the Russia-America Company occupied Sakhalin Island. Their actions were later justified by Putyatin, who invoked both the arguments of terra nullius (that no one was there) and of prior occupation (that the Russians had already been there).

At some point during Putyatin's visits to Japan, retainers of Saga han witnessed a model steam train aboard the Pallada and set to producing their own. After two years, they succeeded, and for a time, a small model train ran under its own power along a circular track in Lord Nabeshima Naomasa's private gardens. A number of Saga retainers then went on to serve as prominent engineers in Meiji period modernization and construction efforts.[3]

Early in 1855[4], after lengthy discussions with shogunate officials including Kawaji Toshiakira and Tsutsui Masanori, Putyatin, with Einosuke as interpreter, signed the Treaty of Shimoda, also known as the Russo-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Amity. Patterned after the Convention of Kanagawa and the Anglo-Japanese Convention of 1854, the Treaty extended most-favored nation status and various other privileges and stipulations to the Russo-Japanese relationship, and was the first of several agreements which formally established national borders and mutually recognized territorial claims between the two countries.[5]

Putyatin returned to Japan again in 1858 after signing a Treaty of Tianjin with the Qing Empire earlier that same year. On August 11 (7/3 on the Japanese calendar), he then signed the Russo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce; the Dutch-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed the previous day, and the Anglo-Japanese Treaty later that month, on August 26 (7/18).

A section of a scroll by Kishi Magodayu, depicting aspects of the Putyatin embassy's activities in Japan. Collection of Toyo Bunko, Tokyo.


  1. Maehira Fusaaki, Ryûkyû shisetsu no ikoku taiken 琉球使節の異国体験, Kokusai kôryû 国際交流 59 (1992), 65.
  2. Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 174.
  3. Plaques on the history of railroads in Japan at Sakuragichô Station in Yokohama.[1]
  4. 1854/12/21 on the Japanese calendar, Feb 7 1855 on the Western Gregorian calendar, and Jan 18 1855 on Russia's Julian calendar.
  5. Mitani, 247-250, 292.