Treaty of Nerchinsk

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The Treaty of Nerchinsk, signed between Qing Dynasty China and Tsarist Russia, established the borders between the two empires.

The Treaty came as a result of Qing efforts to secure and define the borders of their empire, following the final defeat of Ming loyalists on Taiwan in 1683. In response to the expansion and encroachment of Russian settlers, trappers, and hunters in the Amur region, and Qing fears that border tribes might begin leaning towards favoring the Russians over the Qing Manchus, the Kangxi Emperor launched a series of attacks on Russian border towns. Once Taiwan was secured, many of the defeated Ming loyalists were recruited into the Qing forces which undertook these attacks.

The border fortress / town of Albazin finally fell to Qing forces in 1685 after some fierce fighting. However, the local Qing commander failed to gather up or destroy the crops in fields surrounding the town, which would have dealt a severe blow against Russian supply lines; Russian forces based at Nerchinsk, a short distance away, then gathered up those crops themselves, using them to help guard themselves against a siege. The Russians retook Albazin, which had been abandoned by the Qing forces intentionally,[1] and put up stiffer resistance as the Qing attacked the fortress again in 1686.

Before long, however, the Russians decided to sue for peace, knowing it would be difficult if not impossible to defend such a large area indefinitely. With Jesuits serving as interpreters, Russian and Qing officials met at Nerchinsk in 1689 and signed a treaty which fixed the Russian-Chinese borders according to the watersheds of the Amur, Argun, and Gorbitsa Rivers, for the most part the borders which remain today.

During the negotiations, the Russians also pressed that, in future, Russian diplomats should be permitted to present their diplomatic credentials directly to the Emperor, and not to functionaries, in accordance with European norms. The request is denied, as the Qing officials involved in the negotiations insist they do not have the power to alter court protocols.[2]


  • Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 65-67.
  1. Spence doesn't explain why.
  2. Ta-Tuan Ch’en, “Sino–Liu-Ch'iuan Relations in the Nineteenth Century,” PhD dissertation, Indiana University, 1963, 129n106.