Treaty of Aigun

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The Treaty of Aigun (Russian: Айгунский Договор; simplified Chinese: 瑷珲条约; traditional Chinese: 璦琿條約; pinyin: Àihún Tiáoyuē) was an 1858 treaty between the Russian Empire, and the empire of the Qing Dynasty, the sinicized-Manchu rulers of China, that established much of the modern border between the Russian Far East and Manchuria (the original homeland of the Manchu people and the Qing Dynasty), which is now known as Northeast China.[1] It reversed the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) by transferring the land between the Stanovoy Mountains and the Amur River from China (Qing Empire) to the Russian Empire. Russia received over 600,000 square kilometres (231,660 sq mi) from China[2][3]

Background[edit]

Since the 18th century, Russia had desired to become a naval power in the Pacific. It did so by establishing naval outposts near the River Amur watershed, encouraging Russians to go there and settle, and slowly developing a strong military presence in the region. China never really governed the region effectively, and these Russian advances went unnoticed.

From 1850 to 1864, China was heavily fighting the Taiping Rebellion, and Governor-General of the Far East Nikolay Muraviev camped tens of thousands of troops on the borders of Mongolia and Manchuria, preparing to make legal Russian de facto control over the Amur from past settlement.[2] Muraviev seized the opportunity when it was clear that China was losing the Second Opium War, and threatened China with a war on a second front.[3] The Qing Dynasty agreed to enter negotiations with Russia.[2]

Signing[edit]

Negotiations were tense and lasted six days, with Russian forces constantly shooting off cannons and threatening the local population with expulsion. The Russian representative Nikolay Muravyov and the Qing representative Yishan, both military governors of the area signed the treaty on May 28, 1858, in the town of Aigun.[3]

Effects[edit]

The resulting treaty established a border between the Russian and Chinese Empires along the Amur River, further south than the original border. Under the terms of this treaty:

  1. Russia gained the left bank of the Amur River that had been assigned to China as a result of Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689. (Chinese and Manchu residents of the Sixty-Four Villages East of the Heilongjiang River would be allowed to remain, under the jurisdiction of Manchu government.) The Amur, Sungari, and Ussuri rivers were to be open exclusively to both Chinese and Russian ships. The territory bounded on the west by the Ussuri, on the north by the Amur, and on the east and south by the Sea of Japan was to be jointly administered by Russia and China—a "condominium" arrangement similar to that which the British and Americans had agreed upon for the Oregon Territory in the Treaty of 1818.[2] (Russia gained sole control of this land two years later)[4] Counting also the loss of this land, China effectively lost more than one million square kilometers of territory.
  2. The inhabitants along the Amur, Sungari, and Ussuri rivers were to be allowed to trade with each other.
  3. The Russians would retain Russian and Manchu copies of the text, and the Chinese would retain Manchu and Mongolian copies of the text.
  4. All restrictions on trade to be lifted along the border.

The Xianfeng Emperor considered the treaty a time-saving measure before "dealing with [the Russians] more firmly", but that occasion never arrived.[3] In fact, Russia went back to China in November 1860 and demanded sole ownership of the jointly governed territories, creating Primorsky Krai, which ended China's access to the Sea of Japan.[4] China did not recognize this unequal treaty but it was confirmed in the Sino-Russian Convention of Peking.

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