Treaty of Kulja
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The Treaty of Kulja (also spelled Kuldja) 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 open China.
Cross-border trade became increasingly important to Russia and China in the 19th century with Russian merchants trading illegally at Kulja in Xinjiang’s Yili River Valley. In 1803, Tsar Alexander I attempted to negotiate the opening of the entire Sino-Russian border to trade. This effort failed, however, when the Tsar’s representative refused to kow-tow to a tablet representing the Emperor.
Preceded by a gradual Russian advance throughout the 18th century into Kazakhstan, in direct competition with British efforts to open China, the treaty was signed on 25 July 1851 by the General of Ili and his assistant. Under its terms Kulja (modern Yining) and Chuguchak (modern Tacheng) were opened to Russian trade.
The treaty also allowed Russian merchants to trade and Russian consuls to reside in the Xinjiang towns of Yili (Kulja, Yining) and Tarbagatai (Chuguchak, Tacheng) for eight and one half months each year. Russian trade with Xinjiang flourished and Alma Ata was founded in 1854 to become an important link in this trade.
While the treaty primarily legalized ongoing practice, it also recognized the growing Russian presence in Central Asia. China’s defenses on this border had been greatly neglected since the start of the 19th century.
- Mayers, William Frederick, ed. (1906), Treaties between the empire of China and foreign powers: together with regulations for the conduct of foreign trade, conventions, agreements, regulations, etc (5 ed.), "North China herald, limited,", pp. 97–99
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