Treaty of Kaikhta

The Treaty of Kaikhta in 1727 between China and Russia defined the boundary between Russian Siberia and Chinese Outer Mongolia.

The Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689 between China and Russia drew the boundary between the two empires between Russian Siberia and Chinese Manchuria in the northeast but left the boundary between Chinese Outer Mongolia and Russia undefined. Thus another treaty was needed to complete the border between these two empires and to settle other issues.

The first treaty with Russia allowed Qing (Ch’ing) emperor Kangxi (K’ang-hsi) to defeat the Olod Mongol chief Galdan in 1697, thus extending his domain to Outer Mongolia in the north and Hami in the northwest. However, China was still not completely secure from the Olod threat and feared plotting between them and Russia because the Olod had earlier become vassals of the Russian czars.

Russia was also anxious to negotiate with China over trade and the establishment of an Orthodox religious mission in Beijing (Peking). Meanwhile both rulers who had negotiated the Nerchinsk Treaty (Kangxi, emperor of China, and Peter the Great of Russia) had died, succeeded by Yongzheng (Yung-cheng) and Catherine I, respectively.

In 1725, Empress Catherine I sent envoy Sava Vladislavich Ruguzinski to China, ostensibly to congratulate Yongzheng on his accession to the throne. The Russian negotiations with China’s chief delegate Tulisen used Jesuit missionaries as interpreters.

They reached agreement in 1727; it was called the Treaty of Kaikhta, named after a frontier town where the signing took place. It provided for a commission to settle on the spot the border between the two countries from the Sayan Mountain and Sapintabakha in the west to the Argun River in the east.

In addition to existing trade at Nerchinsk, another trading station would be opened at Kaikhta and every three years a Russian caravan of 200 men would be allowed to go to Beijing to buy and sell goods without duties. Russia would be allowed to establish a religious mission and church in Beijing, and deserters and fugitives from each country to the other would be extradited.

Russia gained 40,000 square miles of territory between the Upper Irtysh and the Sayan Mountains and land south and southwest of Lake Baikal, trading concessions, and the right to open a religious mission in Beijing.

China gained security by cutting off Mongol tribes from access to Russia. A follow-up embassy from China to Russia in 1731 won for China the right to pursue the Mongol into Russian territory. This provision would be important in China’s quest to consolidate its northern border.

Both Treaties of Nerchinsk and Kaikhta were negotiated between two equal empires and to their mutual benefit. Unlike in relations with all other European nations, whose ambassadors to China were treated as tribute bearers from vassal states, the Russian envoys were regarded as representatives of an equal nation.

While Russian envoys performed the kowtow to the Chinese emperors, likewise the Chinese envoys to St. Petersburg kowtowed to the Russian monarchs. The Russian religious mission in Beijing that trained students in Chinese would give Russia an advantage in the 19th century in negotiations with China.

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