Russo-Japanese Treaties and Agreements

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Russo-Japanese Treaties and Agreements


A series of treaties and agreements between Russia and Japan from 1855 to 1916.

1855. The Treaty of 1855 on Trade and Frontiers was signed on January 26 (February 7) in Shimoda by E. V. Putiatin for Russia and Tsutsui Hizenno kami and Kawaji Sayemonno Djio for Japan. The treaty, which consisted of nine articles, stated that “continuous peace and sincere friendship were established between Russia and Japan.” Russians on Japanese territory and Japanese on Russian territory were ensured protection and defense of their personal safety and the inviolability of their property from the authorities (art. 1). The ports of Shimoda, Hakodate, and Nagasaki were opened to Russian shipping. Reciprocal trade would be permitted in Shimoda and Hakodate, and a Russian consulate could be opened in one of the ports. Russian subjects were granted extraterritorial status and all the rights and privileges that Japan had granted or would subsequently grant to citizens of other nations. The treaty defined the sea boundaries between Russia and Japan.

Taking advantage of the difficulties experienced by Russia during the Crimean War of 1853–56, the Japanese government prolonged the negotiations with Putiatin and made unjustified claims to the southern part of Sakhalin. At war with Great Britain and France, the tsarist government endeavored to establish good relations with Japan by making concessions on the question of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. In the treaty of 1855, Russia was forced to recognize Japan’s claim to the southern Kuril Islands (south of Urup), which had been developed by the Russians. Sakhalin was to remain “undivided between Russia and Japan” (art. 2).

1858. The Treaty of Friendship and Commerce (1858) was signed on August 7 (19) in Edo by E. V. Putiatin for Russia and Nagai Gemba, Inouye Shinanono kami, and others for Japan. Article 1 kept the Treaty of 1855 in force. Official diplomatic relations were established between Russia and Japan, which agreed to exchange permanent diplomatic representatives (art. 2). Between 1859 and 1863, three ports were to be opened to the Russians, in addition to Hakodate and Nagasaki and in place of Shimoda. Permanent diplomatic consulates would be established in all the open ports. Russians would be permitted to visit freely the cities of Edo and Osaka for trade and to reside in the open ports. The subjects of both countries were extended all the rights and privileges granted to other foreigners. Under article 2, a permanent Russian diplomatic mission was established in the capital of Japan. The treaty remained in effect until 1895.

1875. The Treaty on the Exchange of Territories (1875) was signed on April 25 (May 7) in St. Petersburg by A. M. Gorcha-kov for Russia and Enomoto Takeaki for Japan. In exchange for formally renouncing its claims to Sakhalin, Japan received the ancient Russian territory of the Kuril Islands. Article 1 recognized the entire island of Sakhalin as a possession of Russia. The residents of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin had the option of remaining or of returning to their respective homelands. They were guaranteed freedom of religion, the right to own property, and the right to engage in industry, under the condition that they accept citizenship in and obey the laws of the country to which the territory had been ceded.

For a ten-year period Russia would permit vessels to call at the port of Korsakov on southern Sakhalin without paying harbor dues and customs duties. A Japanese consulate would be established in Korsakov. Japanese vessels, merchants, and fishermen were given most-favored-nation status in the ports and waters of the Sea of Okhotsk and Kamchatka.

A supplementary article settling the rights of residents who remained in the ceded territories was accepted in Tokyo on Aug. 10 (22), 1875.

1895. The Treaty of 1895 on Trade and Shipping, which consisted of 20 articles, was signed on May 27 in St. Petersburg by A. B. Lobanov-Rostovskii and S. Iu. Witte for Russia and by Nishi Tokujiro for Japan. Article 18, the principal article, stated that the treaty replaced all preceding Russo-Japanese treaties, agreements, and conventions, as well as their supplements. Foreign settlements in Japan would be incorporated into Japanese cities and would be subordinate not to foreign consulates but to the Japanese authorities (art. 17). Article 1 listed the rights of citizens of one side residing on territory held by the other side. The residence, person, and property of citizens of one nation living on the territory of the other were declared inviolable (art. 13). The two powers exchanged most-favored-nation status for customs (arts. 4–7) and for everything related to trade and shipping (art. 14). They also granted each other the right to appoint consuls everywhere, except in individual localities (art. 15).

1905. (See PORTSMOUTH, TREATY OF [1905].)

1907. The Agreement on General Political Questions (1907), which was signed on July 17 (30) in St. Petersburg by A. P. Iz-vol’skii for Russia and I. Motono for Japan, consisted of two parts, a public convention and a secret treaty that was not published until the October Revolution of 1917. In the public convention Japan and Russia promised to respect each other’s territorial integrity and all rights based on extant treaties.

The public convention also declared that Japan and Russia recognized the independence and integrity of Chinese territory, as well as the principle of equal opportunity in trade and industry in China. However, the secret part of the treaty divided Northeast China (Manchuria) into Russian (northern) and Japanese (southern) spheres of influence. Japan promised not to acquire railroad and telegraph concessions in the Russian zone, and Russia made a reciprocal promise regarding the Japanese zone. According to article 2 of the secret treaty, Russia promised not to obstruct the development of relations between Japan and Korea. According to article 3, Japan recognized the existence of special Russian interests in Outer Mongolia and promised “to refrain from any interference that might prejudice those interests.”

The Agreement of 1907 was intended to guarantee the preservation of the status quo in the Far East for the Entente and link the Entente with the Anglo-Japanese bloc. It protected Russia against the seizure of its Far Eastern possessions by Japan and against Japanese penetration into northern Manchuria, tsarist Russia’s sphere of interest, and it opened the possibility of a rapprochement between Russia and Japan.

1910. The Agreement of 1910 was signed in St. Petersburg on June 21 (July 4) by A. P. Izvol’skii for Russia and I. Motono for Japan. The agreement was prompted by a proposal presented in 1909 by US Secretary of State Knox for the “commercial neutralization” of the railroad in Manchuria. Directed primarily against the interests of Russia and Japan, Knox’ proposal was intended to facilitate the penetration of American capital into Northeast China. The agreement of 1910, which consisted of open and secret texts, developed the principles of the Russo-Japanese Agreement of 1907. The public agreement stated that the two sides would provide each other with “friendly assistance” in improving their railroad lines in Manchuria, maintain the status quo there, and in the event of a threat to the status quo, confer on measures to preserve it. In the secret agreement Russia and Japan promised not to violate or oppose the consolidation of each other’s “special interests” in the spheres of influence in Manchuria established by the 1907 agreement. Each side promised to refrain from political activity in the other’s sphere of special interests. Both sides promised to confer on joint defensive measures if their interests in Manchuria were threatened. The Agreement of 1910 in fact signified Russia’s approval of the Japanese annexation of Korea, which took place in the same year.

1912. The Russo-Japanese Convention of 1912, a secret document, was signed in St. Petersburg on June 25 (July 8) by S. D. Sazonov for Russia and I. Motono for Japan, with the objective of elaborating the Russo-Japanese agreements of 1907 and 1910. The revolution of 1911 in China and Outer Mongolia’s declaration of its independence from China strengthened Japan’s desire to include Inner Mongolia in its sphere of influence, because Japan feared that Outer Mongolia would annex Inner Mongolia.

In January 1912, Japan proposed the establishment of a new line dividing the Russian and Japanese spheres of influence along the Kalgan-Urga road. Russia rejected this proposal because Sino-Russian trade routes were included in the Japanese sphere. Ultimately, the Russian government’s proposal was accepted: the demarcation line in Manchuria would run from the intersection of the Tuolaho River with the meridian 122°E long, to the watershed between the Moushisha and Haldaitai rivers, and from there along the frontier between Heilungkiang Province and Inner Mongolia to the extreme point of the frontier between Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia. Inner Mongolia (art. 2) was divided along the Peking meridian into eastern (Japanese) and western (Russian) spheres of influence. The Convention of 1912 affirmed the obligation of each country not to violate the other’s special interests in its sphere of influence.

1916. The Treaty of 1916, signed in Petrograd on June 20 (July 3) by S. D. Sazonov for Russia and I. Motono for Japan, established a Russo-Japanese alliance and consisted of a public convention and a secret convention that was published only after the October Revolution of 1917. In the public convention each government promised not to participate in any political combinations directed against the other. In the event of a threat to their territorial rights or special interests in the Far East, Japan and Russia were to confer on joint defensive measures. The secret convention reaffirmed previous Russo-Japanese agreements and provided for communication regarding joint measures necessary to prevent a third power hostile to Japan or Russia from establishing political dominance in China. If these measures involved one of the parties in a war with the third power, the other party would provide assistance on the demand of its ally. Without the consent of its ally, neither side would make peace with the third power. However, the treaty stipulated that neither side was obliged to provide military assistance without having secured from its allies cooperation corresponding to the gravity of the impending conflict. (France was Russia’s ally, and Great Britain was Japan’s.) The agreement was concluded for five years.


Sobranie vazhneishikh traktatov i konventsii, zakliuchennykh Rossiei s inostrannymi derzhavami. Warsaw, 1906.
Sbornik dogovorov i diplomaticheskikh dokumentov po delam Dal’nego Vostoka, 1895–1905. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Grimm, E. D. Sbornik dogovorov i drugikh dokumentov po istorii mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenii na Dal’nem Vostoke (1842–1925). Moscow, 1927.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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