St. Petersburg Treaty of 1881

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

St. Petersburg Treaty of 1881


between Russia and China, concerning the Ili region and trade in Mongolia and western China, signed on February 12 (24) in St. Petersburg by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs N. K. Girs and the Russian envoy to Peking E. K. Biutsov for Russia and by the special plenipotentiary of the Ch’ing government Tseng Chi-tseng for China.

An abrupt worsening of Russo-Chinese relations was brought about by the refusal of the Ch’ing government to ratify the Treaty of Livadia of 1879, which provided for the return to China of the Ili region (occupied by Russian troops in 1871) but which did not include the T’ek’ossu (Tekes) River valley and the Muchaerht’e Pass. Relying on the support of Great Britain, the Ch’ing authorities openly prepared for war against Russia. In response, the tsarist government undertook a number of measures to increase its military forces along the Russian-Chinese frontier and in Far Eastern waters. However, the mutual interests of the Chinese and Russian governments in securing a peaceful resolution of the Ili question created favorable conditions for new Russo-Chinese negotiations. In late 1880 they were begun in St. Petersburg.

The treaty provided for the return by Russia of the Ili region together with the Muchaerht’e Pass and the T’ek’ossu River valley. Only the small western part of the territory was retained by Russia (art. 1), to be settled by inhabitants of the region who had fled from the Ch’ing troops into Russian lands and had become Russian subjects (art. 7). Provision was also made for a change to Russia’s advantage of the frontier in the region of Lake Zaisan and the Chernyi Irtysh River (art. 8). Upon the insistence of the Russian government, the Ch’ing authorities pledged to adopt “appropriate measures” to protect the inhabitants of the Ili region who had participated in an uprising in western China from “personal or property liability” (art. 2). The population of the region was granted the right “to remain in their present places of residence..., as Chinese subjects, or to resettle within the boundaries of Russia and become Russian subjects” (art. 3).

The Ch’ing government pledged to pay Russia 9 million rubles “to cover expenses generated by the Russian troops’ occupation of the Ili region” and for payment of claims made by Russian subjects (art. 6). Russia was granted the right to establish additional consulates in Suchou (present-day Chiuch’üan) and T’ulufan (art. 10). The right of Russian merchants to carry on trade without paying customs duties in Mongolia was now extended to the Tien Shan area as well (art. 12).

The treaty defined in detail the disposition of matters affecting the border between Russia and China. After the signing of the treaty, approximately 70,000 persons moved to Russia to become Russian subjects, including Uighur, Dungans, and Kazakhs. They were resettled along the border zone and in the interior of southern Kazakhstan.


Russko-kitaiskie otnosheniia 1689–1916: Ofitsial’nye dokumenty. Moscow, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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