Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881)

Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881)

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881) was the treaty between the Russian Empire and the Chinese Empire, signed in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 12 (24) February 1881. It provided for the return to China of the eastern part of the Ili Basin region, occupied by Russia in 1871 during the Muslim Rebellion.


In 1871, as the Chinese imperial authority in Xinjiang had collapsed due to the Muslim Rebellion, Russia occupied the Ili Basin region. Chinese authority in Xinjiang was reestablished by 1877.

In 1879, the Treaty of Livadia was proposed by the Russian court, that would have allowed Russia to retain a strong presence in the region. Qing court refused to sign the Treaty, and in 1880, sent to Russia its Ambassador in Great Britain and Paris, Minister Zeng Jize, renown as beacon of Chinese dyplomacy of the era, to negotiate for more favorable conditions.

The Russian side was represented by Nicholas de Giers, head of Asiatic Affairs department of Foreign Ministry (who later in 1882 ascended to the Minister's seat), and Eugene Bützow, Russia's Ambassador in China.


According to the treaty (Article 1), Russia agreed to return most of the occupied area to China. The Chinese government agreed (Article 2) to hold the residents of the area, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, harmless for their actions during the rebellion. The residents of the area would be allowed (Article 3) to stay or to move to Russian Empire; they would be asked about their choice before the withdrawal of the Russian troops.

Under Article 6 of the treaty, Chinese government would pay Russia 9,000,000 "metal rubles" ( _ru. металлических рублей; _fr. roubles métalliques; probably, silver roubles are meant) to serve as a payment for the occupation costs, compensation for the claims of Russian subjects who lost their property during the rebellion, and for material assistance to the families of Russian subjects killed during the rebellion.

Article 7 set the new international border in the Ili Valley. The area west of the border was retained by Russia "for the settlement of the region's residents who will choose to become Russian subjects and will have to leave the lands that they have owned" east of the new border.

The treaty also provided (Article 8) for minor adjustments of the border between the two countries in the area east of Lake Zaysan (where today East Kazakhstan Province borders on the northern part of Xinjiang's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture).

Article 10 of the treaty allowed Russia to expand its consular network in the northwestern parts of the Chinese Empire (Xinjiang, Gansu, and Outer Mongolia). Besides the consulates in Ili City (Kulja), Tarbagatai (Chuguchak, Tacheng), Kashgar and Urga (Ulan Bator) provided for in earlier treaties (see Treaty of Kulja, 1851), Russia would also open consulates in Suzhou (Jiuquan), and Turfan. In Kobdo (Khovd), Uliasutai (Uliastai), Hami (Kumul), Urumqi, and Gucheng (Qitai), Russia would be allowed to establish consulates later on, as demanded by the volume of trade.

Article 12 affirmed the right of duty-free trade for Russian traders in Mongolia and Xinjiang. The treaty also contained various provisions designed to facilitate activities of Russian merchants and to regulate bilateral trade. An appendix to the treaty specified the list of border crossings the two countries were to operate.


The Treaty of Saint Petersburg was perceived as a huge loss and step backward by many in Russia, as Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin and the military, as notable commander Aleksei Brusilov. [ [ РУССКО-КИТАЙСКИЕ ПЕРЕГОВОРЫ О ВОЗВРАЩЕНИИ КУЛЬДЖИ. ЛИВАДИЙСКИЙ (1879) и ПЕТЕРБУРГСКИЙ (1881) ДОГОВОРЫ] \ в кн. Моисеев В.А. Россия и Китай в Центральной Азии (вторая половина XIX в. - 1917 г.). - Барнаул: АзБука, 2003. - 346 с. ISBN 5-93957-025-9 стр 199]

Several thousands Dungan (Hui) and Taranchi (Uyghur) families made use of the treaty to move to Russian-controlled territory, i.e. to todays south-eastern Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan. While some of them soon returned to China, most stayed in Russian domains, and descendents of them have lived in Kazakhstan and Northern Kyrgyzstan ever since.

The border between the two empires set by Article 7 of the treaty remains the border between Kazakhstan and China until this day.


* Treaty text in Russian and French in: [ Sbornik deĭstvuiushchikh traktatov, konventsiĭ i soglasheniĭ, zakliuchenykh Rossiei s drugimi gosudarstvami] , (Collected treaties and conventions between Russia and other states), Russian Foreign Ministry, 1902, pp. 264-281 ru icon fr icon
* "Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier", by Sarah C. M. Paine (1996) ISBN 1563247232


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