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Conflicting Loyalties: Fugitives and “Traitors” in the Russo-Manchurian Frontier, 1651-1689

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

For many contemporary historians, the 1689 Treaty of Nerchinsk was not only the first diplomatic treaty between China and a European power, but also an example of a peaceful boundary settlement, which ended the protracted conflict between the two expanding empires. Yet despite modern emphasis on territorial demarcation, clarity of border signs hardly dominated this seventeenth century conflict in the Far East. In fact, careful examination of the published Russian archival record of Muscovite-Qing diplomatic correspondence reveals that competition for tributary allegiances of indigenous and settler populations proved to be a much greater source of tension between the two empires. Ultimately, the mercurial loyalties of local Tungus and Mongol tribes as well the cross-nation desertions of Cossacks, military commanders and Ming loyalists drove both Qing and Muscovite officials to stabilize their shared frontiers through negotiation.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University


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