Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier

Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier

Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier

Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and Their Disputed Frontier


Based on archival research, this is a history of the Russo-Chinese border which examines Russia's expansion into the Asian heartland during the decades of Chinese decline and the 20th-century paradox of Russia's inability to sustain political and economic sway over its domains.


As far as we were concerned, we weren't responsible for what our tsars had done, but the lands gained from those tsarist treaties were now Soviet territory. We weren't the only socialist country which had to administer and defend the territory inherited from a pre-Revolutionary regime.

We were afraid that if we started remapping our frontiers according to historical considerations, the situation would get out of hand and lead to conflict. Besides, a true Communist and internationalist wouldn't assign any particular importance to the question of borders, especially borders between fellow socialist states.

Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev

There are too many places occupied by the Soviet Union. . . . The Russians took everything they could. Some people have declared that the Sinkiang area and the territories north of the Amur River must be included in the Soviet Union. . . .

The Soviet Union has an area of 22 million square kilometers and its population is only 220 million. It is about time to put an end to this allotment. . . . About a hundred years ago, the area to the east of [Lake] Baikal became Russian territory, and since then Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Kamchatka, and other areas have been Soviet territory. We have not yet presented our account for this list.

Mao Tse-tung

At the end of the twentieth century, the Sino-Soviet boundary was the longest militarized border in the world and territorial disputes had dominated the last century and a half of Russo-Chinese relations. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, the Russo-Chinese frontier was a backwater for both empires. At that time neither country had more than a very vague idea about the basic geography of these areas. How the Russo-Chinese frontier evolved from being a remote periphery to a central concern for both countries is the subject of this work.

The importance of the boundary issue transcends territorial matters. Internationally, the evolving boundary line was the East Asian reflection of the new European balance of power caused by the Industrial Revolution. Regionally, the disposition of the border determined the geopolitical configuration in the Far East. Bilaterally, it constituted the overriding issue forever plaguing Russo- Chinese relations. Domestically, the maintenance of empire--the factor which first pitted Russia against China--conferred the status of a great power so crucial to the continuing legitimacy of the ruling houses of both Russia and China.

Each of these facets of Russo-Chinese relations will be discussed at length in this chapter and throughout this work. Simultaneously, there will be a careful . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.