Muscovite and Mandarin: Russia's Trade with China and Its Setting, 1727-1805

Muscovite and Mandarin: Russia's Trade with China and Its Setting, 1727-1805

Muscovite and Mandarin: Russia's Trade with China and Its Setting, 1727-1805

Muscovite and Mandarin: Russia's Trade with China and Its Setting, 1727-1805

Excerpt

This study was begun as a general investigation of Russian relations with China in the final three-quarters of the eighteenth century. In the beginning I intended to inquire into the entire spectrum of events and episodes in that intercourse, including diplomatic, commercial, and cultural matters. Chinese actions and reactions were to be treated equally with Russian ones; the aim was to construct an historical "synthesis" of these differing societies encountering one another. This original aim was eroded in the very process of historical investigation. Another set of objectives almost completely replaced those I began with.

What came to seem important to me was not so much the encounter itself of these two societies and their governmental and commercial representatives, although that encounter does have a fascinating and at times exciting history, but the historical dynamics of one or the other of these parties to a meeting of East and West. To try to make complete sense of both parties and to describe both meaningfully would likely prove to be unsatisfying at best and unimportant at worst. I determined to focus primarily on Russia, Russian acts and decisions, Russian motivations, and Russian dynamics of expansion.

The primary emphasis on Russian commercial relations with the Chinese also emerged only in the process of research and writing. I am now convinced that, in these early years of Russian interaction with the Chinese, trade was the dominant goal of most Russians, both state and private persons. For most Russians all else was subordinate. Yet the commerce that grew in the eighteenth century was intimately affected by a variety of factors and matters of noneconomic character. Decisions made in St. Petersburg and the accommodations agreed upon by Russian and Chinese diplomats and courts not only affected, but at times dictated, the circumstances, condition, and size of trade. Such things as the location of the borders, the control of runaways and deserters across established frontiers, the residence of Russian priests and students in Peking, and the forms of diplomatic correspondence, all at one time or another disturbed the relations between Russia and China, and as a consequence impinged on trade. Sometimes the impact was so great that trade was cut off for years. Were these noncom-

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