St. Petersburg, Treaty of

St. Petersburg, Treaty of
   A temporary compromise over Russo-Japanese rivalry in the Western Pacific. Signed on May 7, 1875, between foreign minister Aleksandr Mikhailovich Gorchakov of Russia and Admiral Enomoto Buyo of Japan, it gave Russia sovereignty over Sakhalin in return for Japanese sovereignty over the central and northern Kurile Islands. Supplementary articles signed in Tokyo on August 22 allowed for the Japanese still living on Sakhalin to retain their nationality, continue in their business and industrial enterprises, chiefly fishing, and exemption for life from all taxes and duties. Sakhalin’s Ainu population, however, were forced to declare themselves subjects of either the Russian or Japanese emperor; in the latter case they were to be transferred to Hokkaido. Approximately 800 were transported after the island’s formal transfer in September.
   Japan’s decision to renounce its claims to land it had discovered and sparsely settled long before the Russians arrived was based on recognition of the Russian Empire’s preponderant strength at the time. Since the 1850s, Russia had been populating the island with a mix of soldiers and convicts, and had established several major settlements and a coal-mining industry. By 1875, plans were in place for a full-scale penal colony, and Sakhalin’s Slavic population already outnumbered the small cohort of Japanese fishermen living there. Thus Tokyo faced something of a fait accompli. Japanese officials had nevertheless turned attention to colonizing Korea and Formosa instead of the climatically less hospitable island. By signing the treaty, Japan avoided a diplomatic and possible military standoff with Russia and gained several decades of peace with which to increase its military and economic strength. The fledgling empire was therefore well placed to defeat Russia during the 1904–1905 war, invading Sakhalin in June 1905. Japan subsequently annexed the southern half of the island, which it retained until the end of World War II.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Stephan, John J. Sakhalin: A History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971;
    Stephan, John J. The Russian Far East: A History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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