Karakhan Declaration

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In the Karakhan Manifesto of 1919, the Soviet government offered to annul the unequal treaties imposed on China by Imperial Russia. The declaration, signed by Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs Lev M. Karakhan, included rights of extraterritoriality for Russians in China, economic concessions, and Russia's share of the Boxer rebellion indemnity. Though dated July 25, 1919, it was not actually published for another month. Civil war prevented its delivery to China, but the Beijing authorities soon learned its substance.

Controversy arose because the document was prepared in two versions. One variant contained the statement that "the Soviet Government returns to the Chinese people, without any compensation, the Chinese Eastern Railway [CER] ." The versionpublished in Moscow in August 1919 did not include this provision, but the copy that was delivered to Chinese diplomats in February 1920 did incorporate the offer to return the CER. However, a Soviet proposal on September 27, 1920, for a Sino-Russian agreement made no mention of returning the Chinese Eastern Railway, but requested a new agreement for its joint administration by the two nations. All subsequent Soviet reprintings of the Karakhan Manifesto omit the offer to return the CER, while a Chinese reprinting of the document in 1924 included the offer. The existence of two versions manifests the ambiguity in Soviet policy toward the Far East in 1919 and 1920, arising from the unpredictable course of the civil war and foreign intervention. Thereafter, the consolidation of Bolshevik power in Siberia, combined with continuing instability in China, led Moscow to seek some degree of control over the economically and strategically important CER.

See also: china, relations with; civil war of 19171922; railways


Degras, Jane, ed. (1951). Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, Vol. 1: 19171924. London: Oxford University Press.

Leong, Sow-theng. (1976). Sino-Soviet Diplomatic Relations, 19171926. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.

Teddy J. Uldricks