NERCHINSK, a town of Eastern Siberia, in the government of Transbaikalia, 183 m. by rail E. of Chita, on the left bank of the Nercha, 22 m. above its confluence with the Shilka. Pop. (1897) 6713. is badly built of wood, and its lower parts frequently suffer from inundations. It has a small museum. The inhabitants support themselves mainly by agriculture, tobacco-growing and cattle-breeding; a few merchants trade in furs and cattle, in brick-tea from China, and manufactured wares from Russia.
The fort of Nerchinsk dates from 1654, and the town was founded in 1658 by Pashkov, who in that year opened direct communication between the Russian settlements in Transbaikalia and those on the Amur which had been founded by Cossacks and fur-traders coming from the Yakutsk region. In 1689 was signed between Russia and China the treaty of Nerchinsk, which stopped for two centuries the farther advance of the Russians into the basin of the Amur. After that Nerchinsk became the chief centre for the trade with China. The opening of the western route through Mongolia, by Urga, and the establishment of a custom-house at Kiakhta in 1728 diverted this trade into a new channel. But Nerchinsk acquired fresh importance from the influx of immigrants, mostly exiles, into eastern Transbaikalia, the discovery of rich mines and the arrival of great numbers of convicts, and ultimately it became the chief town of Transbaikalia. In 1812 it was transferred from the banks of the Shilka to its present site, on account of the floods. Since the foundation, in 1851, of Chita, the present capital of Transbaikalia, Nerchinsk has been falling into decay.
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