Nerchinsk (Russian: Не́рчинск) is a town and the administrative center of Nerchinsky District of Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia, located 644 kilometers (400 mi) east of Lake Baikal, 305 kilometers (190 mi) east of Chita, and about 225 kilometers (140 mi) west of the Chinese border on the left bank of the Nercha River, 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) above its confluence with the Shilka River, which flows into the Amur. Population: 14,959 (2010 Census); 15,748 (2002 Census); 16,961 (1989 Census); 6,713 (1897).
The fort of Nerchinsk dates from 1654 and the town was founded four years later by Afanasy Pashkov, who in that year opened direct communication between the Russian settlements in Transbaikalia and those on the Amur River which had been founded by Cossacks and fur-traders coming from the Yakutsk region. In 1689, the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed between Russia and China, which stopped the farther advance of the Russians into the basin of the Amur for two centuries. See Russian-Manchu border conflicts.
After that, Nerchinsk became the chief center for the trade with China. The opening of the western route through Mongolia, by Urga, and the establishment of a custom-house at Kyakhta in 1728 diverted this trade into a new channel. But Nerchinsk acquired fresh importance from the influx of immigrants, mostly exiles, into eastern Dauria, the discovery of rich mines and the arrival of great numbers of convicts to the Nerchinsk katorga, and ultimately it became the chief town of Transbaikalia.
Nerchinsk was visited by the famous English adventurer and engineer Samuel Bentham in 1782. Bentham had seen a potential for Nerchinsk as a base for an access to the Sea of Okhotsk, provided the navigation of the Amur River would be authorized by the Chinese. It would have opened up the possibility of fur trade with the Pacific Ocean, as far as the Chinese port of Canton.
In 1812 Nerchinsk was transferred from the banks of the Shilka to its present site, on account of the floods. The town relinquished its supremacy to Chita in the late 19th century, when it was bypassed by the Trans-Siberian Railway.