NERTCHINSK, a district town of eastern Siberia, situated in the government of Transbaikalia, 178 miles to the east of Tchita, on the left bank of the Nertcha, 3 miles from its junction with the Shilka. It is badly built of wood, and its lower part frequently suffers from inundations. The 4000 inhabitants support themselves mainly by agriculture, tobacco-growing, and cattle breeding ; a few merchants also carry on an active trade in furs and cattle, in brick-tea from China, and manufactured wares from Russia, - Nertchinsk being the trading centre for all that part of Dahouria which is situated on the eastern slope of the Stanovoy ridge.
The fort of Nertehinsk dates from 1654, and the town was founded in 1658 by Pashkoff, 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. The mutual help thus given proved, however, insufficient, and two years after the fall of Albazin - the chief Russian fort on the Amur - thc Russian envoy Golovin, meeting at Nertchinsk the Chinese envoys, who were supported by a strong military force encamped on the banks of the Shilka, signed in 1689 the well-known "treaty of Nertchiusk," which stopped for two centuries the further advance of Russians into the basin of the Amur. Nertchinsk, which in the following year received municipal institutions and was more strongly fortified, soon became the chief centre for the trade with China. The opening of the western route through Mongolia, by Ur a, and the establishment of a custom-house at Kiaehta in 1728, diverted this trade into a new channel ; so that towards the end of the 18th century Nertchinsk lost its commercial importance ; but it acquired a new consequence from the influx of immigrants, mostly exiles, into eastern Transbaikalia, the discovery of rich mines, and the arrival of great numbers of convicts. It ultimately became the chief town of Transbaikalia, and in 1812 was transferred from the banks of the Shilka to its present site, on account of the floods. After the foundation, in 1851, of Tellita, the present capital of Transbaikalia, it was reduced to the rank of a district town, and is now rapidly falling into decay.