Russo-Japanese War

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Russo-Japanese War
Date 1904-1905
Location Manchuria, Yellow Sea
Result Japanese victory
Casus belli Desire for colonies, especially Manchuria
Image:Flag of Russia.svgImperial Russia Image:Flag of Japan - variant.svgEmpire of Japan
Nicholas II Mutsuhito
500,000 Soldiers 400,000 Soldiers
24,844 killed; 146,519 wounded; 59,218 POW 47,387 killed; 173,425 wounded.
Russo-Japanese War
1st Port ArthurChemulpo BayYalu RiverNanshanTelissuYellow SeaUlsan2nd Port ArthurMotien PassTashihchiaoHsimuchengLiaoyangShahoSandepuMukdenTsushima
Greater Manchuria, Russian (outer) Manchuria is region to upper right in lighter Red; Liaodong Peninsula is the wedge extending into the Yellow Sea

The Russo-Japanese War (19041905) was a conflict that grew out of the rival imperialist ambitions of Russia and Japan in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of the war were Port Arthur, the Liaodong Peninsula, and along the railway line from Port Arthur to Harbin. The Russians were in constant pursuit of a warm water port. The Japanese were driven to war through a geostrategic concern to secure their interior lines by stemming Russian interest in Korea.


[edit] Origins of the war

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, various Western countries were competing for influence, trade, and territory in East Asia while Japan strove to transform herself into a modern great power. Great power status at the time depended in part on access to colonies which could provide raw materials. Securing colonies in turn depended on naval power, which required bases for the increasingly large battleships of the era, and a chain of coal stations for warships to restock the fuel for their boilers.

The Japanese government recognized Korea as the lifeline of Japan, since Korea is geopolitically near to Japan. However, Korea was traditionally subordinated to China. At first, the Japanese government wished to part Korea from China, form Korea into an independent country, and then try to make an alliance with an independent Korea. This did not work, since China strongly stated its sovereignty over Korea.

This hotly disputed issue ignited several conflicts, which finally evolved into the Sino-Japanese War. Japan's subsequent defeat of China led to the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895), under which China abandoned its own suzerainty over Korea and ceded Taiwan and Lüshunkou (often called Port Arthur) to Japan. However, three Western powers (Russia, the German Empire and the French Third Republic), by the Triple Intervention of 23 April 1895 applied pressure on Japan to relinquish Port Arthur. The Russians later (in 1898) negotiated a 25-year lease of the naval base with China (Port Arthur was the warm-water port, as against all other Russian ports on the Pacific coast), and sent soldiers to occupy it. Meanwhile, Japanese forces were trying to take over Korea, which had a protection pact with Russia. Russian forces consequently occupied most of Manchuria and the northern parts of Korea.

Hirobumi Ito started to negotiate with Russia. He decided that Japan was too weak to evict Russia militarily, so he proposed giving Russia control over Manchuria in exchange for Japanese control of northern Korea. Instead, Japan and the United Kingdom made an alliance in 1902, the British aiming to prevent a southward Russian advance.

After failing to negotiate a favorable agreement with Russia, Japan sent an ultimatum on 31 December 1903 and severed diplomatic relations on 6 February 1904. Three hours prior to the ultimatum being received by the Russian Government, Japan attacked the Russian Navy at Port Arthur. Both sides issued a declaration of war on 10 February. Under international law, Japan's attack was not considered a surprise attack, because of the ultimatum. However, after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the 1904 attack on Port Arthur was frequently cited in retrospect to substantiate an alleged Japanese penchant for surprise attacks.

[edit] War

[edit] Campaign of 1904

Admiral Togo at the age of 58, at the time of the Russo-Japanese War.

Port Arthur, on the Liaodong Peninsula in the south of Manchuria, had been fortified into a major naval base by the Russians. Since it needed to control the sea in order to fight a war on the Asian mainland, Japan's first military objective was to neutralize the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. On the night of 8 February 1904, the Japanese fleet under Admiral Heihachiro Togo opened the war with a surprise torpedo attack on the Russian ships at Port Arthur and badly damaged two battleships. These attacks developed into the Battle of Port Arthur the next morning. A series of indecisive naval engagements followed, in which the Admiral Togo was unable to attack the Russian fleet successfully as it was protected by the land guns of the harbor and the Russians declined to leave the harbor for the open seas, especially after the death of Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov on 13 April.

However, these engagements provided cover for a Japanese landing near Incheon in Korea. From Incheon the Japanese occupied Seoul and then the rest of Korea. By the end of April, the Japanese army under Kuroki Itei was ready to cross the Yalu river into Russian-occupied Manchuria.

In counterpoint to the Japanese strategy of gaining rapid victories to control Manchuria, Russian strategy focused on fighting delaying actions to gain time for reinforcements to arrive via the long Trans-Siberian railway. On 1 May 1904, the Battle of the Yalu River, in which Japanese troops stormed a Russian position after an unopposed crossing of the river, was the first major land battle of the war. Japanese troops proceeded to land at several points on the Manchurian coast, and, in a series of engagements, drove the Russians back on Port Arthur. These battles, including the Battle of Nanshan on 25 May, were marked by heavy Japanese losses from attacking entrenched Russian positions, but the Russians remained passive and failed to counterattack.

At sea, the war was just as brutal. After the 8 February attack on Port Arthur, the Japanese attempted to deny the Russians use of the port. During the night of 13-14 February, the Japanese attempted to block the entrance to Port Arthur by sinking several cement-filled steamers in the deep water channel to the port, but they sank too deep to be effective. Another attempt to block the harbor entrance during the night of 3-4 May with blockships also failed. In March, the energetic Vice Admiral Makarov had taken command of the First Russian Pacific Squadron with the intention of breaking out of the Port Arthur blockade.

By then, both sides were engaged in a tactical offensive, laying mines in each other's ports. This was the first time that mines were used for offensive purposes; in the past, mines had been used for purely defensive purposes to protect harbors against potential invaders. The Japanese mine-laying policy proved effective at restricting the movement of Russian ships outside Port Arthur, when on 12 April 1904 two Russian battleships, the flagship Petropavlovsk and the Pobeda, struck Japanese mines off Port Arthur. The Petropavlosk sank within an hour, while the Pobeda had to be towed back to Port Arthur for extensive repairs. Admiral Makarov died on the Petropavlovsk by choosing to go down with his ship.

The Russians soon copied the Japanese policy of offensive minelaying. On 14 May 1904, two Japanese battleships, the Yashima and the Hatsuse, were lured into a recently laid Russian minefield off Port Arthur, each striking at least two mines. The Yashima sank within minutes, taking 450 sailors with her, while the Hatsuse sank under tow a few hours later. On 23 June, a breakout attempt by the Russian squadron, now under the command of Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft failed. By the end of the month, Japanese artillery were firing shells into the harbor.

Russian 500 pound shell bursting near the Japanese siege guns, near Port Arthur

Japan began a long siege of Port Arthur, which had been heavily fortified by the Russians. On 10 August 1904, the Russian fleet attempted to break out and proceed to Vladivostok, but they were intercepted and defeated at the Battle of the Yellow Sea. The remnants of the Russian fleet remained in Port Arthur, where they were eventually sunk by the artillery of the besieging army. Attempts to relieve the city by land also failed, and, after the Battle of Liaoyang in late August, the Russians retreated to Mukden (Shenyang). Port Arthur finally fell on 2 January 1905, after a series of brutal, high-casualty assaults.

[edit] Campaign of 1905

The Japanese army was now able to attack northward. To finish the war, Japan needed to crush the Russian army in Manchuria. The Battle of Mukden commenced at the end of February. Japanese forces progressed step by step and tried to encircle General Kuropatkin's headquarters at Mukden (Shenyang). Russian forces resisted, but on 10 March 1905 they decided to retreat. Having suffered massive casualties, the Japanese did not pursue the Russians. Because the possession of the city meant little strategically, a final victory would depend on the navy.

Mikasa, possibly the most powerful battleship of her time, was the Japanese flagship at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.

Meanwhile, at sea, the Russians were preparing to reinforce their fleet by sending the Baltic Sea fleet under Admiral Zinovi Petrovich Rozhdestvenski around the Cape of Good Hope to Asia. On 21 October 1904, while passing by the United Kingdom (an ally of Japan but neutral in this war), they nearly provoked a war in the Dogger Bank incident by firing on British fishing boats that they mistook for torpedo boats.

The long duration of its journey meant that Admiral Togo was well aware of the Baltic Fleet's progress, and he made plans to meet it before it could reach Vladivostok. He intercepted it in the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan, and in the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May28 May 1905, the Japanese fleet, numerically inferior but with superior speed and firing range, shelled the Russian fleet mercilessly, destroying all eight of its battleships.

[edit] Peace

Although Russia still had a larger army than Japan, these successive defeats had shaken Russian confidence. Throughout 1905, Russia was rocked by the Russian Revolution of 1905, which posed a severe threat to the stability of the government. Russia elected to negotiate peace rather than continue the war, so that it could concentrate on internal matters.

An offer of mediation by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for this effort) led to the Treaty of Portsmouth, signed in the U.S. Navy facility at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 5 September 1905. Russia ceded the southern half of Sakhalin Island to Japan. It was only regained by the USSR in 1952 under the Treaty of San Francisco following the Second World War. Russia also signed over its 25-year leasehold rights to Port Arthur, including the excellent naval base and the peninsula around it. Russia further agreed to evacuate Manchuria and recognize Korea as part of the Japanese sphere of influence. Japan would annex Korea in 1910 with scant protest from other powers.

This was the first major victory in the modern era of an Asian country over a Western one and a harbinger of a future series of events that would lead to decolonization. Japan's prestige rose greatly as it began to be considered a modern Great Power. Concurrently, Russia lost virtually its entire Eastern and Baltic fleets and slipped in international esteem. This was particularly true in the eyes of Germany. Russia was France's ally, and that loss of prestige would have a significant effect on German plans concerning a potential future war with France.

In the absence of Russian competition and with the distraction of European nations during World War I and the Great Depression, the Japanese military began the efforts to dominate China that would lead to the Pacific War of World War II.

In Russia, the defeat of 1905 led in the short term to a reform of the Russian military that would allow it to face Germany in World War I. However, the revolts at home following the war and military defeat presaged the Russian Revolution of 1917.

[All above dates are believed to be New-Style (Gregorian, not the Julian used in Tsarist Russia): for conformity, where there are two, use the one that reads 13 days "later" than the other.]

Interestingly, A lock of Nelson's hair was given to the Imperial Japanese Navy from the Royal Navy after the Russo-Japanese War to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Tsushima. It is still on display at Kyouiku Sankoukan, a public museum maintained by the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

[edit] Assessment of war results

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Image:Russian soldiers stand over trench of dead Japanese.jpg
Japanese soldiers' corpses in a trench, with Russian soldiers looking on.

The conflict ended in victory for Japan which won most battles of the war, and devastated Russia's deep water navy and several Russian armies. However, the feeling of triumph soured drastically in Japan, leading to widespread riots, when the terms of the peace treaty were announced. This was compounded by the military and economic exhaustion of both belligerents and the reluctant and distasteful (to the West) establishment of Japan as a major world power.

Popular discontent in Russia after the defeat led to the Russian Revolution of 1905, an event Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had hoped to stave off and avoid entirely by taking intransigent negotiating stances prior to coming to the table at all. The Russian position hardened further during the days immediately preceding and during the Peace Conference itself.

The war ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by the US in the person of Theodore Roosevelt who was awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize for Peace in 1908. However, there was "widespread riotous discontent" in Japan when the peace terms were announced because of the lack of territorial gains and especially at the lack of monetary indemnity (reparations to Japan). The peace accord led Japanese feelings of distrust toward all western nations. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Edmund Morris, most Japanese felt that the honest broker United States had misled them since indemnity was a precondition they had expected the US to support. Japan also expected that they would retain all of Sakhalin Island, but they had to settle for half of it after some Rooseveltian pressure. This outcome began to drive a wedge between Japan and the US and started a trend of repeated insults and disrespect that culminated in Japan's decision to go to war with the United States in 1941. Japan resented the settlement and felt like she had been treated like the defeated power.

Both Russia and Japan were all but bankrupt after the exhaustive war, and it is hard to fault Roosevelt for finessing the monetary and territorial demands when both parties had such diametrically conflicting expectations and preconditions. Since Roosevelt had also served as honest broker in getting both parties to the peace table, he might have been less cagey and lowered expectations during the preliminary diplomatic wrangling. However, it was a very bloody war foreshadowing World War I in many ways.

The defeat of Russia was met with shock both in the West and especially across Asia. That a non-Western country could defeat an established power in a large military conflict was inspiring to various anti-colonial independence movements around the world. The world’s major powers, in the fashion of the times, looking with racist or national condescension, failed to heed the lesson of how modern technology had transformed land warfare into a deadly morass. The major powers had also unanimously embraced naval improvement programs which had the cumulative effect of making future naval battles at short to moderate ranges, as had occurred in this war, nearly as deadly as charging a machine gun. Assimilating these lessons would be bought with blood and treasure only nine years later on the muddy fields of World War I.

In the war, the Japanese army treated Russian civilians and prisoners of war well (the same cannot be said of Korean and Chinese prisoners), without the brutality and atrocities that were widespread during World War II.

Japanese historians think this war was a turning point for Japan and a key to understanding why Japan failed militarily and politically later. The acrimony within Japanese society went to every class and level, and it became the consensus within Japan that they had been treated as the defeated power during the peace conference. This feeling built up by degrees with every perceived slight and condescending act by the Western powers toward Japan for the next few decades.

[edit] List of battles

[edit] The Russo-Japanese War in art and literature

Painting of Admiral Togo on the bridge of the Japanese battleship Mikasa, before the Battle of Tsushima in 1905
  • Russo-Japanese War was covered by dozens of foreign journalists who sent back sketches that were turned into lithographs and other reproducible forms. Propaganda images were circulated by both sides and quite a few photographs have been preserved.
  • The Russo-Japanese War is occasionally alluded to in James Joyce' novel, Ulysses. In the "Eumaeus" chapter, a drunken sailor in a bar proclaims, "But a day of reckoning, he stated crescendo with no uncertain voice-- thoroughly monopolizing all the conversation-- was in store for mighty England, despite her power of pelf on account of her crimes. There would be a fall and the greatest fall in history. The Germans and the Japs were going to have their little lookin, he affirmed." The prophecy of Japan's rise as a great land and maritime power vis-à-vis the empires of Europe (first Russia, then presumably England at a future point) is consistent with the novel's narrative of Western Civilization's exhaustion, decline and diminished potential.
  • Alexei Silych Novikov-Priboy, a sailor on the Russian battleship "Oryol", wrote an epic documental novel about the journey of the Russian Baltic fleet and battle of Tsushima. It was first published in 1930 in Soviet Union under the name "Tsusima".
  • Book by Constantine Pleshakov The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima, publisher "Basic Books" 2003. ISBN 0-465-05792-6
  • The Russo-Japanese War is the setting for the naval strategy computer game Distant Guns, developed by Storm Eagle Studios.

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

cs:Rusko-japonská válka de:Russisch-Japanischer Krieg es:Guerra Ruso-Japonesa fa:جنگ روسیه و ژاپن (۱۹۰۴ میلادی) fr:Guerre russo-japonaise ko:러일 전쟁 hr:Rusko-japanski rat id:Perang Rusia-Jepang it:Guerra russo-giapponese he:מלחמת רוסיה-יפן hu:Orosz–japán háború nl:Russisch-Japanse Oorlog ja:日露戦争 pl:Wojna rosyjsko-japońska pt:Guerra russo-japonesa ro:Războiul ruso-japonez ru:Русско-японская война fi:Venäjän–Japanin sota sv:Rysk-japanska kriget th:สงครามรัสเซีย-ญี่ปุ่น uk:Російсько-японська війна zh:日俄战争

Russo-Japanese War

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