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 Russia-Japanese War, (1904–05),

   A military conflict in which a small victorious Japan forced vast Russia to abandon its expansionist policy in East Asia, making it the first Asian to defeat a European power in modern times became power.

Russia-Japanese War, (1904–05),

Causes of the Russo-Japanese War

      By the early 17th century, Russia had established its authority over the whole of Siberia, but its attempts to advance south were continually blocked by China. Fully engaged against Western Europe and Turkey during the 18th century, Russia could not suppress its interests in East Asia. However, as the settlement of Siberia developed, it realized the need for an outlet to the sea, and, as China continued to deny it access to the Amur region, it did so during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825–55). Towards the end resorted to force.

     In the 1850s, Russian cities and settlements began to settle on the left bank of the Amur (Heilong) River. This was repeatedly opposed by the Chinese government, but was unable to resist Russian pressure, due to the ongoing conflict against Great Britain and France and the internal turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion. Finally, by the Treaty of Aigun (1858, ratified by the Beijing Convention, 1860), China ceded all the territories north of the Amur to Russia, as well as the sea area east of the Ussuri (Vasuli) River from the mouth of the Amur. Also, to the border of Korea, it included the spectacular site where Vladivostok was soon to be founded. Thus Russian expansionist policy now worried other European powers, and in 1861 Great Britain thwarted a Russian attempt to establish a naval base on Tsushima Island, located between Korea and Japan.

The reign of Emperor Alexander III (1881–94) saw a resurgence of interest in the development of the Asian parts of the Russian Empire. In 1891 Alexander sent his son on a much-publicized tour of East Asia to soon reign as Nicholas II, and work began on the Trans-Siberian Railway at this time. After the accession of Nicholas II in 1894, Russian expansionist policy became more active and clear. However, the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War of that year demonstrated that Japan was a new power in Asia.


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    Japan’s transformation from a separatist feudal state to a vigorous modern power began in 1868 with the demise of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Meiji Emperor. The reforms of that era were carried out at such a dramatic pace that within a quarter century Japan was ready to assert itself against China. Although the rulers of the Qing dynasty controlled a vast empire, China fought a losing battle against European encroachment in the late 19th century and entered, weakened by internal corruption.

Japan’s foreign policy

     In its foreign policy, Japan first aimed to expand its authority in Korea, a state over which China had long claimed hegemony. Its struggle with China for dominance in Korea led to several crises and, finally, in 1894, to war. Japan, with its modern army and navy, once won several spectacular victories against China, which in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (April 17, 1895) ceded the Kwantung (Liaodong) peninsula to Japan, on which Port Arthur (now Dalian). ) stands with Formosa (Taiwan) and Pescadores (Peng-Hu) islands, and agrees to pay heavy indemnity.

       This display of Japanese power and its decisive victory over China threatened to close the doors to Russia in East Asia, and made conflict between Russia and Japan inevitable. At the initiative of Nicholas II, Russia, Germany and France organized the so-called Triple Intervention, forcing Japan to give up its territorial gains in exchange for increased compensation.

      Nicholas, directed by Sergei Yulievich, his Minister of Communications and Finance, Count Witte, immediately obtained loans to China, enabling him to pay large indemnities to Japan. In 1896 Russia allied with China against Japan, guaranteeing the integrity of Chinese territory. Under the terms of this alliance, Russia also obtained the right to lay the eastern section of the Trans-Siberian Railway in Manchuria from Harbin to Vladivostok, to extend a branch line from Harbin to Mukden (now Shenyang) and Dalian, and A strip of territory on either side of the railway is administered and patrolled by Russian troops.

      French claims on Weihai and Quangzhou (now Guangzhou) were sought by the British after the annexation of Chinese territory by Germany and Russia. The response to the continued erosion of Chinese sovereignty was the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1900), an officially sanctioned peasant revolt against foreigners. Japan and European powers intervened to quell the rebellion, and Russia used the rebellion as the pretext of moving troops to Manchuria. From there he planned to invade Korea, whose independence had been “guaranteed” by Japan since the Treaty of Shimonoseki.


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     As Japan prepared to assert its power in East Asia, it built a modern and efficient army and navy. As a result of its enlistment law of 1896, by January 1904 its frontline army had 270,000 highly trained soldiers. Although it had only some 200,000 men in its reserves, Japan had a distinct advantage over Russia in East Asia. Russia had only 80,000 troops in the area, including all patrols on the Manchurian Railway and smaller troops at Port Arthur and Vladivostok. At the other end of the Trans-Siberian Railway, however, it had almost overwhelming manpower available, as the peacetime strength of the Russian Army was about 1,000,000 men. Of course, the Japanese gave no thought to attacking Russia, but were solely concerned with securing an early and decisive victory that would securely establish their hegemony in East Asia. In this tactic, they were relying on the Trans-Siberian Railway to prove inadequate for the task of bringing Russian reinforcements in time, and their miscalculation at this stage would have drawn them into disaster. 

Russian policy in East Asia

       The Russian government was confused and unrealistic in its policy leading to war with Japan and, in fact, in the conduct of the war itself. This fact, along with the ineffective leadership of his troops, was responsible for his defeat more than any other factor. General Alexei Kuropatkin, the war minister of Nicholas II, watched with concern the development of the Japanese armed force. Realizing that Japan had gained prominence in East Asia, in the summer of 1903 he recommended that Russia abandon its projects in Manchuria and restore Port Arthur to China in exchange for concessions in the Vladivostok area. . His proposals were accepted, but extremists at the imperial court and powerful business interests behind the Russian expansionist movement in East Asia quashed Kuropatkin’s policy. Meanwhile, nothing was done to strengthen the Russian army, and the Russian government ignored Japan’s preparedness and clear intentions.

 Outbreak of war 1904

     On the night of February 8-9, 1904, without a declaration of war, the main Japanese fleet, under the command of Adam Togo Heihachiro, harbors Port Arthur. The Russian squadron was taken by surprise in 1830, inflicting serious damage and a blockade. Adam Yevgeny Alekseev was the viceroy and commander in chief of the Russian army in East Asia. Alekseev, though a favorite of the emperor, had questionable judgment, and gave a demoralizing order that the navy should not risk advancing at sea.

     When Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov, a brave and capable officer, took command of the navy, he daily took his ships to sea and seriously troubled the Japanese fleet. Unfortunately for the Russian military effort, Makarov was killed on April 13, barely two months into the battle, when his flagship Petropavlovsk struck a mine and sank. The Russian squadron was then held in port for months, while the Japanese fleet did not challenge Port Arthur. Thus, the Japanese fleet, although equal in strength to the Russian Far Eastern Fleet, kept the enemy fleet divided and confined at Port Arthur and Vladivostok.


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     Without waiting to gain command of the sea, the Japanese began to move their First Army (led by General Tamemoto Kuroki) across the sea to Korea in March, landing it at Inch’eon, not far from Seoul, And in the namp ‘o, in the north. The mud of the spring made the roads almost impassable, and it took several days for the Japanese forces to come to position in front of the city of Oju (now Sinoiju) on the Yalu River. On 1 May the Japanese attacked and after a hard fight defeated the Russians. Japanese losses were about 1,100 men remaining out of an army of 40,000, while Russian losses were 2,500 out of a force of 7,000 men engaged in the action. This was a victory of tremendous importance, because, although a systematic retreat by a large number of Russians, it was Japan’s first victorious battle against a Western country.

Russia’s strategy

    A public outcry against Alekseev as commander in chief forced Nicholas to send Kuropatkin to take command, although Alekseev remained as viceroy. Kuropatkin had proved to be a capable minister of war, but as a commander in the field showed himself to be tragically adamant and passive. Their policy was to avoid action as far as possible, unless they had significant superiority in numbers. He positioned his forces so that they could delay the enemy and then retired to ready positions in the rear.

   During May the Japanese Second Army, under General Yasukata Oku, landed on the Kwantung Peninsula. On 26 May, this force outnumbered the Russians by 10 to 1, winning the Battle of Nanshan, cutting off the Port Arthur garrison from Russia’s main forces in Manchuria. Two more Japanese divisions landed on the East Korean coast to form the Third Army under General Nogi Maresuke, which was to operate against Port Arthur. Another division, to form the nucleus of the Fourth Army under General Michitsura Nodzu, had landed on the Manchurian coast.

Kuropatkin was upset by this concentration of the enemy. He ordered Mukden to prepare a stronghold to which he could retreat, but this time he received an order, signed by the emperor himself, which impressed upon him that the fate of Port Arthur was his direct responsibility. So Kuropatkin settled his main army south of Mukden around Liaoyang. But on June 14 at Fu-hsien (now Wafangdian), the Japanese decisively defeated the 25,000-strong Russian army, with 35,000 men. The Japanese then advanced in three columns on Liaoyang, where the main Russian army under Kuropatkin retired and took strong positions.

Even an unexpected lay-off of the Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur, which paralyzed the Japanese land offensive for a time, and then the sudden appearance of the Russian Vladivostok squadron in the Strait of Tsushima, raised the concerns of the Japanese high command. increased, did not encourage the Russian command to adopt a more aggressive strategy. Kuropatkin engaged Kuroki’s First Army in late July, after which Kuropatkin fell back on Liaoyang and remained on the defensive, although he had plenty of opportunities to attack the advancing enemy columns.

Engaged in the Battle of Liaoyang on 25 August, and after nine days of stubborn fighting, the Japanese scored a significant victory despite the low numbers: 130,000 against 180,000 Russians. Nevertheless, his loss of some 23,000 men caused him serious difficulties, as he had limited trained reserves. Meanwhile, the Russians had withdrawn in good order towards Mukden, where they were now receiving reinforcements via the Trans-Siberian Railway at the rate of 30,000 men per month.

Realizing that the Japanese were nearing the end of their resources while the Russian army was gaining strength, Kuropatkin now resolved to go on the offensive. Despite this new, more assertive strategy, Kuropatkin made careful preparations to capture Mukden, which was of particular political importance as the capital of Manchuria. The first battle as a result of Kuropatkin’s invasion was fought on the Shaho River (October 5–17, 1904), and the subsequent battle took place at Sandepu (January 26–27, 1905). Both could have been decisive victories for Russia if Kuropatkin and his superiors were more determined and aggressive, but in this event, both battles proved inconclusive.


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Capture of Port Arthur

    Meanwhile, the Japanese at Port Arthur found the Russian garrison stronger than they expected. The Russian defenders did much to strengthen their positions with breastwork and barbed wire, and they had several machine guns. After several very costly attempts to capture the fort, the Japanese abandoned the usual attacks and resorted to siege tactics. The drag of these operations upset the Japanese command, as it not only tied up their Third Army, which they urgently needed in the main theater of the war, but it also demoralized their troops in Manchuria. The news of the Russian Baltic Fleet sailing for East Asia caused the Japanese to double their efforts to take Port Arthur. The Russian machine guns took a beating on the Japanese attackers, who once again inflicted heavy casualties as a result of the stormy tactics. The observers of the armies of Western Europe and the United States engaged with both the Japanese and Russian, and the effect of machine-gun fire on the massive infantry attacks was horrifyingly evident to all. However, Port Arthur’s lessons would be largely ignored by European commanders, who would repeat the same bayonet tactics on the Western Front during World War I.


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 Battle of Mukden

      The last and largest land battle of the war was fought for Mukden (February 19–March 10, 1905). Again Kuropatkin decided to attack, but this time the Japanese stopped him. Three Russian armies faced the Japanese—from right to left, the Second (under General Alexander von Kaulbers), the Third (under General Alexander Bilderling), and the First (under General Nikolai Linevich)—with 330,000 men and 1,475 guns. all in. This force acted firmly against three Japanese forces under the command of Marshal Iwao Oyama, who had 270,000 men and 1,062 guns. After long and stubborn fighting and heavy casualties, Kuropatkin decided to pull his troops north, a movement he successfully carried out, but which left Mukden to fall into the hands of the Japanese. Losses in this battle were exceptionally heavy, with approximately 89,000 Russians and 71,000 Japanese falling. Japan was now exhausted and could not hope to bring the land war to a successful conclusion. Its deliverance would be accompanied by increasing internal unrest across Russia, as well as a surprise naval victory at Tsushima.

Battle of Tsushima

    The Japanese were unable to gain full command of the sea on which their campaign depended. Russian squadrons flew at Port Arthur and Vladivostok, and both sides suffered losses in engagements. Meanwhile, it was decided to send the Baltic Fleet to East Asia under the command of Admin Zinovy ​​Petrovich Rozhestvensky in Saint Petersburg, as it was assumed that once the Russians gained command of the sea, the Japanese campaign would collapse. .

     The Baltic Fleet spent the entire summer of 1904 preparing to set sail, and it departed Liebava (now Liepaja, Latvia) on 15 October 1904. On 21 October, off Dogger Bank, several Russian ships opened fire on British civilian trawlers. There is a misconception that they were Japanese torpedo boats. This incident infuriated the British to such an extent that the war between Britain and Russia could only be avoided with an immediate apology and the promise of full compensation made by the Russian government. In Nosy-Bay near Madagascar, Rozhestvensky learned of the surrender of Port Arthur and offered to return to Russia. However, by early March 1905 naval reinforcements were already on their way from the Baltic to Suez, and they decided to advance.

   Rozhestvensky connected with these reinforcements at Cam Ranh Bay (now in Vietnam), and his entire fleet appears to be a formidable armada. In reality, however, many of the ships were old and unusable. In early May the fleet reached the China Sea, and Rozhestvensky made it to Vladivostok via the Tsushima Strait. Togo lay for her on the South Korean coast near Pusan ​​(Busan), and on 27 May, as the Russian fleet approached, she attacked. The Japanese ships were superior in speed and armament, and, during the Two-Day War, two-thirds of the Russian fleet sank, six ships were captured, four reached Vladivostok, and six took refuge in neutral ports. It was a dramatic and decisive defeat; After seven months of traveling within a few hundred miles of its destination, the Baltic Fleet was shattered. This shattered Russia’s hopes of retaking the sea.
Treaty of Portsmouth – August 9–September 5, 1905

The disastrous course of the war for Russia had severely aggravated the unrest within the country, and following the surrender of Port Arthur, the defeat of Mukden and the disastrous defeat at Tsushima, the emperor accepted the US President’s proposed mediation. . Theodore Roosevelt. However, it was the Japanese government that took the initiative in proposing peace talks. Financially exhausted and fearing a long, drawn out war away from their bases, the Japanese hoped that intense unrest in Russia would force the government to discuss terms, and their hopes proved reasonable.

Roosevelt served as a mediator at the peace conference in Kittry, Maine, U.S. It was held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the U.S. (August 9–September 5, 1905). In the resulting As a result of the Treaty of Portsmouth, Japan received a vast territory, including the Liaodong Peninsula (Port Arthur) plus seven of the South Manchurian Railway, as well as the island of Sakhalin. Russia agreed to withdraw its control from South Manchurian and accepted Japan’s control over Korea. Roosevelt also received the Novell Peace Prize for his decisive role in ending the conflict..



 Results of war

    The Treaty of Portsmouth put an end to Russia’s plans to expand the borders of Asia. At the same time, he had to face the humiliation of defeat at the hands of a small Asian country. This defeat created an atmosphere in Russia against Nicholas II.. Within two months the revolution of 1905 forced Nicholas II to issue the October Manifesto, which changed Russia from unlimited autocracy to constitutional monarchy. The defeat of Russia had a profound effect on the whole of Asia and Europe. Russia nevertheless remained an Asian power, having a railway from Siberia and northern Manchuria to Vladivostok and closely connected with China.

   Japan, for its part, formally abdicated its hold on Korea by forcing Kjong, the last emperor of the Chosan (Yi) dynasty, to abdicate in 1907. The Korean language and culture were violently suppressed, and Japan formally annexed Korea in 1910. Japanese militarists found that their domestic political power had increased significantly, and, by the outbreak of World War I, Japan was in a position to treat its European allies as fully equal partners. While the Japanese contribution to the war in Europe was negligible, Japanese troops were quick to capture German colonial possessions in East Asia. World War I shattered the great powers of Europe, but it cemented Japan’s position as the strongest military and imperialist power in East Asia.



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