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• The Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) 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

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 close
to Japan. Also, in 13th century, Japan was attacked by the Yuan dynasty of Mongolia which passed
through the Korean peninsula. 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. However, this did not work since China strongly stated
their sovereignty over Korea.

There were 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 to 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, 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 to exchange Manchuria and Korea. He knew Japan wasn't
powerful enough to fight Russia, so he thought if Japan accepted Russian control over Manchuria, then,
Japan could keep Korea through negotiations with Russia. However, Japan and the U.K made an
alliance in 1902 since the U.K didn't wish Russia to advance southwards. Therefore, Ito couldn't get
much support for his plan.

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 to substantiate an alleged Japanese penchant for
surprise attacks.


Campaign of 1904

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

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 15 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.

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

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.
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 them in the Tsushima
Strait between Korea and Japan, and in the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May–28 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.



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.

Assessment of war results

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.

It should be noted, however, that the first naval battle of this war (and possibly the war itself) does not
accurately reflect the military prowess of either Russia or Japan. With European nations, it had been
customary for opponents to declare an intention of hostility before opening battle. However, in the first
naval battle, the Japanese, either ignorant or possibly exploitative of this custom of battle, had given the
Russians no foreword before opening fire on a surprised Russian navy.[1] Had this battle been fought
under more equal circumstances, its victor might have well been the Russians. Although the Japanese
had consistently defeated Russian forces throughout the war and not just in the first battle, this string of
defeats for the Russians might be attributed in no little part to the heavy loss of morale incurred from
the first battle. Russia also faced problems from within its Empire as its internal social tensions and
internal unrest were growing. Particularly in Poland, which Russia partitioned in the late 18th century,
and where Russian rule, especially the Russification policies, already caused two major uprisings, the
population expressed joy at the troubles faced by Russia and the political leaders of Polish insurrection
movement sent emissaries to Japan to collaborate on sabotage and intelligence gathering within the
Russian Empire.[2][3],[4].

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.