The Russo-Japanese War of 1904/05

A.) Pre-History

Japan early in the MEIJI PERIOD (since 1868) decided on a policy of expansion, and as a major object of that policy KOREA was chosen, in words of Japanese imperialist politicians "a dagger on the map, pointed at Japan". In the SINO-JAPANESE WAR of 1894-1895, China was eliminated as a competitor and Japan already believed to dominate Korea (which proclaimed full independence from China in 1897). Yet Korea found a new protector in Russia.
The USA (1898) and Britain (1902), in secret agreements, accepted Japan's claim to Korea; the ANGLO-JAPANESE ALLIANCE of 1902 was directed against Russia, which Britain regarded its greatest potential rival on the world's oceans. The British therefore aided Japan in developing her navy.

B.) The War

On February 8th 1904, the Japanese Navy blocked the harbour of Port Arthur, preventing Russia's fleet to sail out. On February 10th war was declared, and the Japanese quickly gained the upper hand in Korea, the theatre of war moving into southern Manchuria.
Russia, surprised by the action, ordered it's fleet stationed partially at LIBAU in the Baltic Sea, partially at ODESSA in the Black Sea, to circumnavigate the globe, destiny Japan. Meanwhile the Japanese took MUKDEN in March 1905. The Russian fleet, having to take the long route around Africa because it was denied passage through the Suez Canal, arrived in 1905 only to be destroyed by the Japanese fleet under ADMIRAL TOGO in the BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA.

C.) The Peace Settlement

Russia now acknowledged defeat, and, in the PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH, ceded the KURIL ISLANDS, the southern half of Sakhalin (KARAFUTO), PORT ARTHUR and int's sphere of influence over Southern Manchuria to Japan. Not to be mentioned, with Russia the last non-Japanese foreign power with interest in Korea was eliminated.

D.) The Russo-Japanese War and International Opinion

France, allied with Russia since 1894, stood loyal to the Russian cause. French media stressed the heroism and valiance displayed by Russia's army and navy.
Japan denying Russia it's only ice-free ocean port fitted well into British policy. Britain denied the Russian fleet passage through the SUEZ CANAL, a decision which considerably delayed the arrival of Russia's fleet on the scene. British authors praised Japanese heroism, for instance during the siege of Port Arthur.
Germany and the United States observed the War without taking sides.

Little note was taken, especially by the British, that Japan had opened hostilities before declaring the war. Little note was taken that this war would decide the fate of Korea, a nation not directly involved. The victory justified the action. Thus a dangerous precedent was set for World War I.

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Russia Imperialism in Asia and the Russo-Japanese War
History of the Russian Navy, chapters Port Arthur : Prologue, The Decisive Battles, Defeat at Port Arthur and Tsushima
Links on the Russo-Japanese War from Looksmart
DOCUMENTS Treaty of Portsmouth, 1905, from byu
Commander Vladimir Semenoff : Coaling at Sea (1905), from the Modern History Sourcebook
Jane H. Oakley, A Russo-Japanese War Poem, Brighton : Standard Press, 1905, 248 pp.
Gaston Leroux, Les Heros de Chemulpo, Paris : Felix Juven 1904, 151 pp.
H.W. Wilson, Japan's Fight for Freedom : the Story of the War between Russia and Japan, London : the Amalgamated Press, 3 volumes, 1904, 1444 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 17th 2004

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