Russo-Japanese War

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
date February 8, 1904 to September 5, 1905
place Manchuria , Yellow Sea
output Victory of the Japanese Empire
Peace treaty Portsmouth Treaty
Parties to the conflict

Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire Russia

Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire Japan


Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire Nikolaus II. Alexei Kuropatkin Stepan Makarow Zinowi Roschestwenski Wilhelm Withöft
Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1883Russian Empire

Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire Meiji Ōyama Iwao Tōgō Heihachirō Nogi Maresuke
Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire
Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire
Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire

Russia as an Octopus - an anti-Russian Japanese propaganda card from 1904

The Russo-Japanese War began in February 1904 with the attack of the Japanese Empire on the port of Port Arthur and ended after a series of costly battles in the summer of 1905 with the defeat of the Russian Empire . The Portsmouth Peace Treaty of September 5, 1905, negotiated under US mediation , sealed the first significant victory of an Asian over a European superpower in modern times .

Causes and history

The reason for the war was the rivalry between the two empires for influence in Manchuria and Korea .

Japan has been in a phase of upheaval since the middle of the 19th century. The previously isolated country modernized itself in the course of the Meiji Restoration and came closer to western customs. Japan's expansion efforts were initially directed towards neighboring Korea, at that time a vassal state of China , in which Japan had been interested since the end of the 16th century. In January 1876, Japan sent three gunboats to Seoul , forcing a trade agreement and diplomatic relations with them.

This led to the conflict with the Chinese government in Beijing and to the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894 , in which China was defeated. During the peace negotiations in Shimonoseki , Japan demanded the cession of the Liaodong Peninsula and the port of Port Arthur . Since this ran counter to the Russian expansionist efforts in China, Russia, with the support of the German Empire and France , forced the evacuation of the Liaodong Peninsula. The conflict between Japan and Russia became even more explosive when the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway , which began in 1891, would enable Russia to quickly transport large contingents of troops to the Far East. In an agreement, China allowed the construction of the railroad through Manchuria, while Russia gave China backing in the event of a Japanese attack.

On December 4, 1897, Russia occupied the port of Port Arthur on the Yellow Sea as part of its East Asia policy and leased it together with the southern part of the Liaodong Peninsula for 25 years in March 1898 to build an ice-free naval base there for its Pacific fleet . Two years later, it stepped up its military engagement in China when it refused to withdraw around 100,000 soldiers sent to Manchuria to crush the Boxer rebellion.

Russia also intervened increasingly in Korea . The acquisition of a timber concession on the Sino-Korean border river Yalu and the establishment of a timber trading company consisting almost exclusively of Russian reservists intensified the conflict. In Japan, the concentration of Russian troops in Manchuria, Port Arthur and Korea was perceived as a threat to the Japanese sphere of interest.

On August 12, 1903, the Japanese ambassador demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Manchuria and recognition of Japanese political supremacy in Korea. Russia was only willing to recognize the status quo , which was not enough for Japan.

On February 4, 1904, a conference chaired by the Tennō decided the attack. The declaration of war followed on February 10, 1904, one day after the start of the fighting (declarations of war before the start of hostilities only became binding under international law after the 2nd Hague Conference in 1907).


Attack on Port Arthur

The Japanese attack on the port of Port Arthur took place on the night of February 8th to 9th, 1904. The Russian leadership expected an attack, but wanted "the Japanese and not us to open the warring operations". The preparations were also inadequate and the order to fire the Russian boats assigned to watch were refused. In addition, the commanders of the ships lying in the harbor were not allowed to darken. The nocturnal approach of the Japanese torpedo boats was therefore noticed, but countermeasures could no longer be initiated. The torpedo attack resulted in damage to the battleships Retwisan and Zessarewitsch and the protected cruiser Pallada . Inexplicably, the Japanese admiral Tōgō Heihachirō attacked his torpedo boats in several waves, which is why the Russians were able to repel all further attacks with ease.

Battle of Chemulpo

Although the attack on Port Arthur is considered the beginning of the war, the port of the Korean city of Tschemulpo (also Chemulpo, today: Incheon ) was the target for troops landed by the 1st Japanese Army. To cover this operation, Admiral Tōgō sent a ship formation under the command of Rear Admiral Uryū Sotokichi , consisting of the armored cruiser Asama , five cruisers and eight torpedo boats . The Russian high command had failed to order the fast cruiser Varyag and the gunboat Korejez to Port Arthur. The Japanese fleet deposed the vanguard of the 1st Army near the port and called on the Russian warships to surrender to what the captain of the Varyag , Rudnev refused. The Varyag and the Korejez lay in the midst of neutral ships and could not be attacked easily, but could not for their part prevent the landing of the Japanese. On the morning of February 9, 1904, the battle finally broke out. The Russian ships tried to break out of the port to escape into the open sea. The Japanese fleet prevented this with crossfire, which caused severe damage to the Varyag and the loss of 122 men. Little Korejez had nothing to oppose the Japanese superiority. Both ships returned to the port after an hour and were sunk there by their crews. The film Battle of Chemulpo Bay , made a few weeks later in the Black Maria Studios , deals with the events of the battle.

Battle of Port Arthur

Having been informed that the Russian fleet in Port Arthur was not prepared for this, Admiral Tōgō dared to attack the fortress by sea at noon on February 9, 1904 . The Japanese first encountered the protected cruiser Boyarin , which alerted the Russian fleet. Shortly thereafter, there was a battle in which neither side could gain the upper hand. The Russian fleet was supported by the fort's coastal batteries . Admiral Tōgō was surprised by the strong resistance and withdrew after 40 minutes. The Japanese had 90 dead and wounded, but none of their ships were seriously damaged. 150 sailors were killed or wounded on the Russian side. In addition, the ships Bajan , Askold , Diana and Novik were partly badly damaged.

Two days later, the Russian Pacific Fleet was largely eliminated by its own mines with the loss of two more ships, the cruiser Boyarin and the mine cruiser Yenisei . The Japanese troop transports to Korea could now be carried out almost unhindered. Only the Russian cruisers stationed in Vladivostok still posed a threat, which, however, was also largely averted after the sea ​​battle at Ulsan .

Battle of the Yalu

From April 30 to May 1, 1904, the first major land battle of the war took place at the Battle of the Yalu River . The Russian army under Lieutenant General Michael Sassulitsch had been instructed by General Kuropatkin to repel any Japanese attempts to cross the Yalu. The Russians did not use their time to dig sufficient positions or to explore the other bank of the Yalu. So they were surprised by the strength of the Japanese troops on April 30th when they were able to cross the river almost unhindered. On May 1st, three Japanese divisions, supported by over 100 guns, attacked the Russian positions. The frontal attacking Japanese suffered considerable losses, but were able to throw the Russians out of their positions. The subsequent Japanese artillery fire and the threat of encirclement caused the Russians to fall into a panic-like retreat. The Japanese had thus won the first great land battle of the war and thus dashed Russia's hopes for an easy victory.

Battle of the Nanshan

After the Japanese troops crossed the Yalu, their armies split up. The 1st Army turned north to face Russian reinforcements, while the 2nd Army marched towards Port Arthur to besiege the city. To do this, the 2nd Army had to cross the 4 km wide isthmus near Dalian , where the 100 meter high Nanshan Hill is located. The Russians had built the hill into a fortress with field fortifications, trenches, barbed wire obstacles, artillery, machine guns and mines. On May 25, 1904, over 35,000 Japanese stormed the 4,000 Russian defenders. After 15 hours of fighting and over 5,000 Japanese casualties, the Japanese flag was flying on Nanshan. The Russians had missed a great opportunity to stop the Japanese advance on Port Arthur.

Battle of the Yellow Sea

Contemporary correspondent's report on the Russian cruiser “Askold” after the sea battle in the Yellow Sea
Retwisan shot to death in Port Arthur

The Russian fleet had remained relatively inactive in port after the battle of Port Arthur. After the flagship Petropavlovsk hit a mine and sank with the commanding Admiral Stepan Ossipowitsch Makarow , Admiral Wilhelm Karlowitsch Withöft was appointed as the new commander. He wanted to leave the ships in port and support the land forces with their cannons. However, the viceroy of Manchuria and commander of Port Arthur, Yevgeny Ivanovich Alexejew , sent a telegram to Tsar Nicholas II asking for permission to break out, which Admiral Withoft could no longer delay.

Attempts were made on August 10, 1904 to break through the sea ​​blockade and drive to Vladivostok . The ships, some of which were damaged, only allowed the entire Russian fleet to travel slowly. Admiral Tōgō misinterpreted the outbreak as an attack and initially positioned his fleet between the port and the Russian ships. When their intentions were finally recognized, it took a few hours for the Russian fleet to be caught up and positioned. The battle began at 5:43 p.m. The fire was mainly aimed at the ship Mikasa of the Admiral Tōgō and the Russian flagship Zessarewitsch . At first it seemed as if the Russians would escape at nightfall. Towards evening, however, two heavy shells detonated almost simultaneously on the Zessarevich bridge . Admiral Withöft, almost all staff officers and the helmsman were killed or seriously wounded. The fleet was practically leaderless. The Zessarevich drove in a circle because her oar was jammed. The other Russian ships that had not observed the impact therefore also turned. This led to total chaos, and when Rear Admiral Uchtomski took command he had little choice but to return to Port Arthur. Admiral Tōgō's fleet was also badly damaged and had to withdraw.

Most of the Russian ships returned to Port Arthur the next day. However, some were so badly damaged that they could only reach neutral ports. The Askold , the flagship of Rear Admiral Reitzenstein , called at Shanghai , where her crew was interned by China. The cruisers of the Vladivostok department, which had left to support the squadron, also got into a battle near Ulsan , in which the Russian armored cruiser Rurik was sunk. The Russian Pacific Squadron no longer intervened in the fighting.

Siege of Port Arthur

The militarily important Hohe Berg was conquered under the leadership of the Japanese general Nogi Maresuke

In Port Arthur, many guns were removed from the ships in the following years and used to strengthen the fortress in land combat during the ongoing siege. The commanding Japanese general Nogi Maresuke was ordered to capture the fortress as soon as possible. This led to a bitter positional war around the militarily important Hohen Berg (hill 203), from which one could see the entire port. The Russian leadership wanted to hold the hill at all costs, while the Japanese army under General Nogi Maresuke had to take the hill before the Russian reinforcements arrived. During the siege and the countless unsuccessful attacks, about 58,000 Japanese and 38,000 Russians were killed. After 154 days of siege, Port Arthur had to be handed over to the Japanese on January 2, 1905 by General Stößel and Lieutenant General Fok . The Russian ships were previously sunk in the port. However, a large part of the shallow water was recovered by the Japanese.

Russian October offensive

When it became clear that the Russian Baltic Fleet sent to relieve the fortress would no longer arrive in time at the Asian theater of war, the Russian military leadership tried to liberate Port Arthur from land. Although the commander of the land forces, General Kuropatkin , refused this plan and wanted to wait for further reinforcements via the Trans-Siberian Railway, he had to bow to the will of the tsar, who supported the offensive plan presented by Admiral Alexejew. The 1st Siberian Corps with 32 battalions (27,000 infantrymen, 2,500 cavalrymen and 98 field guns) was to advance into the Yingkou area. After crossing the Scholu River, the siege ring around the Port Arthur fortress was to be blown up. The command of this offensive was the Baltic German Lieutenant General Georgi Karlowitsch von Stackelberg . At first the offensive made excellent progress, the Japanese had to withdraw further and further. About 130 kilometers from the port, north of Wafangdian , the 2nd Japanese Army with 48 battalions (36,000 infantrymen, 2,000 cavalrymen and 216 field guns) under General Oku Yasukata put the Russian troops into battle, with the strong artillery superiority of the Japanese being the decisive factor made noticeable. Even Russian reinforcements of 3,000 infantrymen and two guns, which reached the battlefield an hour before the end of the fighting, could no longer avert the defeat. Von Stackelberg lost 3,500 men, Oku 1,200. Kuropatkin now feared that the Japanese might encircle the Russian troops, and withdrew from Stackelberg's troops. This was followed by a tough and costly positional war . The only attempt during the entire war to liberate Port Arthur by land had thus failed.

When the October offensive failed, many soldiers and sailors lost hope of being able to save Port Arthur. As a result, there was unrest on the ships of the Baltic Sea Fleet, which was simultaneously on the way to Port Arthur, and discontent grew.

Battle of Mukden

The Russian Army in retreat after the Battle of Mukden

The Battle of Mukden (today Shenyang) was the last major field battle of the Russo-Japanese War in Manchuria . It lasted from February 20 to March 10, 1905. 300,000 men fought on both the Russian and Japanese sides. The battle was the largest field battle of that time.

After the previous Battle of Liaoyang from August to September 1904, the two armies faced each other without major skirmishes. The battle finally began on February 20, 1905 with an attack by the Japanese 5th Army on the Russian left flank . On February 27, 1905, the Japanese 4th Army intervened on the right flank of the Russians. Since the Russian army wanted to avoid the encirclement , General Kuropatkin finally ordered the retreat to the north of the city. As the Russian front collapsed, the army had to withdraw completely from Mukden on March 10th.

The Russian casualties were 9,000 dead and over 50,000 wounded. About 20,000 Russian soldiers were taken prisoner . The Japanese army had about 75,000 dead and wounded.

From a strategic point of view, the loss of the city was of little importance, but the setback demoralized the entire Russian army.

Battle of Tsushima

In October 1904, the Russian Baltic Fleet was renamed the Second Pacific Squadron and sent to Vladivostok under the leadership of Admiral Zinovi Petrovich Roschestvensky . During the voyage, she joined forces with the Third Pacific Squadron under Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov . Its fleet, however, was more of a handicap, as it consisted almost entirely of outdated ships. This fact reduced the combat strength of the entire squadron. The fleet was originally intended to liberate Port Arthur from the siege and reinforce the First Pacific Squadron. After the capture of Port Arthur by the Japanese, the fleet received a new order to break through to Vladivostok.

The Russian fleet covered a distance of more than 18,000 nautical miles and circled Africa . On the way, the Doggerbank incident occurred , which led to a diplomatic conflict with Great Britain .

The Russian squadron consisted of 36 combat ships, including the most modern battleships of the Russian Navy at the time: Knjas Suvorov , Borodino , Imperator Alexander III. and Oryol .

The Japanese under Admiral Tōgō had a fleet of five battleships , including the Mikasa , ten armored cruisers , ten light cruisers , 21 destroyers and 43 torpedo boats and other auxiliary ships.

On the morning of May 27, 1905, the Russian fleet was sighted by a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft on the Korea Strait near Tsushima Island . The Japanese were able to dominate the battle from the start due to their higher speed and better grenades. Admiral Tōgō had, among other things, the maneuver Crossing the T carried out, whereby the respective Russian lead ship was exposed to the shells of the entire Japanese fleet. None of the ships could withstand this concentrated firepower for a long time. The Russian battleships Suvorov , Borodino , Alexander III. and Osljabja sank in battle that evening. Other ships were destroyed or forced to give up by the Japanese during the night and in the morning.

The Russian fleet was almost completely destroyed, and over 5,000 Russian seafarers were killed or their ships went down during the battle. The remaining ships with a crew of around 6,000 surrendered to the Japanese fleet on the morning of May 28, 1905. Only the small cruiser Almas and two destroyers were able to break through to Vladivostok . Seven ships entered neutral ports and were disarmed there. Russia had thus lost two fleets within a single year, a process that is unique in the entire history of the war .

On the Japanese side, the losses were comparatively small. The flagship Mikasa was badly damaged, three torpedo boats were sunk and 116 Japanese sailors were killed.

Occupation of Sakhalin

Landing of Japanese soldiers on
Sakhalin Island

On the eve of the Portsmouth negotiations , the Japanese government wanted to increase pressure on the Russians and decided to occupy the island of Sakhalin . The Japanese 13th Division under General Haraguchi Kensai was set ashore from July 7, 1905, both in the south at Korsakow and from July 24, 1905 in the north at Alexandrowski Post . The Russian forces in the south were divided into five groups that were to wage a guerrilla war against the Japanese after the Japanese landed . This partially succeeded and delayed the Japanese advance. But the majority of the Russian troops, consisting of hunters, farmers, prisoners and deportees , had neither the morale nor the military training to offer enough resistance. On July 31, 1905, General Lyapunov surrendered to the Japanese.

Exit and consequences

After the battle for Port Arthur and the Russian defeats at Mukden and in the sea battle at Tsushima, the tsar accepted an offer of mediation from American President Theodore Roosevelt . On September 5, 1905, the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard . Russia gave up Liaoyang and Port Arthur, ceded the southern half of Sakhalin to Japan, and left Manchuria . Korea remained under the influence of Japan. However, the Russian negotiator Sergei Juljewitsch Witte managed to negotiate comparatively mild contractual terms. So the Japanese negotiators failed with their demands for reparations and a cession of all of Sakhalin. The contract, which many Japanese perceived as shameful, led to the Hibiya riots in Japan with 17 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

The Mikasa , the flagship of the Japanese Navy, is now a military monument in the port of the city of Yokosuka

On the Russian side, the war contributed to a delegitimization of the autocratic rule of the Tsar, which was expressed in the Russian Revolution in 1905 . After a general strike in October 1905, the Tsar issued the October Manifesto , which promised civil liberties and a parliament . However, the revolutionary aspirations in Russia, the inability of the tsarist empire to carry out democratic reforms and the impoverishment of large sections of the population during the First World War led to the February revolution in 1917 and the deposition of the tsar.

The victory of the Japanese represented a milestone on the way to the awakening self-confidence of the Asian peoples. For the first time in recent history an Asian country had decisively defeated a major European power. This gave further impetus to national and militant forces in Japan and determined the country's politics in the decades to come. Japan became the dominant military power in the East Asian region and remained so until the end of the Second World War . Politically, however, Japan was largely isolated in Asia after the war. In 1908, Japanese products were boycotted in China .

The Russo-Japanese War is seen as a forerunner of World War I because it was here that numerous military-technical innovations were introduced for the first time in a war on a large scale: trench warfare with machine gun emplacements and barbed wire , battlefield lighting, field telephones and ocean-going radio telegraphy . Mass attacks with the bayonet in place ended fatally against an enemy who had machine guns. The Japanese, who attacked according to the infantry rules of the 19th century, suffered heavy losses. The strategic importance of the railroad became clear when the Trans-Siberian Railway was unable to deliver Russian troops on time and in sufficient numbers. The analysis of the naval battles contributed significantly to the development of the so-called capital ships or dreadnoughts and thus to a new arms race.

The Japanese political elite and military leadership saw the victory over Russia encouraged them to pursue an expansive imperialist policy. This led to the Second Sino-Japanese War and ultimately policies that led Japan into World War II. Encouraged by the victory in the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese military leadership believed that a similar pre-emptive strike at Pearl Harbor and the associated destruction of the most important American naval units had a decisive advantage from the outset.


Web links

Commons : Russo-Japanese War  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gerd Koenen : The color red. Origins and history of communism . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 612.
  2. Gerd Koenen: The color red. Origins and history of communism . Beck, Munich 2017, p. 610 f.
  3. Also available in this archive: Inventory 8/6 - glass plate negatives from the estate of Walter and Elisabeth von Oettingen. Photos and pictures (still: inventory 8/4 = texts). The glass plate estate of von Oettingens comprises 640 partially colored glass plate negatives in five different sizes, probably created over a period of 31 years (estimated: 1887–1918). In addition to family photos and travel pictures, the activities of von Oettingens for the Livonian and German Red Cross in the Russian-Japanese (1904–1905) and in the First World War (1914–1918) are documented. Some of the colored glass plate negatives are part of a slide show about the work of the von Oettingen couple for the Livonian Red Cross in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), which Elisabeth von Oettingen gave to several associations in Berlin and the surrounding area (transcribed in the book from the source ). The colored glass plates come exclusively from the time of the Russo-Japanese War. On the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905): The 204 photos taken during this war show, in addition to some stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russian military affairs and scenes from the everyday life of the civilian rural and urban population in Siberia and China and their points of contact with the mostly Russian military . In addition, the activity of the Livonian field hospital is documented (disinfection, treatment and accommodation of the wounded, means of transport for the transport of the wounded). There are also some photos from the theater of war near Mukden: fallen soldiers and the erection of mass graves . On the First World War: The numerically most significant proportion of glass plate negatives comprises 307 images from the First World War. Here you will find detailed photographic documentation of the club's hospital train L, from the interior structure, the train crew and the depiction of the transport of the wounded, to the locations, the civilian visitors, the encounter with the military and the destruction of part of the train by French airmen. There are also recordings from which one can indirectly identify the locations of the hospital train: city panoramas and sights, everyday scenes from the life of the civilian population, German military affairs (mainly in France) and damage caused by bombs on houses and bridges. A small part of the glass plates shows the whereabouts of the couple's 4 children, on the one hand the Odenwald School in Ober-Hambach and on the other hand Eisenach , the place of residence of Elisabeth's parents.