More than a century of adventure
A.N. Kuropatkin. Russian-Japanese war
It is believed that the Russian-Japanese conflict, which then flowed into a difficult and completely ignominious war for our country, was completely unnecessary for Russia. However, this statement hardly corresponds to the full extent of reality.
Any one of us very rarely (and, as a rule, only in completely crisis circumstances) can accurately and confidently determine his own goals and inclinations. And the foreign and domestic policies of the whole state are made up of the hidden desires and aspirations of such a mass of people that only time can establish the true background of the events.
In fact (as it happens very, very often) that war was the kindest of intentions.
In the second half of the XIX century, Russia was practically defenseless in the Far East. By the way, Sakhalin was defended by three teams totaling about a thousand people; Vladivostok was completely devoid of serious military force, and in the entire Amur region there were only 19 infantry battalions. And this huge land with the European part of the empire connected only a dirt path over nine thousand miles long! Those were many months of the journey - and the most difficult.
And in 1875, the Committee of Ministers heard the question of the construction of the Siberian railway. At first it was supposed to pull to Tyumen, but Alexander III orders to lay the highway through the whole of Siberia. Initially (and quite logically) it was supposed to lead her across Russian territory.
However, in 1894, the armed conflict of Japan and China erupts, which ends a year later with the defeat of the latter. China finds itself in a difficult and delicate situation, and then, among a circle of Russian politicians, a witty, as it seemed to them, plan: to strengthen, taking advantage of the moment, the position of Russia in the Far East and at the same time save a lot on the construction of the railway. The first violin in this venture was played by the wise and very influential Finance Minister S.Yu. Witte.
Taking advantage of the fact that China desperately needed funds to repay Japan, the Minister of Finance, through diplomatic circles, agreed with the French to provide a fair loan to the ill-fated Chinese.
Then they created a Russian-Chinese bank, which was actually run by the same finance ministry. And to top it all agreed that part of the Siberian road (1200 miles) will go through Chinese territory - North Manchuria. S.Y. Witte justified this decision by the fact that, by cutting the laying of tracks directly, the treasury would save 15 million rubles. In addition - the decisive argument! - The main financier of the country assured the king: the road will be of global importance. Russia will be able to carry transit cargoes of foreign powers and earn huge amounts of money.
The future showed how far-sighted this finance minister was.
Meanwhile, the defeated China was very weak, and in 1897, foreign warships entered the Chinese port of Qingdao. Chains from anchor hawses with a roar went to the depths. The standards of Kaiser Germany, rare in this region, were waving above the ships - yes, the interests of many powers were tightly knotted here. And it must be said that it was precisely the Russian ships that used the advantage of the anchorage before in Qingdao. The situation that arose was, to put it mildly, delicate.
However, the output found.
China was once again divided: Port Arthur withdrew to Russia, and Qingdao remained for Kaiser Wilhelm. Russia hastily concluded a lease agreement with Beijing on the Liaodong Peninsula, which in these conditions was absolutely necessary for the construction of the southern branch of the railway - that is, right up to Port Arthur.
At first, everything went perfectly, especially for the Minister of Finance: the East China Railway (VKZhD) was built at an accelerated pace, and really it was managed by none other than Mr. S.Yu. Witte. To guard the road, a special guard building was created, subordinated to him personally; The Minister of Finance also created a commercial fleet to serve the interests of the road, and, in turn, to protect it, a small military flotilla. Even the rifle and artillery systems weaponsused for the needs of the guard, the minister chose personally, not considering it necessary to coordinate this matter with the military ministry.
Little by little in the Far East, in Manchuria, a small empire grew, which was fostered and controlled exclusively by S.Yu. Witte.
But problems arose: the road was not at all as lucrative as it was expected. To transport goods by the sea was more familiar and, of course, cheaper. And for the most part, a few travelers rolled through the pot, but the state-owned post was shaking under wax. Most of all, the road was suitable for transporting troops, but so far there has been no particular need. True, the situation was soon to change radically.
The influential retired Secretary of State Bezobraz received a concession for deforestation along the Russian-Korean (as well as the Korean-Chinese) border. It was a very profitable business - there was a surplus of extremely cheap labor, whose resources were inexhaustible. And for the transportation of the forest just built the road was useful. Bezobrazov, a man of adventurous warehouse and very active, found a full understanding of his problems with the Minister of Finance, and money flowed.
But, as you know, not all the Shrovetide cat.
Very inopportunely in China begin popular unrest. It came to the point that part of the roadway was destroyed, and the security guard forces were completely inadequate. As a result, the guard was simply blocked by the rebels in Harbin. But even then, the Minister of Finance resisted the introduction of Russian regular troops. Finally, in the fall of 1900, the hundred-thousandth army was pulled down to restore order in Manchuria, and the military quickly brought order.
It was then that the entire fallacy of laying the national Transsiberian highway partly on the territory of a foreign state became apparent - it was only possible to protect the road from armed unrest, or even the usual arbitrariness of the Chinese authorities. Which led gradually to the actual occupation of the North and then South Manchuria by the Russians.
But it is already very much strained Japan.
The fact is that the strengthening of the Russians in southern Manchuria was quite rightly perceived by the Land of the Rising Sun as penetration into Korea - the territory of which Japan has always considered as a zone of its vital interests.
China, too, did not like the presence of foreign regular troops, and relations with Beijing were steadily deteriorating. In April (26 March old style) 1902, St. Petersburg reluctantly was forced to sign an agreement on the withdrawal of troops in three phases for 18 months.
However, there is no reason to believe that the Russian government deliberately went to fraud in advance. Anyway, A.N. Kuropatkin, then Minister of War, wrote that for his department this decision was a great relief, because it allowed him to “return to the West” in military affairs.
The withdrawal of troops has already begun, but was unexpectedly stopped. And this decision coincided with the time of Bezobrazov’s trip to the Far East.
The retired secretary of state and his entourage increasingly intensified the onslaught on Nicholas II, persuading the king to leave troops in Manchuria and Korea. Which is quite understandable: for the adventurer Bezobrazov, who had developed furious activities with his concession, to remain without the support of the troops meant losing a profitable business. The Minister of Finance, in turn, said that “after an explanation with State Secretary Bezobrazov, he is essentially not in disagreement with him.”
Thus the issue was resolved.
The Concession of Bezobravo became increasingly stronger in Korea, causing the fury of the Japanese. The situation was complicated by the fact that among the employees of the concession were Russian soldiers and officers, and this was perceived by Tokyo as a direct military invasion of the territory of their protectorate.
However, Japan should not be perceived that time as an exclusively peaceful country, which was forced to protect its interests.
Inspired by the victory over China, Japan was preparing an even wider expansion to the mainland, and consistently moved in this direction.
The pinnacle of Japanese diplomacy at that time was the signing of an allied treaty with England in 1902. The second article of the document provided for the provision of military assistance to each of the parties in the event that the other turns out to be in a state of war with two or more third countries.
Now Japan could not be afraid that France or Germany would support Russia in the event of war: under the agreement, England should come to help her immediately.
Meanwhile, Russia continued to conduct sluggishly ongoing negotiations with Japan on controversial issues — above all, the presence of Russians in Korea and China. Every day the situation was increasingly slipping into war, but the world could still be saved.
November 26 1903, Minister of War A.N. Kuropatkin gave the king a note in which he proposed, in order to avoid war, to return Port Arthur to China, to sell the southern branch of the Eastern Railway, and in exchange to receive special rights to Northern Manchuria.
The meaning of the proposal was to remove the hotbed of tension on the border with Korea. But at that moment the governor of Nicholas II, the adjutant general (in addition also the admiral) EI, was in charge of the negotiations. Alekseev is the illegitimate son of Emperor Alexander II. Arrogant and incompetent, he was still that negotiator. The governor did not recognize any concessions to the Japanese side, considering it as a loss to the prestige of the empire.
But very soon, Russia was to endure much greater humiliation.
On the sea
The peculiarity of the situation was that both sides had to fight in very remote theaters. Russia was separated from the fronts by a colossal land area, and Japan, although not so significant, by the sea.
The goals of Japan in the upcoming war boiled down to the seizure of Port Arthur, the ousting of the Russians from Korea and Manchuria. Looking ahead, we say that all these goals were achieved consistently and with rare, almost paralogical cruelty.
In the upcoming campaign, the Russian fleet was assigned a mission absolutely exceptional. If the fleet managed to act actively on Japanese communications, there would be no land war. Because the landing operations of the Japanese would be impossible.
However, everything turned out differently.
6 February 1904, the Japanese squadron under the flag of Vice-Admiral Togo went to the open sea. Along the way, she stopped and captured the merchant ship “Russia” - a very significant event.
... February 8 Russian squadron in Port Arthur stood on the outer roadstead. The boilers are extinguished, there are no mine barriers. In addition, the outdoor lighting on the ships is turned on - as if on the day of namesake.
The Japanese struck at night, without a declaration of war. In the matter went two waves of destroyers. The result was devastating: two battleships failed, and with them five cruisers.
After that, the fleet did not dare to go into the open sea for a long time, limiting itself to short sorties. And a couple of days later, the minelayer “Yenisei” was blown up on its own mine. To the rescue of his team, the light cruiser Boyarin set off - and shared the fate of the ill-fated minelayer. The brave crew of the cruiser instantly lowered the boats and abandoned the ship. And the unfortunate "Boyar" remained afloat for two more days. He was finished by a storm and the second mine ...
March 31 in the course of another attack on a mine, the flagship Petropavlovsk was blown up. Battleship went under the water with the whole team. Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov died - a brilliant, extraordinary naval commander, able to change the situation so unfortunately for the Russians. But Russia, along with other circumstances, was fatally unlucky in this war.
By blocking the 1 Pacific Squadron in Port Arthur, the Japanese solved their most important task.
But the bureaucratic, bureaucratic Petersburg remained true to itself: instead of giving the troops an initiative, throughout the entire war he literally tied hand and foot with orders through the governor and directly his commanders. Admiral Rozhestvensky, commander of the 2 Pacific Squadron, which was still to go through Tsushima hell, reported: "I can not command a squadron without freedom of command."
But it was all in vain.
On August 10, locked in Port Arthur, the 1-I Pacific squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Vitgefta, obeying the highest command, made a desperate attempt to break through to Vladivostok. Her strength, although partly lost, was large enough to adequately respond to the Japanese. The fight was given to both sides very expensive. An hour and a half later, the admiral of Togo, having decided that he could do nothing more and the Russians would inevitably break through, ordered his ships to retreat to the base at Sasebo.
Literally at this moment 305-mm Japanese projectile fired at random, hit the foremast of the battleship Tsesarevich, on which he held his flag Vitgeft. The explosion occurred right above the admiral's bridge. Together with Vitgeft, his entire headquarters was almost completely killed. The captain was also injured. In addition, the splash cable was broken by a splinter, and the uncontrollable battleship, describing the circulation, began to roll out to the left.
This broke the squadron, and the ships of the Russians randomly retreated. As a combat force, the 1-I Pacific almost ceased to exist.
True, a detachment of cruisers remained in Vladivostok: "Russia", "Rurik" and "Thunderer". The new commander of the Pacific Fleet (of which there was already no actual one) Vice Admiral P.I. Skrydlov 13 August, not knowing about the defeat of the 1-th squadron, sent his cruisers to meet her. He entrusted the command to Admiral Jessen, while he himself wisely remained on the shore. What this was done for is difficult to understand. The cruisers could not help the Witgeft squadron; that is why they were left in Vladivostok so that they independently acted on Japanese communications.
Three Russian cruisers in the Korean Strait met four Japanese armored. "Rurik" drowned, the rest fled.
Everything. Now Japan could manage the sea at its discretion.
On the land
Since June 1904, Port Arthur has been under heavy blockade. By December, the city withstood five assaults. Russian machine guns mowed down chains of Japanese infantry, laying thousands on the ground, but it again rose and climbed on the fortified hills. Finally, the Japanese dragged siege 280-mm guns to the fortress and began methodically shooting the forts.
General Kuropatkin from Manchuria tried to break through to the blocked Port Arthur, but the Russian army did not cope with this task.
Meanwhile, the hardening of the parties reached the limit, in the Japanese parts there were cases of suicide and open disobedience. But the bestial ruthlessness of the Japanese to the enemy’s soldiers and their own, as well as the failures of the Russians in Manchuria, resolved the matter.
1 January 1905 was the last fort of Port Arthur, after which the adjutant general A.M. Stoessel signed an order for the surrender of the garrison.
In general, it was shameful, but sensible. Further resistance only multiplied the victims. To assist the army and navy Port Arthur was powerless.
With his fall, further hostilities, both for the Russians and for the Japanese, became to some extent meaningless. The Japanese army no longer had strategic land missions, and for Kuropatkin to recapture Port Arthur was absolutely incredible.
In fact, the Japanese have already achieved everything they wanted. More than anything, they now needed peace. But the war machine is a mechanism with colossal inertia. To stop him, it took another catastrophe.
... In the battle of Mukden, the forces of the Japanese and Russians made up about 300 thousands of bayonets on each side. After three days of fighting, the Japanese overturned the right flank of the Russians. In March 1905, Kuropatkin retreated to Harbin, leaving thousands of 100 killed.
More active battles on land did not occur.
Of the ships of the Baltic Fleet were 2 th Pacific Squadron. Her task was to release Port Arthur. The ships entered the sea only in August, and the squadron could not arrive in the Far East no earlier than March. By then, for Port Arthur, it was all over; Thus, the campaign of the Baltic Fleet from the very beginning was devoid of meaning. But the rock and St. Petersburg officials seemed to set out to drive the ill-fated squadron through all the circles of hell.
Russia was in international isolation, Britain and France banned Russian ships from entering their ports, and the squadron under the overall command of Vice Admiral ZP Rozhestvensky walked across the Indian Ocean.
Work in the unusual climate of the tropics exhausted the team. In February, 1905, Z.P. Rozhestvensky reported to Petersburg: "... the squadron eats itself and decomposes physically and morally."
The admiral was well aware of his chances. With the fall of Port Arthur, they became completely small. He tried to explain to St. Petersburg with hints that a strong squadron that was on the march could still be used as a trump card for the conclusion of a worthy peace. But the broken squadron will pull to the bottom and all the diplomacy.
However, in the ultimatum he was ordered to follow to Vladivostok, and in the shortest possible time.
2-I Pacific squadron included 8 squadron battleships, 8 cruisers, 9 destroyers and a number of auxiliary ships. But even of battleships, only 4 were modern, the rest were obsolete low-speed coastal defense ships. Because of their low speed, the squadron could not develop full speed. The crews did not differ in their training - the haste of recruiting teams, and, most importantly, the open fear of officers, too, “strain” the lower ranks with combat training, did not cause unrest. The revolutionary ideas picked up in Kronstadt matured and grew during the campaign.
Writer Novikov-Priboy (former sailor on the battleship "Eagle") in the famous novel "Tsushima" blames the fate of the squadron exclusively on stupid officers who are not able to realize the simplest things. Say, and the black coloring of the ships (as opposed to the gray Japanese), and bad artillery, and the inability of officers to manage in the ranks caused the death of the fleet.
But this is nothing more than the fabrications of a deck sailor propagandized by the Bolsheviks. The Admiral Rozhestvensky and his officers understood everything and provided for a lot. The black coloring of the ships was maintained, as the squadron's breakthrough was planned at night. The artillery of the Russian ships was excellent, the Russian armor-piercing shells were rightly considered the best in the world — and the Japanese themselves recognized this. As for the maneuvers, the sailors themselves doomed their commanders to a minimum of exercises with their behavior.
However, the admiral's hard disposition played a role. He was very secretive - this may have been explained by the sad fate of the Vitgeft squadron, about which Russian newspapers in Port Arthur were notified the day before. Therefore Rozhestvensky kept the battle plan exclusively in his head. When he was seriously wounded, many of the commanders of the ships, not knowing the general plan, acted at random.
But the main role was played by the choice of the path.
It was possible to bypass Japan and break through to the Vladivostok through the Kuril Straits. There, the probability of meeting with the main forces of the enemy was almost negligible. Or - go ahead through the Tsushima Strait, in the immediate vicinity of the bases of the Japanese fleet, ready for a meeting, with fresh crews.
However, the order from St. Petersburg read: as soon as possible to get to Vladivostok! And 14 May 1905, Admiral Rozhestvensky chose the second option. In many ways, this has decided the fate of the 2 Pacific squadron.
... Only the Almaz cruiser, the Bravy and the Terrible destroyers broke through to Vladivostok.
The peace agreement, to which the lost fleet, Russia and Japan with its war-torn economy, were equally striving, was signed 6 September 1905 of the year in Portsmouth (USA). Russia left Port Arthur, left Manchuria and lost half of Sakhalin. However, she could have left the island behind herself, but here too the restless S.Yu. Witte.
First, the Russian delegation rejected the request for the transfer of Sakhalin. But Nicholas II, seeing that negotiations come to a standstill, said that in the extremes one could sacrifice half of the island. Witte did not hesitate and immediately offered the Japanese on this option. From where he received later the nickname “Polusakhalinsky”.
And what about Petersburg? Is heartbroken?
Not at all. Here, everything remained the same.
The headquarters knew that the people in Tsushima were killed "very much", but how many exactly they did not know for two months. And just in case, ALL (!) Seafarers' families stopped paying money. Whoever wanted, had to prove himself that he was alive ...
This is very significant. From the very beginning of the war, the attitude towards it in the widest strata of society was far from patriotic.
V. Veresaev wrote: “Around, in the intelligentsia, there was a hostile irritation not at all against the Japanese. The question of the outcome of the war did not bother, there was no trace of enmity with the Japanese, our failures did not oppress; on the contrary, next to the pain for insanely unnecessary sacrifices was almost gloating. Many bluntly stated that defeat would be the most beneficial for Russia. ” (On the Japanese War. Notes.)
According to the German journalist G. Ganz, who worked in Petersburg in those years, it was not only the liberals ', but also many Russian conservatives' innermost thoughts: “God help us to be overwhelmed!”
However, that there are liberals! Pompous S.YU. Witte in July 1904 of the year declared with frank cynicism: “I fear fast and brilliant Russian successes; they would have made the leading St. Petersburg circles too arrogant ... Russia should still experience several military failures. ”
It seems that Russia lost the war because she wanted it.
We live in a world built by past wars. And the current weakness of Russia in the Far East is largely due to the adventure in which the country got involved more than a hundred years ago.
But it's not only that.
Looking back into the past: the beginnings of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries passed under the sign of severe military upheavals — the country experienced a Time of Troubles, a war with Sweden, then with Napoleon. The twentieth century brought the Russian-Japanese and the First World War.
What shocks will the 21 century bring us?
Only local conflicts? I'd like to believe.
- Andrey Orlov
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