Japan and Russia were incomparable neither in terms of human potential - the difference is almost threefold, nor in terms of the capabilities of the armed forces - the Japanese themselves feared that an angry “bear” could, in the case of mobilization, expose a three millionth army.
The thesis, known since Soviet times, that the conflict with the samurai was lost due to the rottenness of tsarism, the “general backwardness of Russia” fully coincides with the conclusions that many contain in Western publications. Their essence boils down to the simple - they say, "corrupt tsarism could not effectively wage war." The views of our and Western historians do not often coincide, what is the reason for such a consensus of opinion?
Virtually all researchers agree that hard work, self-sacrifice, patriotism, high combat skills of soldiers, the skill of military leaders, exceptional discipline helped the Japanese to win, and the praise can be continued to infinity. Let's try to figure it all out.
To what extent were the officers and soldiers of the Land of the Rising Sun ready to sacrifice themselves, as they now like to say? How much their fighting spirit surpassed the patriotism of our soldiers and sailors? After all, the tendency to revolt is attributed to Russians not only in the rear - this is about the battleship Potemkin, but even at the front - let us recall the description of a small revolt on the battleship Orel before the Tsushima battle. How this contrasts sharply with the description of the life of Japanese sailors, made public by French journalists: the crew members of the Japanese armored cruiser wore wool socks for their army colleagues in their free time!
In order to dot all the “i”, refer to the Japanese sources. We are talking about feature films created in the Land of the Rising Sun itself. And not for the purpose of educating pacifist feelings among the subjects of the emperor, but, as they say, to descendants as an example.
Telling about the life of ordinary sailors on the flagship of the Japanese squadron "Mikasa", filmmakers show all its background - mass brawls, theft, insubordination to orders, non-statutory relations.
There is also an element unfamiliar to us: foremen lend money to sailors at a large percentage. The Russian army and navy, thank God, never knew such a “bouquet” of violations. So it is clear why, despite external discipline, the crew of “Mikasy” rebelled immediately after coming from England in 1902.
Now - about the readiness for self-sacrifice. We, like the majority in the world, have rooted a completely misconception about all Japanese as kamikaze pilots. It is necessary to take into account the following: the courage of the Japanese was blown away by the wind, as soon as they began to fail in battle. As historians remind, in 1904, after several unsuccessful attempts at assault on Port Arthur, he refused to obey orders of the 8 Infantry Regiment right on the front line, and many Japanese officers were going to desert, to flee to Shanghai for fear of dying.
Another argument in favor of the exclusivity of the Japanese is this: they acted extremely competently in battle, and thereby won. Let us recall even the famous poem of those times: "In Manchuria, Kuroki gives Kuropatkin lessons in tactics in practice." This quality allegedly allowed the Japanese to prevail. In actual fact it is only a diligently fanned myth. What kind of literacy can we talk about when Russian fortifications in Port Arthur were stormed into the forehead through well-adjusted terrain several times. And the same admiral Kheykhatiro Togo, who was proclaimed almost as a military genius of that war, could not explain to his admirers why in August 1904 did not attack the Russian squadron, which had fallen into a heap after the failure of the flagship Tsesarevich. Another question: why then, at the initial stage of the Tsushima battle, he put his flagship under the concentrated fire of the most powerful Russian ships, almost dying himself?
The actions of our enemies and the special coherence of various divisions did not differ.
As the Englishman testifies, First Rank Captain William Pekinham, who was assigned to the squadron of Admiral Togo, after the end of the first day of Tsushima, when the Japanese ordered to attack the remnants of the Second Pacific Squadron to their destroyers, one of them, avoiding a collision with another ship suddenly emerged from the mist. , made a sharp turn and turned over. Perhaps those are right who say that the root of all the fantastic victories of the Japanese is in the admiral's exceptional luck.
We were somewhat inferior to the Japanese in the design of artillery systems, but the Japanese were also far from good at all: their Arisaka rifle was noticeably losing to the Russian rifle by Sergey Mosin in a number of important characteristics. The samurai simply could not bear the best Russian cavalry in the world, and, most importantly, our opponents could not compete in physical strength with our soldiers.
Well, what helped the Japanese win? I think a whole complex of factors - both subjective and objective - made themselves felt. One of the main ones is the extremely careful handling of the Japanese by a military secret, our rivals were able to classify even the death of two of the six battleships they had. What can we say about the smaller destroyers - they went to the bottom with “bundles”, but the Japanese stubbornly denied everything, and after a while they put into operation the same type, that is, the same ship under the same name. The world and Russian public believed, and the myth about the invincibility of enemies was born. Naturally, all this affected the mood among our military. The Japanese, however, scooped all the information about our losses, the movements of troops and the appointment of new commanders from Russian newspapers.
Our gendarmerie, which was then assigned the function of counterintelligence, simply could not cope with the new conditions for it - it was elementary to distinguish the Japanese from the Chinese, many of its employees were not able to.
It came to the point that in the summer of 1904, as is evident from the front-line reports of the Niva magazine, there was a strict order to shoot all the Asians who appeared in the combat positions of our troops.
We will not ignore the underestimation of the enemy: at first, the king did not want to transfer a single unit from the European part of Russia, and the second Pacific Squadron began to be equipped only after the death of Admiral Stepan Makarov.
Another reason is the peculiarity of the Russian spirit. After all, we are accustomed to waging war with the expectation of a gradual gathering of forces for the subsequent crushing blow to the enemy. Example - World War 1812, when we were retreating to Moscow, and the Great Patriotic War. As they say, Russians slowly harness, but drive fast. Here and in those years, statements were heard like "The Japanese will inevitably be crushed, if not under Loyang, so under Mukden, not under Mukden, so under Harbin, not under Harbin, so under Chita." History We did not give this chance.
But there was also lack of will of Russian diplomacy. The office at Pevcheskoy was unable to use for the international isolation of Tokyo the fact of an attack on Port Arthur without declaring war.
The diplomats could not solve the issue of passing through the Turkish-controlled straits the most powerful battleships of the Black Sea fleet. Instead, the foreign ministry preferred to compose horror stories about a possible war with England, Afghanistan and Turkey in the event of the passage of our ships.
Evil tongues then blamed Foreign Minister Vladimir Lamzdorf for character weakness, seeing the reason for his unconventional sexual orientation ...
The main reason was initially the wrong decision to place the main naval base in Port Arthur. It is more than nine hundred kilometers from the Korea Strait, which was and is still the focal point of the routes of ships between Russia, China, Korea, Japan and the countries of South-East Asia. No wonder the sailors did not like this city, calling it a "hole." Therefore, the naval command to sweeten the pill, formally considered the entire Pacific Fleet ... Pacific squadron of the Baltic Fleet. The position of the main base was aggravated by the fact that it was connected with the metropolis by a thin “string” of the railway, the final part of which lay across Manchuria, a territory that had an incomprehensible status then - seemingly not Chinese, but not completely Russian. But naval strategists persisted - we need an ice-free harbor on the Pacific Ocean, and that’s it.
Oddly enough, the then military minister, General Alexei Kuropatkin, took the most realistic position on this issue. At the very end of 1903, he sent a note to the authorities, in which, in particular, he wrote that Port Arthur, “being away from our natural defensive line running along the coast of the Sea of Japan, and being in the distance from it from 600 to 1000 miles, it cannot serve as a support for our naval operations along this coast, leaving it completely open to the enemy attack; in particular, the entire southeastern coast of Korea with the Japanese outpost Fusan existing here remains open for impunity and, being in the distance from it from 600 to 1200 miles from the northern ports of our main enemy Japan, our fleet in Port Arthur would be completely deprived of the opportunity to prevent and even threaten the advance of the Japanese fleet to the Korean or our coast. This base does not cover even the western coast of Korea and the approaches to Seoul, because it is located 350 km in front of the entrance to the Yellow Sea, that is, in front of the enemy offensive, which will also firmly rely on all ports of the south and south-west coast of Korea . Finally, being in the distance of 1080 miles from our main base, Vladivostok, Port Arthur remains completely cut off from it, because the line of communication, on the one hand, has no intermediate strongholds, on the other, is completely attacked by the Japanese fleet. ”
The war that broke out then fully confirmed his fears.
Moreover, in his note, A. Kuropatkin went much further - he suggested leaving not only Port Arthur, but also all of Southern Manchuria, citing arguments - we may simply not have enough strength to simultaneously defend Port Arthur and conduct large-scale hostilities with the Japanese in Manchuria and Korea. Anticipating possible objections, the general argued that there were not too many industrial enterprises in these parts, and therefore the costs of possible withdrawal would not be too great. In total, he cites more than a dozen arguments in favor of abandoning South Manchuria.
Well-trained in all the subtleties of the functioning of the state machine, A. Kuropatkin was well aware that his innovative plan had few chances for implementation. Therefore, he sent it by “fan”, in the hope of at least gaining support somewhere. But all was silent.
And then the war begins. Kuropatkina is appointed to the post of commander of the Manchurian army. And then strange things start to happen - the Russian army suffers humiliating defeats one after another, and, as it seems to an outside observer, completely from scratch. For example, near Luoyang, we, having departed before the Japanese who panicked, who were preparing to retreat, simply gave up the victory. Almost the same thing happened under Mukden at the beginning of 1905: Kuropatkin refused at the critical moment for the Japanese to bring Russian reserves into battle, for which he was publicly offended by another Russian military leader. Does this not speak about Kuropatkin’s obstinate, fatal striving to realize his plan of abandoning South Manchuria? After all, in the end it happened. It turns out that the commander hoped that in case of defeat he would remain in the highest echelons of power - which is what happened.
Finally, one more frequently asked question: could Russia continue the war after the Tsushima battle? The same Vladimir Linevich, appointed to the post of commander of the Russian army after the removal of Kuropatkin, later declared that he could have broken the Japanese. He is echoed in his memoirs by the future leader of the White movement in southern Russia, Anton Denikin, saying that we could squeeze the Japanese. But this is the opinion of the generals who do not very well represent the role of the fleet.
It should be understood: after the defeat of the Russian squadron, the Japanese owned the sea. This meant that they could easily and quickly disembark landing where they liked - for example, they were already testing the ground for the invasion of Kamchatka.
We were unable to do anything in response - we were able to concentrate troops only at the end points of our railways.
Of course, the Russian-Japanese war, despite the allegations that all facts about it are known, remains so far and not fully understood. In order to more or less clarify the situation, work is needed in both Russian and Japanese, Chinese and Korean archives. And this is not a task for one generation of researchers.
One thing is clear - assurances about the invincibility of the Japanese army and the genius of its military leaders are just a myth.