The myth of the unexpected start of the Russian-Japanese war was created even before its end, to justify the failures of the tsarist army in the Far East.
In the Soviet Military Encyclopedia (BOO) the article devoted to the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war 1904 – 1905 was literally saturated with the refrain of “surprise”. The Japanese "suddenly attacked", "treacherously attacked", "began military operations without warning." But this “suddenness” was invented by non-military experts of the SVE, it first appeared in 1905 year. Tsarist propaganda tries so to explain the continuous defeat in the Far East. Later, in the Soviet era, the “surprise of the Japanese attack” migrated to the military reference books of the Bolsheviks. And even now the beginning of the war on Wikipedia is described as “sudden.”
“The thought of war has always been relegated to the background as unpleasant”
Already at the end of the 19th century, for all conscientious military analysts of Russia and abroad, it was clear that the Japanese empire was very carefully and consistently preparing for a military redistribution of spheres of influence in the Pacific. The Russian squadron of the Mediterranean Sea, commanded by Rear Admiral Stepan Makarov, was sent to the Pacific Ocean in the 1895 year to strengthen Russia's naval forces, in view of the expected clash with Japan.
With the arrival in Vladivostok, at the request of Admiral Sergey Tyrtov, commander of the Pacific squadron, Makarov began preparing ships for military operations. At that time, Russian ships were mainly in the ports of the Sea of Japan. In his 1896 report on the presence of squadron ships in the Pacific region, Makarov points to the inevitability of an armed struggle against Japan: “The circumstances are such that the Japanese now consider Russia to be the enemy for the natural, in their opinion, development of the country. The war with Russia will be extremely popular in Japan and will cause the full tension of its forces from the very first minute. ”
On the pages of the book “Discourses on the issues of naval tactics”, published in St. Petersburg in 1897, Admiral Makarov inevitably justified the war with Japan in the geopolitical context: “No one can be a prophet in politics, but it would be careless to think that the great migration of peoples it will not happen again, and if the movement of the yellow race starts from east to west, then we will be the first to stop this flow with our bosom. Prudence requires advance and fully prepared to prepare for such events, and these preparations can do no harm; they will only contribute to the mass of the Russian people the necessary spiritual rigidity, i.e. just what the Romans had so much under their rule and the loss of which led to the fall of this world empire. ”
Becoming a member of the state commission on armament of fortresses, Makarov since the summer of 1896, “bombarded” the Naval Ministry with proposals to prepare Port Arthur for a long all-round defense. Later, he again, time after time, returns to this initiative. “The fall of Port Arthur will be a terrible blow to our position in the Far East. To prevent this from happening, Port Arthur must be made impregnable and supplied with provisions, gunpowder and coal in such quantities as to withstand a very long siege until reinforcements arrive, ”he wrote in March 1900 in a memo to Maritime Ministry manager Admiral Paul. Tyrtov.
In response, the ministry blames Makarov for not reasonably considering the Russian squadron in the Far East "zero." Pavel Tyrtov was convinced that the “valiant Russian fleet” would not allow the Japanese to bring heavy siege weapons to the port-arthur fortress by the sea.
Four years later, Port Arthur was taken exactly from land. Siege weapons were delivered from Japan by sea and unloaded unloaded in the port of Dalny.
Warnings Makarov remained unanswered. Already 11 in November 1902 of the year in a note on the shipbuilding program for 1903 – 1923 years he reiterates the possible actions of the Japanese in the Far East, specifying that “the gap will follow from Japan, not from ours. And all Japanese people, as one, will rise in order to achieve success. ”
“I want to live in Russia, but in a European way”
The Russian nobility at the beginning of the 20th century turned out to be unprepared for war. “I want to live in Russia, but in a European way,” the young lieutenant Nikolai Yazykov wrote sincerely to 1902 in the year to his friend, “I want to love the Motherland, but without a religious sacrifice, moreover, I even dislike the thought of it.”
Japanese officers - people from samurai families - thought differently. The well-known modern historian Anatoly Utkin cites in his monograph “The Russo-Japanese War. At the beginning of all the troubles "excerpt from the diary of Yosihara, the captain of the Japanese destroyer. “What the Russians call“ the fear of death ”is not clear to anyone here on the ship, but I know something about it from their books. To me, this feeling seems like an ordinary stupidity, stemming from their stupid religion. Fortunately, our politicians did not introduce it to us, and their half-crazed missionaries failed to make us lunatics. The Japanese do not have the fear of death if they are fighting for the interests of their country. ”
French sailors rescue survivors from the sinking cruiser “Varyag” in Chemulpo. Image: Ann Ronan Pictures / Getty Images
In 1908, the book “Spirit and Discipline in Our navy". It was written by Prince Alexander Lieven, chairman of the commission on the description of the Russo-Japanese War, commander of the cruiser "Diana" (of the same type with the famous "Aurora"), awarded the gold saber "For Courage" for the battle on July 28, 1904 in the Yellow Sea.
“The idea of war has always been relegated to the background as unpleasant,” thought Lieven, “and all our aspirations were directed towards its avoidance. The propaganda of the ideas of universal peace found an especially supportive ear in Russia. We built armadillos and at the same time we hoped with this fleet not to defeat the enemy, but to maintain friendly relations with him. Who did not see that we have demonstrations and maneuvers are fake, that the shooting was too rare, that the officers missed the armed reserve and so on. And all this is one root cause. We did not realize that we were a military people. ”
"Do not listen, I ask you, this Cassandra, - she would only howl ..."
These words were uttered, as witnesses testify, Admiral Fedor Avelan, Director of the Naval Ministry of the Russian Empire, when one of the naval staff officers "baked" him with his questions about the alarming assessments of Makarov about the real state of the Russian fleet in the Far East. Avelan was a brave and experienced naval commander, but a man of his class, and most importantly, a trusted functionary of the Russian bureaucratic machinery.
Vice Admiral Makarov sincerely sought to serve in the Far East in order to prevent the impending defeat of the Russian fleet.
“They're not sending me there,” the admiral wrote bitterly in the autumn of 1903 to his friend, Baron Ferdinand Wrangel, “until the accident happens there; and our position there is extremely disadvantageous. ” And this time Makarov was right: he was sent to the Far East only after the catastrophe that had occurred, when it was already impossible to change anything drastically.
In the summer of 1903, the War Minister, General Alexei Kuropatkin, inspected the troops of the Far East and especially carefully familiarized himself with the defenses of Port Arthur. Of course, he saw the true situation - the almost complete absence of military training, but upon returning to St. Petersburg he reported exactly what the king and his entourage wanted to hear.
“... Now you can not worry if even a large part, for example, of the Japanese army falls upon Port Arthur. We have the strength to defend Port Arthur, even while fighting alone against 5 – 10 enemies. Further work will provide an opportunity to find a safe haven throughout our Pacific squadron. Already now this squadron can safely measure its strength with the entire fleet of Japan with the hope of complete success. Thus, Port Arthur, supplied from the sea and from land, equipped with a strong garrison and supported by a powerful fleet, represents a completely independent force, ”wrote Kuropatkin, who later lost to the Japanese land campaign.
Siege of Port Arthur by Japanese troops.
When the 25 of December 1904 of the break of diplomatic relations was published in the St. Petersburg newspapers, Admiral Makarov could not stand it and, despite mutual hostility, wrote a personal letter to the manager, Abelaine.
“The stay of ships in the open roadstead,” predicted Makarov’s catastrophe with amazing accuracy, “gives the enemy the ability to make night attacks. No vigilance can prevent an energetic enemy at night to fall upon a fleet with a large number of destroyers and even steam boats. The result of such an attack will be very difficult for us. ”
Makarov further claimed that it was precisely the location of the Russian squadron on the outer roadstead of Port Arthur that would provoke Japan to the start of the war, for it afforded a rare opportunity to weaken the Russian fleet with a sudden night attack. The end of the letter is literally prophetic: “If we didn’t put a fleet into the inner basin of the Port Arthur harbor now, we will be forced to do this after the first night attack, paying dearly for the mistake.”
In fact, everything happened in Port Arthur exactly as Makarov had foreseen: on the night from 26 to 27 in January 1904, the newest battleships Retvisan and Tsesarevich, and also the cruiser Pallada got on board the Japanese torpedo and were the period of the Russo-Japanese War disabled.
"I forbid to put the fleet in a defensive position, so as not to provoke the Japanese ..."
In early January, 1904, the vicar of His Imperial Majesty in Vladivostok, Admiral Yevgeny Alekseev, awaiting an attack by the Japanese, appealed to Tsar Nicholas II to allow an announcement of the mobilization of troops in the Far East. A few days later, there was a response in which it was allowed to declare the fortresses of Port Arthur and Vladivostok on martial law and prepare a detachment of troops to be sent to the Yalu River, to the border between China and Korea.
At the request of Alekseev to put the fleet into the sea to counteract the landing of the Japanese army in Chemulpo, Nicholas II replied with a telegram after a five-day pause: “It is desirable that the Japanese, rather than we, should launch military operations. Therefore, if they start actions against us, then you should not prevent them from landing in South Korea or on the East Coast, up to Genzan, inclusively. ”
Even at the operational level, the Russo-Japanese war did not come "suddenly." The Russian naval attaché in Japan, second-rank captain Alexander Rusin, promptly sent an encrypted dispatch to St. Petersburg to prepare the Japanese for the start of the war. 22 January 1904 of the year he reiterates the recently purchased armored cruisers Nissin and Kassuga, which had recently bought armored cruisers from Singapore to Japan, categorically claiming that the war will begin in the very next few days. Indeed, on this day (February 4 1904 in a new style) in Japan a general mobilization was announced. Two days later, Japan broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and the Japanese fleet consisting of six battleships, 14 cruisers and over 36 squadron destroyers took to sea.
According to historians, Nicholas II was excellent at getting along with mediocrity, one of them was the governor of the tsar in Vladivostok, a member of three round-the-world trips, Admiral Yevgeny Alekseev. Having received the “valuable” instruction of the emperor to control the Russian troops and fleet in the Far East in such a way that “the Japanese, not we, opened hostilities”, Alekseev began to consistently carry out the order.
The commander of Port Arthur in 1904, Oscar Stark, kept all his life written with a special green pencil nominal order of Alekseev, which was strictly forbidden to put the ships of the Russian fleet in the protected position of the internal raid of Port Arthur, hang out anti-torpedo networks, etc. Stark repeatedly besieged Alekseeva with similar proposals and ultimately achieved the receipt of a personalized, written and absolutely suicidal order for the Russian fleet: "I forbid putting the fleet in a defensive position so as not to provoke the Japanese."
Stark, a good professional in maritime affairs, but a deeply law-abiding officer, also formed the command personnel of the Pacific squadron to match himself. One of the officers closest to him was the chief of staff of the port-arthur squadron, rear admiral Wilhelm Vitgeft. Later, Admiral Nicholas von Essen characterized him this way.
Wilhelm Witgeft. Photo: TSGAKFFD
“Wilhelm Karlovich Vitgeft was an honest and well-intentioned man, a tireless worker, but, unfortunately, his work was always stupid and always all his orders were based on all sorts of misunderstandings and even misfortunes. After serving for many years in the navy, Admiral Vitgeft was not a seaman at all, much less a military man. As a child, as he himself told, his father intended him for missionary work. Vitgeft got into the naval service as if by mistake, and his entire service was somehow a complete misunderstanding. ”
On the eve of the start of the Russo-Japanese War, Witgeft is holding an officer meeting on the flagship battleship Petropavlovsk 26 in January 1904. According to eyewitness testimony, naval officers conferred for a long time and pointlessly, since the leitmotif of the entire meeting was to find out “how to do something so that it is completely imperceptible”. On 23.00, Vitgeft closed the meeting with the phrase: "Sirs, there will be no war."
Exactly half an hour later, the outer raid of Port Arthur shuddered with fifteen powerful explosions. This Japanese admiral of Togo ordered to attack extremely conveniently located Russian ships.
“This is incredible! - Admiral Alekseev responded. “They can shoot even at night!” A little later he issued an order for all Russian armed forces in the Far East, in which, among other things, were the following words: “Everyone must remain calm in order to fulfill their duty in the most efficient way possible, believing in God's help. ”