How Russia challenged Japan
Between Russia, China and Japan was a relatively small Korean kingdom. Korea has long been in the sphere of influence of China, was afraid of the Japanese, and at the end of the 19th century began to fall under the influence of European powers and Russia. The Japanese traditionally regarded the Korean Peninsula as a strategic springboard from which Japan itself could be attacked. In Japan, they remembered how in the 13th century, the “Mongolian” Khan Khubilai, heir to the great empire of Genghis Khan, created a powerful fleet and sailed from the Korean coast to seize Japan. Then only the “divine wind” saved Japan from a terrible invasion.
At the end of the XVI century, the Japanese themselves tried to seize Korea. A talented and warlike shogun Toyoeti Hideyoshi decided to seize Korea. Armada of 4 thousand ships landed on the peninsula 250-thousand. landing party The Japanese successfully acted on land, but the Korean admiral Lee Sunxing created the "iron ship" - the world's first artillery battleships ("ships-turtles"). As a result, the Korean Navy gained a complete victory at sea, which made the connections of the Japanese invading army with island bases problematic. Korea was rescued, Lu Songxing entered history as a "sacred hero", "savior of the fatherland."
In the last decades of the 1860th century, Korean kings tried to maintain independence by maneuvering between China, Japan, Russia, the USA, Britain and France. At the royal court, there were pro-Japanese, pro-Chinese, pro-Russian parties that constantly fought, intrigued, trying to strengthen their influence in Korea. Russia began to influence Korea in 1861, when, under the Beijing Treaty, Russian possessions entered the Korean border. Already in 1880, Russian ships entered the port of Wonsan on the northeastern coast of the peninsula. In 1885 and XNUMX Russian ships again visited Wonsan. Then the idea arose to create here the ice-free Lazarev Port for the Russian Pacific fleet. However, under pressure from Britain, this idea had to be abandoned.
Japan first tried to subjugate Korea with the help of economic methods, subordinating its economy. But in the 1870-1880-ies, Japan began to put military pressure on Korea. Relations between the two countries are heated. In 1875, Koreans bombarded Japanese ships. In response, the Japanese landed troops, captured coastal forts and demanded special rights. Under the 1876 agreement of the year, Japan received trade privileges and the right to extraterritoriality. In 1882, the Japanese officers arrived in Seoul to reorganize the Korean army, that is, turn it into an appendage of the Japanese armed forces. Korea was to become the first colony of Japan on the way to create its own colonial empire and sphere of influence.
However, this did not suit China, which traditionally looked at Korea as its vassal. The Chinese ambassador in Seoul, Yuan Shikai, did his best to restore China’s influence in Korea. To counterbalance Japan’s influence, the Chinese advised the Korean government to expand ties with the Western powers. In 1880, the first European diplomats arrived in Seoul. In 1882, a friendship treaty was signed with the United States, then similar treaties were signed with European countries. With Russia, such an agreement was signed in 1883 year.
The impudent actions of foreigners caused an explosion in 1883, and the Japanese ambassador fled on a British ship. In response to 1885, the Japanese sent troops to Korea. But China did not want to give up its positions and sent its military contingent. Across the Yalu River, the Chinese began to arm the Korean army, built a number of fortifications in the country, and strengthened trade ties. In Tokyo, the question arose - is Japan ready for a full-scale war? In the end, it was decided that Japan was not yet sufficiently modernized, military reforms were not completed in order to fight with the Middle Kingdom. In addition, China received an unexpected ally. France expressed dissatisfaction with the Japanese pressure in Korea and strengthened its fleet in the region. The conflict was settled by the signing of a peace treaty in Tianjin, according to which most of the troops of both countries were withdrawn from Korea, which from that moment ended up under the joint Japanese-Chinese protectorate.
Meanwhile, Russia has again begun to strengthen its position in the region. At the same time, negotiations were held with the Korean king and the Japanese. Field Marshal Yamagato arrived at the coronation of Nicholas II. The Japanese suggested that the Russians divide Korea by the 38 parallel. But Petersburg was interested in the ice-free port in the southern part of the peninsula. In addition, at that time Russia had all the trump cards: the Korean king often hid in the Russian mission and asked the Russian guard detachment to send military and financial advisers, a Russian loan. Therefore, the Japanese refused. A group of military advisers was sent to Korea to train the royal guards and several Russian battalions. Russian began to penetrate into the state structures of Korea. Koreans offered money for the construction of the railway. At the same time, far from all the opportunities opened up for Russia in Korea were used. With more determined pressure and skillful actions, Korea could become a protectorate of the Russian Empire.
Thus, the position of Russia seriously strengthened at the expense of Japan. Japan allowed only 200 gendarmes to guard the telegraph line, and 800 soldiers guarding the Japanese residents in Busan, Wonsan and Seoul in Korea. All other Japanese military had to leave the peninsula. As a result, the Russian Empire deprived the Japanese elite of the dream of turning Korea into its colony. And the subordination of Korea was to be the first step towards the creation of the Japanese colonial empire dominant in Asia. Moreover, the Russians began to push the Japanese from the strategic assumption, which greatly hurt Japan. In subsequent years, gaining strength in Manchuria-Zheltorossiya and having received a concession on the Yalu River, Russia began to claim the role of regional leader, which made the conflict with Japan inevitable.
China in this period was formally still a great Asian power, a colossus with a 400-million population and vast resources. However, the Celestial Empire led the detachment from scientific and material progress, contemplation and contempt for the "barbarians" who needed only gold. China has historically lagged behind the West in the field of science, technology and became its victim. Beijing was unable to begin a successful modernization, following the example of Japan. The reforms carried out were not integral, systemic, wild corruption interfered. As a result, the country lost its internal integrity, became vulnerable to European predators, and then transformed Japan. The terrible corruption, degradation of the Chinese elite weakened the ancient empire even more. Europeans, Russians and Japanese easily bought the highest dignitaries.
Thus, a huge power became a victim. "Opium Wars" 1839 — 1842 and 1856 — 1860 made China a semi-colony of Britain and France. The Celestial Empire lost some key territories (Hong Kong), opened its domestic market for European goods, which caused the degradation of the Chinese economy. The flow of opium, which was sold by the British to China, very significant even before the war, increased even more and led to the gigantic spread of drug addiction among the Chinese, mental and physical degradation, and the mass extinction of the Chinese people.
In 1885, the Franco-Chinese war ended with the victory of France. China recognized that all of Vietnam was controlled by France (Vietnam from ancient times was in the sphere of influence of the Middle Kingdom), all Chinese troops were withdrawn from Vietnamese territory. France was granted a number of trade privileges in the provinces bordering Vietnam.
The Japanese delivered the first blow to China in 1874. Japan claimed the historical Ryukyu Islands (including Okinawa) and the Chinese Formosa (Taiwan) that historically belonged to China. As a pretext for the outbreak of hostilities, Japan used the killing of Japanese nationals (fishermen) by Taiwanese natives. Japanese troops captured the south of Formosa and demanded that the Qing dynasty take responsibility for the killings. Thanks to the mediation of Great Britain, a peace agreement was concluded: Japan withdrew its troops; China recognized Japan’s sovereignty over the Ryukyu archipelago and paid an indemnity to 500 thousand Liang (about 18,7 tons of silver).
The next conflict between the two Asian powers began in 1894 and was much more serious. The reason for the Sino-Japanese confrontation was Korea. Japan already felt strong and decided to carry out the first serious campaign. In June 1894, at the request of the Korean government, China sent troops to Korea to suppress a peasant uprising. In response, the Japanese sent an even larger contingent and organized a coup in Seoul. The new government of 27 July turned to Japan with a "request" to expel the Chinese troops from Korea. The Japanese attacked the enemy.
Ironically, this war became the dress rehearsal of the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese fleet began fighting without a declaration of war. The battle of the Japanese and Chinese fleets occurred in the Yellow Sea. Japanese troops landed in the Korean port of Chemulpo, and then near Port Arthur. After an intensive bombardment, the Chinese fortress Port Arthur was taken from land by Japanese troops. The surviving Chinese ships were blocked by the Japanese at the Weihai Naval Base. In February, 1895 Mr. Weihaiwei gave up. In general, the Chinese were beaten in all decisive battles. The Japanese army and navy opened the way to Beijing, which decided the outcome of the campaign.
Source: Naval Atlas of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Volume III. Military history. Part one
The main reasons for the defeat were: the degradation of the Chinese elite - instead of fulfilling the military program, Empress Cixi and her entourage preferred to spend money on new palaces; bad command; poor organization, discipline, heterogeneity of troops, outdated equipment and weapons. The Japanese had decisive and talented commanders; prepared the country, the armed forces and the people for war; skillfully used the weaknesses of the enemy.
Unable to continue the war, the Chinese signed 17 on April 1895, the shameful Shimonoseki treaty. China recognized the independence of Korea, which created favorable opportunities for the Japanese colonization of the peninsula; conveyed to Japan forever the Formozu Island (Taiwan), Penghu Islands (Pescador Islands) and the Liaodong Peninsula; paid contributions to 200 million. Liang. In addition, China has opened a number of ports for trade; provided the Japanese with the right to build industrial enterprises in China and import industrial equipment there. Japan received the same rights as the United States and European powers, which sharply raised its status. That is, China itself is now part of Japan’s sphere of influence. A Capture of Formosa-Taiwan, the first colony of Japan, made it the only non-European colonial power in Asia, which markedly accelerated the growth of imperial ambitions and colonial claims of Tokyo. Contribution was spent on further militarization and preparation of new conquests.
Battle at the mouth of the Yalu River (from Japanese prints)
At the first stage of the Sino-Japanese conflict, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia took a wait-and-see attitude. At the same time, the Russian press foresaw the danger of the success of the Japanese empire for the interests of Russia. Thus, “Novoye Vremya” (15 July 1894) warned of the danger of the victory of Japan, the seizure of Korea and the creation in the Far East of the “new Bosporus”, that is, the blocking of Russian sea communications in the Far East by Japan. Japan’s claims on Korea, the aggressive speeches of certain ideologues in favor of breaking away from Russia, Siberia, were provoked by harsh statements by the New Times (September 24, 1894). "Stock statements" were in favor of dividing China between the Western powers and called for "curbing" Japan.
February 1 A special meeting was convened in St. Petersburg under the chairmanship of Grand Duke Alexei Alekseevich to resolve the issue of Russia's actions in the current situation. The complete victory of the Japanese Empire was not in doubt, but it was not known what Japan would require, how far the Japanese would go. Japanese diplomats kept the requirements secret. At the meeting, Grand Duke Alexei Alekseevich said that "the constant successes of Japan now cause fear of a change in the status quo in the Pacific and of such consequences of the Sino-Japanese clash that the previous meeting could not have foreseen." What was meant was the 1895 August 21 meeting. Therefore, the meeting was to discuss measures that “should be taken to safeguard our interests in the Extreme East”. It was necessary to work together with other powers or move to independent steps.
During the discussion, two political positions clearly emerged. One was to take advantage of the defeat of China and compensate for the success of Japan with any territorial seizures - get an ice-free port for the Pacific squadron or take part of North Manchuria for the shorter Siberian railway route to Vladivostok. Another position was to repel Japan under the flag of protecting the independence of Korea and the integrity of China. The main goal of such a policy is to prevent Japan from strengthening not far from the Russian borders, not to allow it to seize the western coast of the Korea Strait, blocking Russia's exit from the Sea of Japan.
In general, the ministers spoke out against immediate intervention. The weakness of the Russian fleet and ground forces in the Far East was the main deterrent. The meeting decided to strengthen the Russian squadron in the Pacific so that "our naval forces were as large as possible than the Japanese." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was instructed to try to conclude an agreement with Britain and France about the collective impact on Japan if the Japanese, when making peace with China, violate Russia's essential interests. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to take into account that the main goal was “to preserve the independence of Korea”.
In March 1895, Tsar Nicholas II appointed Prince A. Lobanov-Rostovsky as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The new minister asked the leading European powers about the possibility of a joint diplomatic action aimed at curbing Japanese appetites. Britain refrained from interfering in the affairs of Japan, but Germany unreservedly supported the Russian Empire. Wilhelm II, asserting the draft telegram to St. Petersburg, stressed that he was ready to do it without England, with which Germany’s relations had already become seriously tense by this time. Russia was supported by France, which had its own interests in Asia.
At the beginning, Tsar Nicholas held a relatively soft position in relation to Japan, which corresponded to the peaceful position of Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky. The prince was afraid to exert strong pressure on Tokyo, depriving the Japanese of the chance to gain a foothold on the mainland. He wanted to indicate to Japan “in the most benevolent manner” that the seizure of Port Arthur would become an insurmountable obstacle to the establishment of friendly relations between Japan and China in the future and this seizure would become an eternal hotbed of contradictions in the East. However, gradually, when the Japanese successes became apparent, the king moved to the position of a more decisive party. Nicholas II began to attract the idea to get a freezing port in the southern seas. As a result, the king came to the conclusion that “for Russia, an open and operating year-round port is absolutely necessary. This port should be located on the mainland (in southeastern Korea) and should be attached to our possession by a strip of land. ”
Witte at this time appeared as a decisive supporter of providing assistance to China, by which many in Russia were viewed as a Russian ward. “When the Japanese receive six hundred million rubles from the indemnity from China, they will spend it on strengthening the territories they received, master the influence of the highly militant Mongols and Manchus, and then start a new war. With such a turn of events, the Japanese Mikado can - which becomes probable - in a few years become the emperor of China. If we now allow the Japanese to Manchuria, then the defense of our possessions and the Siberian road will require hundreds of thousands of soldiers and a significant increase in our navy, since sooner or later we will come to clash with the Japanese. This raises the question: is it better to come to terms with the Japanese seizure of the southern part of Manchuria and strengthened after the completion of the construction of the Siberian road or to gather now and actively prevent such a seizure. The latter seems more desirable - not to expect our Amur border to straighten out, in order not to get the alliance of China and Japan against us, to declare definitely that we cannot allow Japan to seize southern Manchuria, and if we do not consider it with our words - be ready to take appropriate measures.
Russian Finance Minister Witte noted: “It seemed to me that it was exceptionally important not to let Japan invade the very heart of China, firmly occupy the Liaotung Peninsula, which occupies such an important strategic position. Accordingly, I insisted on invading the treaty affairs of China and Japan. " Thus, Witte was one of the main initiators of Russia's intervention in the affairs of China and Japan. And for Japan, Russia has become the main opponent.
4 On April 1895, the following telegram was sent from Petersburg to the Russian envoy in Tokyo: “Having considered the peace conditions that Japan deigned to present to China, we find that the accession of the Laotong (Liaodong) peninsula, demanded by Japan, would be a constant threat to the Chinese capital, would Korea’s ghostly independence and would be a constant obstacle to continued calm in the Far East. Favor to speak out in this sense before the Japanese representation and advise him to abandon the final mastery of this peninsula. We still want to spare the Japanese pride. Because of this, you should give your step the most friendly character and should enter into an agreement with your French and German colleagues, who will receive the same instructions. ” In conclusion, the dispatch noted that the commander of the Pacific Squadron received an order to be prepared for any chance. In addition, Russia began to mobilize the forces of the Amur Military District.
11 (23) April 1895 representatives of Russia, Germany and France in Tokyo at the same time, but individually demanded that the Japanese government abandon the Liaodong Peninsula, which led to the establishment of Japanese control over Port Arthur. The German note was the most harsh. It was drawn up in an offensive tone.
The Japanese Empire could not withstand the military-diplomatic pressure of the three great powers at once. Squadrons of Russia, Germany and France, concentrated near Japan, had in aggregate 38 ships with a displacement of 94,5 thousand tons against 31 of a Japanese ship with a displacement of 57,3 thousand tons. In the case of the outbreak of war, the three powers could easily increase their naval forces several times by transferring ships from other regions. And China in such conditions would immediately resume fighting. An epidemic of cholera broke out in the Japanese army in China. In Japan, a military party led by Count Yamagato soberly assessed the situation and persuaded the emperor to accept the proposals of the three European powers. 10 in May 1895. The Japanese government announced the return of the Liaodong Peninsula to China, having received an additional contribution from 30 million in exchange from China. This forced concession was perceived in Japan as a humiliation, and eased the preparation of society for a future clash with Russia, and then with Germany.
It should be noted that Germany very actively supported all political actions of the Russian Empire in the Far East. Kaiser Wilhelm II wrote to Tsar Nicholas: "I will do everything in my power to maintain calm in Europe and guard the rear of Russia, so that no one can interfere with your actions in the Far East", ".. that for Russia the great task of the future is the business of the civilized Asian continent and the defense of Europe against the invasion of the great yellow race. In this case, I will always, to the best of my strength, be your assistant. ” Thus, Kaiser Wilhelm bluntly made it clear to the Russian Tsar that Germany “would join in any actions that Russia deems necessary to take in Tokyo in order to force Japan to abandon the capture not only of southern Manchuria and Port Arthur, but also located at the south-west coast of Formosa Pescadore Islands.
Berlin was extremely profitable to distract Russia from European affairs and gradually weaken the ties between Russia and France. In addition, Germany, in alliance with Russia, wanted to get its “piece of cake” in China. At the end of the message to Nicholas II, the German emperor noted: “I hope that, as I willingly help you settle the issue of possible territorial annexations for Russia, you will also favor the fact that Germany acquired a port somewhere where it will not“ constrain ” you". Unfortunately, St. Petersburg did not use this opportune moment to strengthen ties with Berlin, which could break the fatal alliance for Russia with France, which was in the interests of Britain. Although a strategic union of Germany and Russia could be very fruitful and dangerous for the Anglo-Saxons.
Signing of the Treaty of Shimonosek
To be continued ...
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