Russia did not Lose the Russo-Japanese War

War against Russia was necessary for Japan, both for territorial gains and for acquitting the status of a world power. The idea of the inevitability of war with Russia had been implanted in the minds of the Japanese people long before 1904. The famous Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn wrote back in 1895 that when the Japanese move on Russia, even the dead Japanese soldiers and sailors who died in the recent war with China will come to their aid. The ambitiousness of Japanese politicians was supported by Western powers interested in weakening Russia. The U.S., Germany, and England provided Japan with enormous assistance in rearming, training, and military supplies for the army.

By 1904, Japan had concentrated five times more armed forces in the Far East than the Russian armed forces. They were equipped with the most modern Western European and American weapons. The Japanese fleet was at least twice as large as the Russian Pacific fleet.

Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II foresaw the war with Japan and prepared for it, but, unfortunately, Russia by 1904 did not have time to re-equip the Siberian and Far Eastern railroads for military transportation, which was one of the decisive reasons for the defeats of the Russian army at the beginning of the war.

Tsar Nicholas II was not a bellicose man and considered war the greatest evil, so he tried in every way to avoid it. In negotiations with Japan, he was ready to make major concessions, up to the lease of part of the island of Sakhalin. But, as noted by S. S. Oldenburg, “Russia could avoid the struggle only by surrender. By self-removal from the Far East. No partial concessions—and a lot were made—could not only prevent, but also postpone the war.”

And war broke out. On the night of January 26-27, 1904, Japanese ships treacherously attacked the Russian squadron in Port Arthur. In his manifesto to the people, Emperor Nicholas II stated:

“In our concern for the preservation of the peace dear to our heart, we have made every effort to strengthen the tranquility in the Far East. For these peace-loving purposes, we have agreed to the revision of the existing agreements on Korean affairs between the two empires, proposed by the Japanese Government. The negotiations on this subject, however, were not brought to an end, and Japan, without even waiting for the receipt of the last reciprocal proposals of Our Government, announced the termination of the negotiations and the severance of diplomatic relations with Russia.

Without warning that the interruption of such relations would mean the opening of hostilities, the Japanese Government ordered its destroyers to suddenly attack our squadron, which was moored at the naval base of the fortress of Port Arthur. Upon receipt of the report of our Viceroy in the Far East, we immediately ordered an armed response to the Japanese challenge.”

Some Russian politicians of that time doubted the expediency of the war. And the liberal-revolutionary public immediately declared that Russia did not need territories thousands of versts away and, in order to have good-neighborly relations with Japan, it had to “withdraw from the Far East.” However, Russian politicians and public figures understood the significance of the Russo-Japanese war. This understanding was later expressed by Sergei S. Oldenburg:

“Since the days when Peter the Great cut through the ‘window to Europe,’ no war was as much a struggle for the future of Russia as the Russo-Japanese war. The question of access to ice-free seas, of Russian predominance in a vast part of the world, of the almost unpopulated expanses of Manchuria was being decided. Otherwise, having made its mark on its entire future in Asia, Russia could not evade this struggle.”

In addition, we can say that Russia’s war with Japan was predetermined in heaven. This is evidenced by the following mystical cases. Seven days before the war began, one Valaam elder had a vision, later recorded from his words and kept in the archives of the Valaam Monastery.

In this subtle vision an angel in the form of a young man appeared to him and foretold the coming calamities. Here is how the elder himself told about it:

“One night a bright Young Man came to me and said: ‘Come with me, and you will see something that no one on earth understands.’ The Young Man turned the other way, and I saw a huge beast walking in the distance, and behind it a dark cloud went over the Russian land. I became afraid, and I took a step back. But the Young Man said: ‘Where will you go? There is nowhere to hide from it. But know that it does not concern you.’ Then I felt a kind of strength within me and I began to look at everything. I asked: ‘What does it mean?’ The young man said: ‘One, the beast is war, and two, the cloud is punishment.’”

In addition to this vision there was another mystical incident, confirming the predetermination of the war with Japan. Two months before it began, a pilgrim, an old Russian sailor, a participant in the famous defense of Sevastopol in 1854, during the Crimean War, came to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. At the Kiev shrines he prayed diligently for the Russian fleet in Port Arthur. And then, one day, he had a vision: the Mother of God standing with her back to the bay, who was holding an oblong shawl in her hands. With Her feet She was trampling naked double-edged swords. The sailor was very frightened by this vision, was struck with fear, but the Mother of God calmed him and told him that the war would soon begin, in which Russia would face severe trials. And in conclusion She said that it was necessary to paint an icon, which should exactly reflect this vision, and send it to Port Arthur.

When the old sailor began to speak of this vision everywhere, few believed him. And only after the attack of Japanese ships on the Russian squadron in Port Arthur did the Orthodox believe in the truth of Our Lady’s apparition to the sailor. Ten thousand Kiev worshipers collected the sum necessary to paint the icon, “Solemnity of the Mother of God,” or, as it is called otherwise, the icon of the Mother of God “Port Arthur.” Soon this icon was painted and sent to Port Arthur. But by that time, it was already besieged by the Japanese, and attempts to deliver the icon there ended in failure. And so it was sent to the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, General Kuropatkin.

From the failure of the spiritual order, the beginning of the war was also unsuccessful for Russia in other respects. In March 1904 near Port Arthur there was a battle between Russian and Japanese squadrons. By tragic accident, at the very beginning of the battle, the Russian battleship Petropavlovsk, on which Admiral Makarov, Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, was stationed, exploded on a mine. The ship sank in a matter of minutes. Among the dead was the Admiral himself. Left without leadership, Russian ships were defeated. The death of a remarkable naval commander, Admiral Makarov, was a heavy, irreplaceable loss. With his name, Russia reasonably associated hope for victory in this war. But the death of the Russian squadron in many ways predetermined further defeats, as after that Russian troops were deprived of support from the sea. The strategic position of the Russian army and fleet worsened. Taking advantage of the situation, the Japanese inflicted a heavy defeat on the Russian troops at Mukden and defeated the squadron in the Tsushima Strait.

Nevertheless, these defeats did not bring Japan victory over Russia. Sergei S. Oldenburg writes:

“The Russian army even after Mukden remained a formidable fighting force, and the Japanese were severely exhausted, despite the victory. They took the advantage of their earlier readiness for the last time – and yet they did not achieve a decisive result. Talk of Mukden as an unprecedented and shameful defeat was explained by political considerations – to show the unfitness of Russian power.”

After Mukden, the Japanese army could no longer fight actively. The economy and finances of Japan were undermined. Military losses were enormous:

“In the hostilities, Japan lost 270,000 men, including 86,000. The number of dead on the part of Russia was 36,000 thousand less. The economic and financial situation remained stable.”

In this regard, after the Battle of Tsushima, the Japanese Emperor appealed to U.S. President Roosevelt with a request to begin negotiations with Russia on the conclusion of peace, as Japan was unable to continue the war.

Emperor Nicholas II did not want to make peace, realizing that the defeat of Japan was inevitable and everything depended only on time. Nevertheless, he was forced to enter into peace negotiations, as internal turmoil began in Russia, which turned out to be more dangerous than the Japanese armies. The enemies of the Russian Orthodox monarchy provoked the revolution of 1905. The Russian Orthodox Church sounded the alarm. “There is a difficult war going on,” wrote Metropolitan Anthony (Vadkovsky) at that time, “it will be necessary for all to unite in high self-sacrifice, full patriotic feeling; but instead of this, internal turmoil reigns in our land. Native sons of Russia, under the influence of harmful teachings of enmity, unknown in the old days, tear her maternal heart. There is no love for the Church, reverence for authority has disappeared… This is where the real grief and misfortune of Russia.”

It must be said that huge foreign funds were involved in the organization of anti-state demonstrations. “Japan allocated money for the organization of strikes and riots in Russia,” writes historian Oleg A. Platonov. “Through front men and organizations, Japan financed trade union funds to support the strikers… In addition to Japanese money, Russian revolutionaries received huge sums from anti-Russian organizations and individuals in Europe and America.”

Of course, it should not be stated unequivocally that the revolutionary riots were organized with the help of foreign money. They became possible because a part of Russian society, infected by socialist teaching, decided to build a state according to human reasoning, and not according to the Divine gift, which for Russia is the monarchy, the power of God’s Anointed One—the Tsar. This position was a consequence of unchurching, a retreat from the Orthodox faith. People wished to live “freely,” without Gospel laws limiting them in action, so, as St. Righteous John of Kronstadt said about that situation, “faith in the word of God, in the word of truth has disappeared and has been replaced by faith in human reason; the press in the majority has become corrupted—there is nothing holy and honorable for it… there is no obedience of children to their parents, of students to those who teach them… Marriages are ruined, family life is decaying; there is no firm politics—everyone is politicking… everyone wants autonomy. The intelligentsia has no love for the Motherland and is ready to sell it to foreigners, as Judas sold Christ to the evil scribes and Pharisees.”

Departure from the Orthodox faith, forgetting of moral and ethical principles led to the possibility of using foreign money in the Russian revolutionary movement. And it was used at full scale, bribing educated Russian people and directing their activities to the struggle against the Orthodox monarchical statehood. The remarkable pastor of that time, Archpriest John Vostorgov, wrote directly about the betrayal of national interests by the intelligentsia during the Russo-Japanese war: “Never since the beginning of Russia has the absence of the most mediocre reason of state, patriotism and simple decency, been discovered to such an extent in people who consider themselves representatives of Russian thought. In this moment of grief and upheaval of the Fatherland, they found it convenient to destroy all the foundations of power and order… They welcomed and fanned each of our failures, they infected the troops going to battle with despondency; it finally came to the point that Russian students sent greetings to the Japanese Mikado (on Japanese victories—the author); they sent from Switzerland, to the Japanese army, to General Kuroki, the most detailed map of Northern Manchuria, so that the enemies could inflict harm to the Russian army without error… Cains, Hams and Judases have raised their seats in Russia. Cains killed the best Russian people—the Tsar’s servants: the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was killed, Bobrikov was killed in Finland, Pleve was killed. The Hams rejoiced at the humiliation of the Motherland and mocked its suffering. The Jews took Japanese money, bought weapons with it for rebellion inside Russia, organized strikes of workers in factories that prepared military supplies, in shipyards that built military ships, on roads that transported troops.”

Today we can say with all certainty that whoever and however one evaluates the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War, the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II should be honored and praised for the fact that in the conditions of outright sabotage, secret political intrigues and moral and spiritual betrayal on the part of liberal society, he managed to bring Russia to the threshold of victory, and only the burgeoning revolution of 1905 prevented this war from reaching its victorious conclusion.

Igor Evsin is a ooet, writer and journalist. He is the author of twelve books. He is a monarchist who lives and works in Ryazan. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Ruskline.

Featured: The Theotokos Port Arthur, 1904.