RUSSIA LOSES HER PRESTIGE
 WHEN, in February, 1894, the world was startled by the Japanese guns in the harbor of Chemulpo (Korea), one of
Russia's well-known diplomats, speaking in defense of his country, said: "Ours has been a peaceful
absorption." Another statesman, pleading for sympathy, remarked pathetically: "We were unprepared for war."
The two advocates of Russia's cause spoke the truth, but they did not proclaim the whole truth.
Ever since Muravieff Amoorsky began the peaceful absorption of Manchuria by seizing the coastline of that
province, Russia has extended her dominions using no other weapon than her prestige, that is, the dread
inspired by her name, power, and resources. Repeated protests from Great Britain remained unheeded, because
the czar's government was convinced that they would not be emphasized by a resort to arms. The semi-civilized
tribes of Central Asia were unable, of course, to oppose the Russian advance; and China was justly afraid of
defying the great northern power. Thus the peaceful absorption continued with such ease that the Russian
tchinovnik ended in believing in their country's prestige. Herein lies the principal cause of the astounding
history of the war with Japan.
 Although Russia repeatedly agreed to evacuate Manchuria, her actions in the construction of railways and other
roads, the opening of mines, the enormous capital expended in creating a commercial emporium in Dalny, and her
jealousy in excluding foreigners from that territory,—all this was ample evidence that nothing short of
compulsion would cause her to withdraw. Besides, Alexander Pavloff, the Russian Minister in Korea, was anxious
to emulate Count Cassini, his former chief at Peking. He was constantly plotting to secure a foothold in the
Peninsula. In 1903, it was announced that a Russian company had obtained a timber concession on the Yalu
River. A few months afterwards, some American newspaper correspondents with the Japanese army discovered the
ruins of a Russian fort on that river, securely screened from indiscreet eyes, but in a fine position to
control the passage. That was the timber concession.
Russia's policy, therefore, was a serious menace to Japan. But Japan did not purpose to draw ridicule by
unavailing protests. Feverishly the preparations for more emphatic action were continued; in the latter part
of 1903, Japan was ready. Safe from a possible European intervention by her treaty with Great Britain, Japan
reminded Russia of her promise to evacuate Manchuria on October 7, and requested an explanation for not
keeping the pledge. Russia, with a blind faith in her prestige, replied that the affair did not concern Japan
but China, whereupon Japan made a proposition concerning Manchuria and Korea which would be acceptable. With
studied contempt replies from the czar were held back
 beyond the time permitted by international courtesy. Moreover their tenor was not only unsatisfactory, but was
also calculated to exasperate the proud Japanese. When the final preparations were made, Japan instructed her
minister to St. Petersburg, to demand his passports,—an act equivalent to a declaration of war.
The tchinovnik doubted their senses. Russia maintained that a severance of diplomatic relations did not
necessarily imply an appeal to the sword, when the news flashed over the wires that the Russian war vessels
Varyag and Koreyetz had been blown up at Chemulpo to escape being captured. The
world was still marveling at Japan's audacity when it was informed that three other Russian war vessels had
been disabled owing to a night torpedo attack under Admiral Togo.
Why was the Russian fleet, numerically superior to that of Japan, divided? The answer is found in that fatal
word: prestige. Pavloff in Korea had requested the presence of the two doomed ships, to keep the Japanese in
awe. Admiral Stark lay under the guns of impregnable Port Arthur, trusting to the prestige, when the illusion
vanished. There was still the Vladivostok squadron; it made an effort to induce Togo to leave Port Arthur by
making a raid upon the north coast of Japan, but in vain. Beyond sinking a few unarmed merchantmen, nothing of
importance was accomplished.
The czar's choice to restore Russia's naval prestige, fell upon Admiral Makaroff. At about the same time,
General Kuropatkin, the former Minister of War, was charged with punishing Japan for her insolence. His
departure for the Far East was theatrical. After many
 genuflections before sacred eikons, he promised to restore Russia's prestige by dictating terns of peace in
Makaroff was less enthusiastic, and perhaps more in earnest. It is asserted that he restored discipline in a
sadly demoralized fleet. He was enticed out of Port Arthur's shelter by a small fleet of the enemy's cruisers
sent out as a decoy. When he discovered Togo's iron-clads he returned to port, but his flagship struck a mine
at the entrance to Port Arthur and sunk. The Admiral, as well as his guest, the noted battle painter
With Togo blockading Port Arthur and Admiral Kaminura guarding Vladivostok, the Japanese secured the freedom
of the sea, and began to pour troops into Korea. This was greeted with acclamation by the tchinovnik who,
after their naval misfortunes, claimed that the situation would soon be reversed by the army. Some Japanese
soldiers were landed openly at Chemulpo, but the bulk went ashore in a well-concealed harbor south of the Yalu
River. General Kuroki was in command.
Meanwhile Kuropatkin was in Manchuria busy organizing the army when not obstructed by Viceroy Alexieff. Such
troops as he found were capable of rendering good service in hunting down Chinese brigands, but, as the sequel
proved, the army had also been nurtured upon that most indigestible material, prestige. To the wonder of
Europe,—and to a less degree of America,—Kuroki crossed the Yalu and sent the czar's dreaded
soldiers flying before him. (May 1, 1904.)
 Once more, and for the last time, did the Russian fleet at Port Arthur attempt a sortie. It failed, and its
fate was sealed.
While the wreckage of Russia's once proud fleet lay concealed in Port Arthur's inner basin, the Japanese,
after scouring the waters to clear them from mines, landed troops on the Liao-tung Peninsula, claimed by Japan
after the war with China, but despoiled of it by Russia's peaceful absorption. In 1814, Port Arthur was taken
in a day from the Chinese: the Russians defended the impregnable fortress for six months. "Our prestige
demands that the enemy shall not capture Port Arthur," cried the tchinovnik, and Kuropatkin was ordered to
General Stoessel's rescue. The attempt failed, and General Yogi could pursue the siege without being
disturbed. ( June 14-15, 1904.)
A stolid, ignorant, and densely superstitious people was at war with a rejuvenated nation keenly alive to the
power of education. That is the secret. Man for man, Russia would have won. But the resourcefulness of the
little brown man more than offset the Russian's physical superiority. As the year 1905 dawned, the fall of
Port Arthur was made known to the world.
Slowly, but heralded by the marvels it would accomplish, the Baltic fleet under Rojestvensky sailed to
Madagascar, welcome to whatever aid the French ally could bestow. Japan said nothing, but made a note of it.
She cleaned and scraped her sea-worn, battle-scarred vessels, under the supervision of grim, silent Togo.
Oyama, the Japanese commander-in-chief, reënforced by the veterans of Kuroki and Yogi, was playing with
 he had the game in his hand. After ten days of hard fighting, the discomfited Russians made a masterly retreat
to the Sha river, after evacuating Mukden, the cradle of the present Chinese dynasty, (August 26-September 4,
Kuropatkin deserved credit for the manner in which he extricated the remains of the czar's army. Oyama did not
feel safe in following up the pursuit. His game was that of a skillful chessplayer. First make sure of the
result with mathematical precision, then strike. The Japanese were deaf to the demand for brilliant clashes.
After the battle of Liao-yang, the armies seemed idle so far as news from the front went. Oyama attacked his
former antagonist on the Shakhe River and drove the discomfited Russians beyond Tie pass. General Kuropatkin
was superseded by his former subordinate Liniévitch who, however, accomplished nothing to warrant his
Meanwhile the Baltic fleet left the hospitable shores of Madagascar, proclaiming its search for Togo, together
with the determination to punish the impertinent Japanese. In the latter part of May, 1905, Admiral
Rojestvensky made a dash for Vladivostok through the Tsu channel, the southern entrance to the Sea of Japan.
Togo intercepted him, and a battle followed which, in its results, stands unique in the history of naval
warfare. At a cost of three torpedo boats, 113 killed, and 444 wounded, the Japanese sank 6 Russian
battleships, 1 coast defense vessel, 3 special service boats, and 3 destroyers, besides capturing 2
battleships, 2 coast defense vessels, and 1 destroyer. The losses in killed were 8,550
 and over 3,000 prisoners, among them Admirals Rojestvensky and Nebogatoff, were taken to Japan. As a result of
this one-sided battle, Russia's naval power is broken. (May 27-28, 1903.)
While President Theodore Roosevelt seized this opportunity to approach the belligerents in favor of peace,
pointing out the hopelessness of continuing the struggle to Russia and appealing to Japan's magnanimity, the
world was startled by the revolt of the Kniaz Potemkin, a first-class battleship of the Black Sea
squadron. The mutineers found no support, and what might have proved a serious danger to the house of
Romanoff, ended by the ship being sunk in Roumanian waters. She was recovered by the Russians.
President Roosevelt's efforts toward bringing the two powers together, proved successful. Washington was
agreed upon as the place for the negotiations, but the plenipotentiaries, Sergius Witte and Baron de Rosen
acting for Russia, met Baron Komura and Minister Takahira, who represented Japan, at Portsmouth, N.H., where
the United States acted as host.
The incompatibility of Japan's demands and Russia's concessions on several occasions brought the
plenipotentiaries on the verge of rupture. With the singlemindedness born of an unselfish purpose, President
Roosevelt exerted all the personal influence he could bring to hear upon czar and emperor with the result that
the victor gave the world an astounding lesson in magnanimity. Japan made peace possible by withdrawing her
demands for indemnity and the cession of territory beyond that of which Russia had robbed her,—the
southern half of the
 island of Saghalien, which will be once more Karafuto for the Japanese.
The terms of the Treaty of Peace were agreed upon at Portsmouth on the 29th of August 1905. The war had lasted
from the 5th of February, 1904, or 572 days. Russia paid in men 375,000, in money $1,075,000,000,—all
for peaceful absorption and support of prestige. Cassini's shrewd move, ten years before, in robbing Japan of
the Liao-tung Peninsula and Port Arthur, has ended in Japan's obtaining possession of that key to Peking, with
the promise of holding it beyond the possibility of recapture, until China recovers its manhood. The Treaty of
Peace was signed September 5, at Portsmouth, N.H.
What will be the effect of the war upon the Russian people? While the plenipotentiaries were discussing the
terms of peace, autocracy launched a ukase calling for a consultative assembly. Russian thinkers, however,
reflect that, so long as autocracy exists and the tchinovnik admit no other authority but that of the czar,
another ukase may revoke the doubtful boon.
No one knows what the morrow will bring, either to us or to the Slav. Yet it seems absurd to suppose that,
after the lessons of corruption and incompetence of the present government, the educated Russians will remain
quiescent while the great empire continues on its downward course. Mediævalism has come into contact with the
spirit of the twentieth century, and has been found wanting. It seems as if the dawn of a new era for Russia
is at hand.
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