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 Posted: Mon Apr 8th, 2013 10:37 am
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We are rightfully proud of historical 250-days defense of Sevastopol. Yet general Manstein was rightfully proud of taking the fortress. But taking of Port Arthur brought no pride to Japanese arms. This is what general Nogi wrote in his private letter to a friend:

“Only feelings I have right now – are shame and misery, because I had to waste so many lives, so much ammunition and time”.

80-thousand men of English garrison in the fortress of Singapore, loaded with supplies and ammo, having a free sea approach – they will capitulate before 50-thousand Japanese expeditionary corps. We, Russians, should not be ashamed of our military history.

Not once we talked about Russian “educated” class and its role in the events at that tragic time. It has to be noted that not everyone was full of ill-will towards his Homeland. This is what very contradictory person – Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy – wrote about the events:

“The fall of Port Arthur was painful for me… I was a military man myself. In my time this would never have happened. Die to a man, but never surrender… In my time it would have been considered a shame and would be seemingly impossible to surrender a fortress while having supplies and 40-thousand worth of soldiers”.

And yet this coin had a glorious side. Russian garrison lost 11 thousand men (every fifth defender). But out of 112 thousand casualties of Japanese siege army ranked officers were about 10 thousand (and also 12 ships and around 2 thousand sailor casualties). In comparison let’s say that at Tsushima disaster Russian fleet lost 5 thousand lives.

Russian casualties in Russo-Japanese war weren’t catastrophic. In long battles under Laojan and Mukden our casualties were capped at 3 and 6 thousands respectively. This is no more than 2% of all participants in these battles. Average casualties of Russian military in Manchuria were no more than average casualties of Soviet military in Afghanistan.

Yet our casualties before and after 1917 were consciously overexaggerated and even demonized by many so-called “war historians”. Well hidden disinformation was included not only in school books, but also in books for military schools. Like, for battles of 19th century casualties information was a feature, but for battles of Russo-Japanese war this information was inexplicably absent. Instead there was a number of “sanitary” casualties. That is how myth about 20 and 40 thousand casualties under Laojan and Mukden respectively were created. And this was a conscious effort.

Russian “educated” class hated the emperor Nikolai Aleksandrovich with same kind of vehement, with which a ‘venal’ woman hates a reverential one, because he stood on their way to such a political construction in which every banker, industrialist, professor or lawyer should become something like a mini-emperor himself. They pathologically wished defeat for Russian army, because it was not only the force protecting the country, but also the main foundation of the Russian emperor. They passionately wanted to spill the blood of Russian soldiers on the head of the emperor. Today we know full well who and what kind of ‘heaven’ built on their own ill-fated bones.

Soviet government historians hand some other, albeit no less “honorable” goals. Their attempt to slander the emperor and Russia was no accident. Task before them was difficult – they had to hide incomprehensible losses of Red Army in the tragic years of the Great Patriotic War. And it was properly difficult! Because even just for capturing unnoticeable little place called Sychovka (hidden under 4 ringing titles of military operation) the “best ever general” lost 1 million of lives. Even more so, stimuli for said historians were weighty and shiny.

Nowadays many historians tell that Russian casualties in war against Japan in Soviet period were overexaggerated by historians at the time. Point is that every Soviet historian had to conform his historical conclusions with quotes presented in Lenin’s books. Such as:

“Number of captives according to the last English data is 48 thousand people, but how many more thousands died in battles under Qincao(confirm spelling) and under the fortress itself?”

Naturally, if Lenin, referencing English press, voices number of 48 thousand people, then Soviet historian doesn’t have the right to question that number. Otherwise his own colleagues, other Soviet historians, would immediately brand him and enemy of the people, a person that makes his research deliberately anti-Marxist, anti-Soviet.

Same motives were under slander about Tsushime, while Russian navy had occasional yet great successes - such as story of cruiser squadron from Vladivostok. Said squadron consisted of large armor-plated cruisers - “Gromoboy” and “Rossiya”, akin but obsolete cruiser “R’urik” and cruiser-scout “Bogatyr”. Unfortunately, “Bogatyr” got hole on reefs and was out of commission until summer of 1905.

Vladivostok’s cruisers entered the war much later than Port Arthur’s squadron. And commanders are not to blame here. Problem was in geography, more precisely in climatic specifics. Problem that was very well understood by the emperor and (purposefully) ignored by many government official of the time: ice.

Starting from April, as soon as ice-breakers got through Zolotoy Rog bay, Russian cruisers entered the war. 25th of April “Rossiya”, “Gromoboy” and “Bogatyr” with an escort of 2 torpedo-boats raided Korean port of Kinzan (confirm spelling) sinking transport “Goe Maru”. In Tsugar channel torpedoes sunk military transport “Kin’zu Maru”. Refusing to include in squadron obsolete cruiser “R’urik” commander Reitsenstein achieved high mobility, allowing escaping unfavorable encounters with an enemy.

These cruisers were also used as platform of revolutionary experiments of new means of observation and military intelligence. Cruiser “Rossiya” used an aerostat on a rope to greatly extend the range of visibility and spotting targets. 10 years from this moment German cruiser squadron under the command of admiral count von Schpey based in Qingdao won’t have anything besides binoculars as the means of observation. ‘Best in the world’ British navy will start using aerostats for observation only in the middle of 1915, when losses inflicted by Germans will be at the brink of breaking English sea transportation.

Main victory of Vladisvostok’s squadron is sinking big 6000-ton steamships “Hitatsi-Maru” and “Sado Maru”, each of which transported not only military supplies but also more than a thousand of soldiers and ranked officers. This victory should stay in the same row as sinking of German transport “Wilhelm Guslav” by sailors of the legendary “Marinesko”. Main losses for Japanese weren’t people. Along with “Hitatsi-Maru” sunk 18 pieces of heavy siege artillery. Arrival of heavy siege mortars (which will be the main bane of besieged fortress) under Port Arthur was delayed for 2 months due to this effort.

And this is just a part of the list of sunken and captured ships. Also Vladivostok’s cruisers averted a significant portion of Japanese fleet. More precisely – 2nd armor-plated squadron of admiral Kamimura, consisting of six iron-cladded and two armor-plated cruisers. Practically (considering “Bogatyr” being out of commission) against two Russian ships. It was the absence of admiral Kamimura’s squadron that allowed Russian ironclads engage Japanese on almost even terms 28th of July. As we remember, chance saved Japanese fleet that day from crushing defeat. If Kamimura was there then Witgeft would be destined to suffer inevitable Tsushima.

Meeting Japanese ships 1st of August in Korean channel Vladivostok’s cruisers engaged squadron of admiral Kamimura. A little bit later Japanese forces were reinforced by crusier squadron of admiral Uriu – one who commanded the traitorous attack on “Varyag” and “Koreyets” in Chemulpo.

Including slow “R’urik” was the main mistake of Russian admiral K.P. Iyessen. “Gromoboy” and “Rossiya” could easily escape the battle on their own, but “R’urik” was doomed from the beginning. Russian cruisers lasted a 5-hour battle while being grossly outnumbered. Even outpacing the famous “Varyag” in terms of valor “R’urik” sunk in the waters of Korean channel, north-west of infamous island Tsushima. Along with the ship went don’t its captain E.A. Trusov, 9 ranked officers and 195 sailors. 600 people were caught from water by Japanese. Despite the heavy damage sustained “Rossiya” and “Gromoboy” returned safely to Vladivostok.

Around the same time, 30th of July Royal family got long hoped-for heir. In Petergof, in one of pavilions of Alexandria Park the empress gave birth to a boy. This was her fifth child. The boy was named Alexei. Empress had a small hospital in Tsarskoye Selo, which she visited daily, even though her ability to personally help out was small due to pregnancy. There was also a small pavilion for injured soldiers. It was called a home for handicapped. Some injured lived here until their full recovery, others – until they learnt some other profession, not affected by their handicap. This is considered the first institution of this nature in Russia. And in was founded not for state’s budget money, but for empress’s personal savings.

Not a month passed from heir’s birthday, when empress Aleksandra Fedorovna arrived to Revel’ to along with her royal husband send new Pacific squadron on its way to the Far East. Nobody knew then that this undertaking will end up near all too familiar island Tsushima and will become the biggest tragedy in the history of Russian Navy.

Even today it’s common to blame the emperor for Tsushima. Meaning that the effort was in vain. That there was no need for another squadron in the Pacific. And first to moan about it was the main cause for Japanese national holiday, admiral Zinoviy Rozhdestvenskiy:

“If I had even a drop of civil courage I would shout to the entire world: “Save the last sources of the fleet! Do not send them to slaughter! What will you have to show, when the war is over?”, but I didn’t have the necessary spark”.

Rozhdestvenskiy wasn’t an ordinary sailor. He was the head of General Staff. So of course he knew that military ships exist not for eye-pleasing of the emperor, but for battle. Such statement can only be made by a coward or a psychologically inadequate individual.

But Zinoviy Rozhdestvenskiy was anybody but coward, which he has proven in the heat of Tsushima battle. He wasn’t an idiot either. He was a great sailor and commander, which he has proven by leading a conjunction of different types of ships through 18 thousand nautical miles and three oceans. And all this was considering that England (who had control over the majority of coal-loading station on the way of the squadron) closed its port for Russian military ships.

It would seem that Zinoviy Rozhdestvenskiy encountered the same problem as did Kuropatkin, as did Witgeft. Many try to justify this as a sign of “God’s wrath”, as if these people suddenly lost their minds. But nevertheless, the decision to send the squadron to the Far East was absolutely correct. And this decision was made the man who was among the only ones who kept his composure and sense throughout this campaign – emperor Nikolai II.

Emperor’s plan was thoughtful and completely fulfillable. For that defense contractors had to work intensely. But war factories were plagued by strikes and stoppages. Workers were paid for this sabotage from some unknown secret funds. Sometimes the political pieces of silver were considerably above their normal wages for actual labor. It has to be said that Russian factory worker in Saint-Petersburg at the time had wages comparable to low ranked infantry officers. So these strikes were not because of lack of money to buy bread. It was something along the lines of Modern Ukrainian Maidan, where every statist gets paid for participation in political prostitution. Needless to say, such activities contaminate society.

Among the myths about the emperor in regards to Tsushima there is one related to some “light” shells that supposedly were a reason behind inefficiency of Russian arms in the tragic day 14th of May. Reason to change old 450kg shell for 330kg new ones was economy. Let’s say that this change was unfortunate, would this destroy the black myth?

Author of that change was no other than brilliant inventor admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov. In contrast to high-explosive shells Makarov’s shells were armor-piercing. Japanese shells had great destructive power on unarmored objects, but any armor was impenetrable for it. Makarov’s shell could pierce through almost any armor, but explosion was far less potent. 10th minute of Tsushima battle: 12-inch Russian shell pierces the bridge of head ironclad “Mikasa”. It exploded literally ten meters away from Japanese commander. If it was old high-explosive shell – the battle would be over without even starting. What are the odds?

14th of May, 10-year anniversary of the emperor Nikolai Aleksandrovich, Russian ships entered Tsushima channel. After 5 hours of artillery battle were lost four newest ironclads: “Oslyabya”, “Aleksandr III”, “Borodino” and “Knyaz’ Suvorov”. Fate of the squadron was sealed. But why so sudden success for Japan, why nothing like this happened in Yellow Sea 28th of July or around the same Tsushima 1st of August? Why so drastically different results?

A lot can be said about certain effort to sabotage new Russian ships, but this a well-known revisionary point of view (for further interjection). And of course there is matter of admiral Zinoviy Rozhdestvenskiy. At the last port before battle he ordered to load ironclad with 2000 tons of coal in overload. So protective ironclad belt was compromised. I leave it to you to decide for yourself what can be the reason behind such a ‘mistake’. Anyway, newest fast ironclads ended up being slow due to overload, effectively reducing the speed of the entire squadron.

Could the squadron meet a different fate? Obviously it could. Everything was in hands of the admiral. During this war not only Vladivostok’s cruisers worked enemy’s communications. Rozhdestvenskiy could let off outdated cruisers and ironclads of the second squadron on their own way to disrupt communications. Old, slow, without real military value these ironclads could circle around Japan and go to Nikolayevsk-na-Amure. There was no chance to hamper new fast ironclads (“R’urik proved that”).

Cease-fire effort made a serious dent in Russia’s reputation, but the time was chosen very effectively. Suddenly in the spring of 1905 much nobility estates suffered arson. It was well-coordinated effort to be sure. In conjunction with overall political situation it made cease-fire to be the obvious escape from disaster.

Main Russia’s adversary – USA and its president Teddy Roosevelt - unexpectedly became the main intermediary in this cease-fire treaty. Throughout the Russo-Japanese war both USA and Germany waged a diplomatic game against Russia. Decision to organize peace convention came right after Tsushima.

Military didn’t want cease-fire. Army lived with anticipation of inevitable demise of Japanese. Russian forces in Manchuria had the number advantage for once. They were led by a decisive general N.P. Linevich, who earned respect of his army during the campaign. Military ministry was sure in victory in war against seeking cease-fire.

With intermediaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm it was hard to play a diplomatic game. And Russian delegation leader S. Vitte wasn’t a very powerful player (assuming that at this point he had favorable for Russia outcome of the convention in mind at all), unlike great Russian diplomat of old Aleksandr Gorchakov. Diplomatic duel was won by emperor Nikolai II himself, who oversaw the negotiations, every statement and every move of Russian delegation. He based his position on military intelligence. Only due to his firm position of “Not an inch of land, not a rouble of contributions or reparations” this cease fire treaty hasn’t become a shame for Russia. Russian military intelligence intercepted encrypted messages of diplomatic missions in Saint-Petersburg, Paris, Stockholm, Antwerp, Vienna and Haag. That allowed the emperor to react efficiently and in the end Japanese were forced to agree to Russian conditions after the decision to close the convention without any result. Only loss was a half of Sakhalin, albeit already heavily occupied by Japanese land forces. That loss met its revenge in 1945.

Japanese people expected anything but this. They were so excited by news of their military’s victories. Results of the peace convention spurred a lot of unrest in Japan. Cities were cover with mourning flags, streets barricaded.

Russian society considered this treaty to be shameful and rightly so. Yet there was great misunderstanding from where this shame have originated. Certainly not Japanese supposed military genius. And not from emperor’s inability to make right decisions. And most assuredly not from lack of valor and courage of Russian military.

Even in today’s Russia there are people ready to put abstract American model of democracy and tolerance higher than vital of the nation and the country. And like a hundred year ago modern USA has people ready to pay for it full pieces of silver.

... to be continued ...

Last edited on Tue May 7th, 2013 06:56 am by