Signatures on the Treaty of Portsmouth closed a violent chapter in Russian-Japanese history. This pre-WWI conflict was also one of the catalysts for the Russian Revolution and the emergence of Imperial Japan.
Russia and Japan were blossoming with military, industrial and political power by the end of the 19th Century. Like all fledgling empires, both claimed territory and resources while demonstrating strength and independence. It seemed inevitable that both should clash together. The end result was eighteen months of land and sea warfare, including the capture of Port Arthur. The Russian’s Baltic Fleet made an epic 18,000-mile journey to reach their besieged comrades, only to meet destruction by the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. An amazing account of the voyage and battle can be found in The Tsar’s Last Armada by Constantine Pleshakov. (The Japanese warship Mikasa, flagship of Admiral Togo,is pictured here.)
The Russo-Japanese War featured weapons that were quite familiar in the Crimea or our own Civil War, such as horse-drawn artillery pieces. Yet the Japanese and Russians also sported torpedoes and armored warships, wireless communications and machine guns. The blend of old and future warfare would appear with other nations only nine years later in the Great War—and on a far greater and horrific scale.
On September 5, 1905, representatives from Russia and Japan traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for peace negotiations that settled the fires of these exhausted combatants. There is no greater commitment in the aftermath of conflict than the pursuit of peace. Although this bond was broken in World War II, there existed from 1905 a window of time to mourn the dead and rebuild what was lost.