Facts on the Russo-Japanese War

Japan Emerges as a Modern Naval Power Defeating Two Russian Fleets

Russian riflemen in place, China, Russo-Japanese war, photograph by Leon Bouet, from LIllustrazione Italiana, Year XXXI, No 44, October 30, 1904
De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / Getty Images

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 pitted expansionist Russia against up-and-coming Japan. Russia sought warm-water ports and control of Manchuria, while Japan opposed them. Japan emerged as a naval power and Admiral Togo Heihachiro achieved international fame. Russia lost two of its three naval fleets.

Snapshot of the Russo-Japanese War:

  • When: February 8, 1904, to September 5, 1905
  • Where: The Yellow Sea, Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula
  • Who: The Russian Empire, ruled by Tsar Nicholas II, versus the Japanese Empire, ruled by the Meiji Emperor

Total Troop Deployment:

  • Russia - approx. 2,000,000
  • Japan - 400,000

Who won the Russo-Japanese War?

Amazingly, the Japanese Empire defeated the Russian Empire, thanks mostly to superior naval strength and tactics. It was a negotiated peace, rather than a complete or crushing victory, but hugely important for Japan's rising status in the world.

Total Deaths:

  • In battle - Russian, approx. 38,000; Japanese, 58,257.
  • From disease - Russian, 18,830; Japanese, 21,802.

(Source: Patrick W. Kelley, Military Preventive Medicine: Mobilization and Deployment, 2004)

Major Events and Turning Points:

  • Battle of Port Arthur, Feb. 8 - 9, 1904: This opening battle was fought by Japanese Admiral Togo Heihachiro against Russian Vice Admiral Oskar Victorovich Stark in a surprise night attack by the Japanese. While the battle was largely inconclusive, it resulted in a formal declaration of war between Russia and Japan on the day after the battle.
  • Battle of Yalu River, April 30 - May 1, 1904
  • Siege of Port Arthur, July 30 - January 2, 1905
  • Battle of the Yellow Sea, August 10, 1904
  • Battle of Sandepu, January 25 - 29, 1905
  • Battle of Mukden, February 20 - March 10, 1905
  • Battle of Tsushima, May 27 -28, 1905: Admiral Togo destroyed a fleet of Russian ships, ambushing them on their way through the Tsushima Strait on their way to Vladivostok. After this victory, Russia's prestige was damaged and they sued for peace.
  • Treaty of Portsmouth, September 5, 1905, formally ended the Russo-Japanese. Signed at Portsmouth, Maine, USA. Theodore Roosevelt earned the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the treaty.

Significance of the Russo-Japanese War

The Russo-Japanese War held great international significance, as it was the first all-out war of the modern era in which a non-European power defeated one of Europe's great powers. As a result, the Russian Empire and Tsar Nicholas II lost considerable prestige, along with two of their three naval fleets. Popular outrage in Russia at the outcome helped lead to the Russian Revolution of 1905, a wave of unrest that lasted more than two years but did not manage to topple the tsar's government.

For the Japanese Empire, of course, victory in the Russo-Japanese War cemented its place as an up-and-coming great power, particularly since it came on the heels of Japan's victory in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. Nonetheless, public opinion in Japan was none too favorable. The Treaty of Portsmouth did not grant Japan either the territory or the monetary reparations that the Japanese people expected after their significant investment of energy and blood in the war.

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Szczepanski, Kallie. "Facts on the Russo-Japanese War." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/facts-on-the-russo-japanese-war-195812. Szczepanski, Kallie. (2020, August 27). Facts on the Russo-Japanese War. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-on-the-russo-japanese-war-195812 Szczepanski, Kallie. "Facts on the Russo-Japanese War." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-on-the-russo-japanese-war-195812 (accessed June 10, 2023).