The Japanese Invasion of Sakhalin Island - The Final Battle in the Russo-Japanese War
I've detailed in previous posts that Russia has been invaded numerous times and by a wide variety of aggressors. However, many of these altercations get lost in the annals of time. One such invasion by the Japanese at the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 proved to be the final straw for Russia in the conflict.
As wars go, the Russian effort against the Japanese was abysmal. The war started poorly for the Russians when the Japanese conducted a sneak attack at night on Port Arthur, Manchuria, which was occupied through a lease by the Russians. The Japanese attack was a success and took the Russians completely by surprise. Japan declared war about 3 hours afterwards.
The hits kept coming for the Russians who soon lost control of one of the many hills in Port Arthur and the Japanese Army then proceeded to sink the remaining ships in the port. The Russian commander surrendered soon after. Then a series of naval engagements saw the Russian fleet defeated time and again. In Manchuria, the Japanese army also overwhelmed the Russians after many draws with heavy losses on both sides.
The decisive battle of the Tsuchima Straits should have been the end of the war for Russia. It seemed likely that they would sue for peace, but the Tsar, Nicholas II, would not have the embarrassment of losing to Asian island upstart. The Russians were determined to win the war.
Okay Jerry, why is this interesting? Good question. This story provides some insight on the political dimensions of the day and maybe on current manipulations. Here is how.
In comes Teddy Roosevelt, President of the United States and determined to show the world that the U.S. is an international player. He convinces the Japanese that Russia will not bend until some of their own territory is taken. Keep in mind Port Arthur was leased territory and Manchuria was essentially nobody's at that time.
Additionally, the British had signed an agreement with Japan that if anyone was to aid the Russians in the war, the British would join on the side of the Japanese. Of course, nobody at the time wanted to pick a fight with the British Navy so Germany stayed out of the conflict as did others.
So, the Japanese pull out a previously scrapped invasion plan for the island of Sakhalin. The island was Russian territory and occupied by a garrison of about 7,000 men. Unfortunately for the Russians, these men were mostly conscripts and convicts sent to the island. They were poorly trained and didn't have experienced leaders. It was certainly not a prime piece of real estate and so it wasn't heavily defended.
The invasion of Sakhalin by the Japanese began in early July of 1905 with a force of over 14,000 plus significant naval support. The Russians, although much more stubborn than expected, were overwhelmed and surrendered at the end of the month. Losses on both sides weren't significant compared to other engagements in the war.
In steps Teddy Roosevelt with a peace solution that publicly warns the Japanese to sue for peace. The Russians grudgingly agree and the Japanese are able to get several territorial concessions from the Russians in Manchuria and also the Southern end of Sakhalin Island below the 50th parallel.
The Results and Their Long-Term Effects
Japan - Upon defeating a major European power in a full-scale war including significant naval victories over a modern Russian Navy, Japan's sun begins to rise. They are instantly seen as a force to be reckoned with and they have a list of diplomatic suitors lined up from Western Europe as well as America. They will use this as a way to take/maintain control of large parts of Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula.
Russia - The loss is a huge black-eye for Tsar Nicholas II who was already facing huge strikes and uprisings in late 1904 and 1905 including some mutinies. His control of the whole of Russia would continue to dwindle until the Revolution in 1917 would end the Romanov Dynasty and usher in the Soviet Era. Russia would eventually retake the Southern portion of Sakhalin near the end of World War II and they have held it ever since.
U.S. - Teddy Roosevelt would became a popular personality not only in the U.S. but abroad. He would send the U.S. Navy on world tour showcasing America's military might (although not so mighty at the time). The U.S. would continue to support Japan, but with a watchful eye on their expansionist dreams.
Germany - The Kaiser would begin to increase the investment in the German Navy directly influenced by the fact that the British Navy effectively diminished Germany's colonial ambitions in the Far East and in Africa.
Great Britain - The British would continue to use whatever means necessary to maintain a grip on their huge colonial holdings and would match the German and American pace in Naval shipbuilding. They also would keep close ties with Japan, but always with an eye out for competition.
Each one of these countries (except Russia) would try to undermine and influence the Russian governments over the course of the next 15 years. Each one would invade Russia in the following 15 years and each one would ally themselves with Russia in the next 40 years. Things move fast.
Today, Sakhalin Island is an oil and gas superstar. Despite the harsh conditions of the region, the area has seen huge development over the last 2 decades and boasts Russia's first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals. Interestingly enough, Japan remains the largest importer of LNG in world.
graphic by @habeebability
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