Russo-Japanese War was the first major armed conflict of the 20th Century which was fought between an emerging Asian power of Japanese Empire and the Czar Russian Empire. The war continued for one year and seven months as it started on 8th February 1904 with Japanese attack on Port Arthur (Manchuria, China) and ended on 5th September 1905 with a decisive victory for Japan. The war proved an absolute triumph for Japan as Russia could not won even a single battle among around 15 land and naval battles in the war.
Reasons & Background
Both imperial powers were eager to gain more and important areas in order to fulfill their needs and ambitions. Russia was seeking a warm water port in shape of Port Arthur in order to increase its maritime trade and naval presence while Japan was worried about the expansionist policy of Russia. During negotiations before war, Japan offered to accept the Russian supremacy over Manchuria if Russia accepts same for Japan over Korea. But Russia wanted to establish a neutral buffer zone in northern part of Korea which was unacceptable for Japan.
Course of War
The war erupted on 8th February 1904 with a surprise attack by Japanese Navy on Port Arthur against the Russian naval fleet even before the declaration of war. Korean peninsular, Manchuria and Yellow Sea were the main battlegrounds in this war.
Russians were stunned at the surprise attack from Japan and suffered heavy losses in the beginning of battle of Port Arthur. But the blockade of Port Arthur was quite costly and time consuming for Japan. Japan started the Siege of Port Arthur in August 1904 but it was able to occupy Port Arthur in January 1905 after losing more than 50,000 men as compared to half that number of Russian troops. Japanese navy was effectively backed up by the land-based artillery of Japanese army. The land-based artillery played major role in this victory by destroying many large ships of Russian navy.
Battle of Yalu River was the first major land battle of Russo-Japanese War. The battle was fought near Yalu River, on the border of China and Korea. The battle lasted for two days from 30th April to 1st May 1904 and the outcome was victory for Japan. The number of dead and wounded solders for Japan was just over 1000 (total army 42,000) while the Russians losses were around 3 times that number.
Five land battles were fought between 25th May to 31st July and Japan won all of them. These victories helped Japan to occupy strategically important cities, highlands and other areas.
On 10th and 14th August 1904, two naval battles were fought between the naval forces of both empires. These were Battle of the Yellow Sea and Battle of Ulsan respectively. These battles were fought for the purpose of joining of Russian naval fleets stationed at Port Arthur and Port Vladivostok (in Russia). The first effort (Battle of Yellow Sea) was made by the Russian fleet of Port Arthur while later (Battle of Ulsan) it was attempted by the navy of Port Vladivostok to join their Russian companions. Japanese Navy foiled both these efforts and both the fleets remained at their previous positions.
The Battle of Liaoyang was a major land battle fought to take strategically important city of Liaoyang by Japan which was the main Russian military center in southern Manchuria. Liaoyang was also between Port Arthur and Mukden (a very important city of Manchuria). The battle lasted for around 10 days from 25th August to 5th September 2015. Japanese captured the city but both the forces suffered heavy losses. Russians were able to take most of their forces to Mukden before encircling of the city by the Japanese.
The Battle of Shaho (5th to 17th October 1904) and the Battle of Shandepu (26th to 29th January 2015) were two land battles fought before the main Battle of Mukden. These battles remained inconclusive but Japanese had upper hand in both these battles.
The Battle of Mukden was the last major battle of Russo-Japanese War. This battle continued from 20th February to 10th March 1905. It was the largest land battle of 20th Century before the World War 1 as there were more than 680, 000 combatants in this battle (more than 280,000 Japanese and 340,000 Russians). The result was a decisive victory for Japan which helped Japan to control whole of southern Manchuria while Russian troops retreated towards northern Manchuria. Japanese lost more than 75,000 of their troops (including dead and injured) while the damage for Russia was far more (over 88,000).
Battle of Tsushima was the last naval battle between Japan and Russia during this conflict. Again, Japanese were victors in this decisive naval battle which was fought in the Tsushima Strait. The Japanese only suffered the loss of few hundred men and 3 torpedo boats while the Russians lost over 10,000 men (killed and captured) and almost the whole fleet of 38 naval ships.
The last battle of Russo-Japanese War was the Invasion of Sakhalin (7th to 31st July 1905) by Japan. Japan easily captured Sakhalin (now in Russia) which marked the end of battles in the Russo-Japanese War.
The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed on 5th September 1905. According to the treaty, Korea was ceded to Japan while Russian troops withdrew from Manchuria. Sakhalin was divided between Japan and Russia.
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 was the first major war of the 20th Century where an Asian power (Japan) comprehensively defeated a European Empire (Russia) after centuries. Its result was devastated for Russia as the poor economic conditions (worsened by the military defeats of army and navy) forced the Tsar for the establishment of constitutional monarchy in place of absolute monarchy after Russian Revolution of 1905. The Russian Empire could never recover from this humiliating defeat while the Empire was demolished in 1917 after Russian Revolution of 1917.