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17.09.2012 г.

Debate in the Political Circles of Russia on the Questions of Foreign Policy and the Future of the Russo-Japanese relations, 1905-1914

After the end of the Russo-Japanese War the Russian government had to reconsider its foreign policy in general and relationships with Japan in particular. The present paper is devoted to the examination of Russia's foreign policy in 1905-1914.

Key words: Russia, Japan, Far East, geopolitics, China, foreign policy, the Balkan Peninsula, Great Britain, German, France.

After the end of the Russo-Japanese War the Russian government had to reconsider its foreign policy in general and relationships with Japan in particular. In the Russian and foreign historiography [25], [26], [27], [28] the period between 1905 and 1914 is characterized as debating in the higher political echelons of Russia. Generally, this means polemic between two political groups. The first group consisting of politicians who kept the idea of alliance between Russia and Great Britain. The second group was presented with "traditional anti-England" politicians. The above-mentioned political group viewed the future of Russian foreign policy in rapprochement with Germany.

Foreign policy discussions in the higher political echelons of Russia were studied in the research papers of S.S. Grigortsevich, V.A. Marinov, A.V. Ignat'ev, W. Laqueur, R.Pipes [1], [2], [3], [4]. The above-mentioned researchers have focused on the issues of the political group's fight each other. Moreover, political points of view of the Russian establishment as well as their foreign policy views were shown. According to the Russian notion of historiography, pro-British political elements were all for the postwar rapprochement of Japan and Russia. On the contrary, representatives of pro-German politicians appealed for war against Japan on the Far East [5, p. 276]. Taking such an approach will be shown to be inappropriate to the pro-German political circles and their conception of foreign policy. Therefore, Russian notion of historiography can be regarded as inaccurate and one-sided approach. Besides, in the above-mentioned researches the third political circle was largely ignored. The circle that can be named as "alarmists", took part in the discussion on the future of Russian foreign policy in the most active manner.

The present research paper is based on Russian and Japanese diplomatic documents as well as other primary source materials including newspapers of both countries, results of domestic and foreign researches. The paper examines the variety of approaches to foreign policy in Russian political circles. Side by side, the present paper aims to analyze the extent of correspondence between above-mentioned approaches and the goals of Russian foreign policy. Both strong and weak arguments of the three political circles for and against Russian foreign policy course are necessary to be observed in the paper.


"Traditional Anti-England" Politics View on Russian Foreign Policy


The theoretical constructions of pro-German politicians were based on "natural" delimitation of geopolitical interests between Berlin and St. Petersburg. In a general sense, it means occupying a leading position by Germany in Europe and Atlantic Ocean and politico-economical strengthening of the Russian Far East. For pro-British political circles, the main goal of Russian foreign policy was establishing the supremacy of Russia in the Balkan Peninsula. On the contrary, the pro-German politicians thought that the idea of supremacy in the Balkan Peninsula contradicts the interests of Russia. According to the pro-German politicians, Russia firstly ought to develop her possessions in Siberia and Far East. The pro-German politicians urged the Russian government for active policy in East Asia. From the other side, they did not call to build-up army on Russian eastern boundaries against Japan. It can be explained by the following reasons. Aggravation of relations between Russia and America and Russia and Great Britain would be a reason for natural rapprochement of Russia and Japan on the basement of general interests. For example, Russian researcher Eduard Barishev is sharing the same point of view on the base of the opinions of a part Russian military circles and conservative politicians (Mikhail Arkad'evich Polumordvinov, Petr Nikolaevich Durnovo and Aleksei Efimovich Vandam) [29, p. 70]. In general, the approach of the pro-German politicians to the Russian foreign policy can be described in the following way: adjustment of the Russian-Japanese relations in the Far East and guarantee the safety of Russian western borders by the agreements with Germany.

Admiral Aleksei Alekseevich Birilyov, who was in 1905 - 1907 Minister of the Navy, shared the above-mentioned opinion on the Far Eastern policy of Russian government and Russian-Japanese relations. Birilyov was public official who regarded economical development and settling of the Russian Far East as the guarantee of safety for Russian territory. According to him, the key to maintaining defence capability of the Priamursk Region was forcing migration from the European part of Russia, creating conditions for attachment of immigrants to place and their social integration in the new society. As Birilyov wrote, " an unreclaimed region 100 settlers will be more reliable guard than 100 soldiers" [6, p. 3]. He also guessed that if Japan will try to displace Russia from the Far East, it would only be in a case when the Tsar's government will not take appropriate measures for economic strengthening and development of the territory.

On the one hand, we must do justice to the Birilyov's stress on the resettlement policy, as the main way to provide safety for the Russian Far East. At the same time, he obviously ignored the necessity for strengthening military potential in the Russian Far East. It would not be exaggeration to say that without military strengthening in the Eastern Asia Russia would not be able to guarantee economic safety for the Priamursk Region. Furthermore, without military strengthening Russia would not be able to reopen a dialogue with Japan on equal terms.

Baron Roman Romanovich Rozen, who was another representative of pro-German circles, had similar opinion on the Far Eastern policy of the Tsar's government and Russian-Japanese relations. It should be noticed that Rozen was an experienced diplomat who had worked more than 20 years in the diplomatic field, including diplomatic service in Japan. In 1912, Baron Rozen presented to Tsar Nicholas II notes on reasoning the falseness of Russian foreign policy. Rozen insisted that Russia should not involve the struggle between the leading Great Powers for European hegemony [7, p. 51]. The former ambassador to Japan stressed that while the European countries are involving in the unnecessary for Russia struggle for colonies and spheres of influence, Russia has a great opportunity to develop the territories from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

As Birilyov, Rozen thought that after Russo-Japanese War Russia must remain aloof from European policy. Meanwhile, Russia's policy in the East Asia ought to be based on Germany's hegemony on the European continent [7, p. 45]. According to Rozen, in the East Asia Russia has the support of Japan and therefore the Russian government can rely on Japan in Far Eastern policy.

In February of 1914, on the instructions of State Duma's right-wing politicians former Minister of Internal Affairs Petr Nikolaevich Durnovo submitted notes to Nicholas II for consideration. In the notes, Durnovo uttered an opinion on Russia's foreign-policy course, Far Eastern policy of Tsar's government and Russian-Japanese relations. In the above-mentioned document, the foreign-policy course of Russia was shown to be deeply mistaken.

Durnovo persuaded Nikolas II not to take part in the struggle for the Black Sea straits, having no geopolitical importance for the Russian Empire. Political and economical strengths of the Russian Far East regarded him to be more important. Durnovo looked with great optimism to the future of the Russian-Japanese relations: " a matter of fact, Russia and Japan have the ability to live in peace, because they have no reason to fight. Russia's tasks in the Far East are equal to the interests of Japan in this region"[8]. If the alliance between the two countries would be concluded, Japan would have an opportunity to create the navy, be able to resist the American fleet. As the ally of Japan Russia could maintain Japanese interests in China. Moreover, Russia instead of creating fleet in the Far East could use the Japanese navy for military purposes[8].

Nowadays, based on view of Durnovo and other representatives of pro-German political circles we can only guess about the possible development of Russian foreign policy doctrine. It is quite possible that Rapprochement between Russia and Germany on the basement of the Russian-Japanese defense alliance would lead to the activization of Russian policy in the East Asia. Besides, Russian-Japanese-German cooperation could strengthen Russian positions in Manchuria and guard Russia from the world shocks and domestic problems.

From the other hand, pro-German politicians' approach to the Far Eastern policy and Russian-Japanese relations based on the specific conception. In particular, Birilyov, Rozen, Durnovo thought that Russia and Japan are supposedly "have nothing to share". Besides, pro-German politicians overestimated the peaceful way in solution of international problems. It should be added in conclusion that the above-mentioned circles ignored the necessity for strengthening military potential in the Russian Far East. Thus, it is doubtful that the theoretical constructions of pro-German politicians could be put into practice.


Pro-British Politicians' Opinion on the Prospects for Russian-Japanese Relations


Supporters of Russian-British alliance were ideologic enemies of pro-German politicians. They saw the future o Russian foreign policy in "natural" return to fighting for domination in the Balkan Peninsula. For instance, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Aleksei Borisovich Lobanov-Rostovskii considered that in the end of the XIX century Russia was forced "to keep the Balkan Peninsula under a glass bell". The decision was made because the Russian Empire needed to solve foreign policy problems in the Far East [9, p. 180]. In other words, according to the opinion of the pro-British political circles, concentrating "the center of gravity" in the Far East was a temporary phenomenon.

From a geopolitical point of view, pro-British politicians regarded Far East as a third-rate direction in the Russian foreign policy. The first-rate and second-rate directions were Europe and Middle East. As the above-mentioned politicians regarded, after the Russo-Japanese War Russia ought to keep the status-quo in the Far East. That could be solved by agreement with Japan on the delimitation of spheres of influence in China to guarantee the safety of Russia's eastern borders.

Pro-British political circles were aware that making of foreign policy in Europe is impossible without adjustment of relations between Russia and Japan. The safety of the Russian Far East depended on the condition of Russian-Japanese relations. According to Duke Sergey Yul'evich Vitte, "... our war damage in the Far East had effects on our policy in Europe, where position of Russia had been defeated. In order to return our foreign policy from the Far East to Europe and restoring our authority we ought to find a strong base in the relations with Japan" [10, p. 497].

The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Vladimir Nikolaevich Lamzdorf had the same opinion as Vitte. Lamzdorf regarded post-war rapprochement of Russia and Japan as a necessary task. Despite of the fact that the Russo-Japanese War begun when Lamzdorf had appointed to the post of Foreign Minister he has never been a supporter of the government's policy that led to the war in the Pacific Ocean [11].

After signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, Lamzdorf has been defining himself as a supporter of normalization of the Russian-Japanese relations. In particular, on March 10, 1906 during a meeting with the Japanese Ambassador Motono Ichiro Russian Foreign Minister said that despite the previous war Russia is going to develop mutually advantageous collaborations with Japan. Lamzdorf stressed: "...Former problems are the things of the past now. Japan and Russia are two Great Powers in the Far East and we have a lot of motives for coordination our general interests in this region" [12, p. 651].

Foreign policy of Russia in Europe Lamzdorf based on the following principles: basement on the alliance with France, remaining aloof from Germany and Great Britain, using for Russia's interests contradictions between London and Berlin. On this point, the foreign policy concept of Lamzdorf differs from the concept of Duke Vitte, being a supporter of Russia's active participation in the European affairs.

Thus, despite existing disagreements on foreign policy, in near time after the Russo-Japanese War the necessity of normalization of Russian-Japanese relations was recognized in the Russian political circles. Furthermore, both pro-German (with minor reservations) and pro-British politicians supported the idea for development of dialogue between St. Petersburg and Tokyo.

In April 1906, Aleksandr Petrovich Izvolskii became the head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He intended to strengthen position of Russia in the Far East by signing the agreement with Japan during the few years. Lamzdorf's successor made himself known a consecutive supporter of Russian active foreign policy in Europe. In contrast to Lamzdorf, who regarded as necessary to remain aloof from Germany and Great Britain, Izvolskiy considered that Russian foreign policy must be based on rapprochement with France and removing the contradictions in the relations between Russia and Great Britain.

Izvolskiy had the following opinion concerning policy of Russia in the Far East. He stressed that Russia is not an Asiatic State. Therefore, overuse "participation" in the Far Eastern affairs can lead to Russia's weakening in the Balkan Peninsula and Europe. According to Izvolskiy, "...Russia's foreign policy should be permanently based on the Russian-French alliance. The above-mentioned alliance ought to be supported and extended by means of agreements between Russia and England and Russia and Japan" [13, p. 83], [29, p. 24]. He regarded the condition of inviolability of state borders in the Russian Far East as the following: "... to make Far Eastern policy wisely and cautiously to create a friendly atmosphere encouraging relationships between Russia and Japan. Japan ought to be in the firm belief that the Russian Empire has no plans for revenge. The Russian government is going to follow the terms and conditions of the Treaty of Portsmouth" [14, p. 1].

Thus, "the Line of Izvolskiy" was based on the maintenance of status-quo in the Russian Far East and strengthening of the relations between Russia and Japan. Sergey Dmitrievich Sazonov, who was the head of Russian Foreign Ministry since 1910 for 1916, developed the above-mentioned principles on foreign policy. He regarded it as necessary to conduct defence policy in the Russian Far East [29, p. 25], [15, p. 132].

The above-mentioned pro-German and pro-British political circles had different opinions on the matter of Russia's foreign policy. At the same time, both the political groups advocated normalization of relations with Japan and spoke in support of the "further develop" dialogue between St. Petersburg and Tokyo. The pro-German political circles intended to activate Russian Far Eastern policy by normalization of the Russia-Japan relations. According to them, active foreign policy in East Asia meant economic, military and political strengthening of the Russian Far East and carrying out policy in Manchuria together with Japan. The pro-British circles, on the contrary, supported the idea of concentrating "the center of gravity" in Europe. At the same time, a precondition for such a policy ought to be the safety of the Russian Far Eastern borders. It would be impossible to provide safety for the Russian Far East without signing the appropriate agreements with Tokyo.


Foreign Policy Approaches of "Alarmists" and their View on the Russia-Japan relations


The two above-mentioned Russian political circles demonstrated the same approach to the Russian-Japanese relations. On the contrary, the third group of the Russian establishment that can be named as "Alarmists" had different point of view on Russia's Far Eastern policy in general and the relations between Russia and Japan in particular. The Alarmists saw no possibility for normalization of relations between Japan and Russia. The thing, which was regarded as impossible by them, was obtaining the agreement between the two countries. The Alarmists foretold the new war between Japan and the Russia Empire [16, p. 24].

The above-mentioned political group is presented, mainly by military circles (Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Suhomlinov, Nikolai Petrovich Linevich), government officials in Russian province (Pavel Fyodorovich Unterberger, Shmidt, Valuev), diplomatic personnel (Boris Arsen'ev).

In other words, it was the anti-Japanese political group and they saw the inevitability of the war between Russia and Japan. The Priamursk governor-general Unterberger set the negative tone for Japan. He was trying to convince the Russian government in Japan's intention to get dominant position in the Far East. In the reports on the situation in the Russian Far East, the Priamursky governor-general stressed that Japan had such an intention since last third of the XIX century. After the end of the nation's self-imposed isolation Japan began to create army and fleet. However, in spite of that the Russian government did not take Japan, having only six divisions, seriously, as a dangerous rival or enemy [17, p. 24].

On one hand, overstating Japan as a threat resided in character of the Priamursk governor-general. He also absolutized the following idea: "if you wish for peace, prepare for war". At the same time, Unterberger rightly noted that on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War the Russian government had underestimated Japan. Actually, the Russian Empire did not manage to win easily Japan in 1904-1905. Russia surpassed Japan in human resources as well as in industrial potential. Despite the fact, the Russian Empire was defeated by Japan - a small island state in East Asia.

The Priamursk governor-general Unterberger took a hand in spreading of rumours about Japanese aggression against Russia that was supposedly prepared by Tokyo. The above-mentioned rumors became a reason for panic in the Russian Far East. The military governor of Sakhalin Valuev, who was the other member of "Alarmists" group, was going to fight again with Japan because he thought that it was impossible to hold fragile peace between countries.

November 1909, the military governor of Sakhalin sent a dispatch to St. Petersburg. In the dispatch, Valuev wrote about the unavailability of Sakhalin to ward off Japanese aggression. According to the military governor, the local military units were not complete with cartridges, cavalry and artillery. Therefore it would be impossible to conduct guerrilla warfare. The military governor of Sakhalin proclaimed "In case of war I will fight to the last cartridge, ruin my soldiers and die myself not for benefit. I will die for honour" [18, p. 28].

If the military governor of Sakhalin Valuev had spoken about 1906 year, the rumors of the war between Russia and Japan would have been founded. According to some questionable dates, during the above-mentioned time Japan increased military presence in the Southern Manchuria [19, p. 1]. At the same time, in 1909 the military governor of Sakhalin based on "virtual arguments" [20, p. 122] entered by the warnings of the Priamursk governor-general Unterberger. Valuev also put into consideration construction of railway tracks in China that were made by Japan. Many Russian politicians falsely thought that the railway tracks in China had been constructed for military purposes against Russia, not for development of infrastructure.

The first secretary of Russian diplomatic mission in Peking Arsen'ev wrote that Japan would not dare attack Russia, but will make China to do it. According to him, in order to squeeze Russia out from Manchuria Japan was inflaming anti-Russian feelings among Chinese. The Japanese government intended to make Russia look like "an enemy on the north side", an enemy, threatening to the national interests of China. In addition to that, Japan attempted to win favor among Chinese by crediting of businessmen and creation of new working places. The first secretary of Russian diplomatic mission Arsen'ev put particular attention on giving to the Chinese youth an opportunity to study in Japan. Arsen'ev marked that "...the Chinese students, who had studied in Japan and returned home become the faithful supporters of Japan and Japanese ideology" [21, p. 22-23].

The arguments of Arsen'ev are not very susceptible. First, he is trying to say, Japanese intended to win favor among Chinese. Nevertheless, Chinese had more than enough reasons to hate Japan. Japan could be characterised as "China's enemy on the east side", taking into consideration the historical events of the last third of XIX century. Those time the struggle between China and Japan for the control over the Korean peninsula led to the First Sino-Japanese War. The Treaty of Shimonoseki ended the war between the two countries was humiliating for China [22, p. 18-25]. After the above-mentioned events, Japan had no possibilities to win favor among Chinese. In order to do this, Japan ought to distribute in Southern Manchuria non-repayable subsidies. According to above-mentioned reasons, it is not worth drawing a visual parallel between studying in Japan and strengthening of pro-Japanese sentiments in the Chinese society.

The former Military Minister of Russia Kuropatkin had the same opinion on the Russia-Japan relations, as Unterberger. Kuropatkin wrote in his diary that in the most nearest future Japan would try to consolidate her politico-economic positions in the North-East China. After that, the Japanese army would move toward Zabaikalsk territory and the Russian Priamur'ye. Russia does not have to wait for an attack of Japan; therefore, the Russian government ought to take all necessary measures in advance. Kuropatkin offered to use anti-Japanese sentiments among Chinese and Koreans and to incite Leading Powers against Japan [23, p. 83-84]. The Head of the Russian general staff Suhomlinov (Russian Military Minister in 1909-1915) expressed the point of view similar in many respects to the prior opinion. He offered the Tsar's government "... to excite in Korea the rebellion against Japan" to move Japan away from the Korean peninsula [24, p. 215].

Kuropatkin and Suhomlinov suggested the following measures to resist and to repel any direct aggression of Japan: an offensive war, anti-Japanese propaganda among Chinese and Koreans and diplomatic manoeuvres against Tokyo. The above-mentioned measures evidently could not be realized. The anti-Japanese plans of the former Military Minister and the head of the Russian general staff should obviously be regarded as a way of Russia's Far Eastern policy. At the same time, it was impractical and unfeasible way.




The implementation of Russia's Far Eastern offensive policy was implemented by the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War. In the period 1905-1914 Russia had to reconsider foreign policy course. As a result of the reconsideration of Russian foreign policy, the three political groups opposing each other appeared in the Russian establishment. The pro-British, pro-German politicians and Alarmists actively took part in the discussions on the priority in the Russia's foreign policy in general and relationships with Japan in particular.

The pro-British political circles supported the idea of rapprochement between Russia and Great Britain. They also advocated that Russia should employ an active European policy and normalize relations with Japan. The pro-German politicians saw the future of Russia in strengthening political and economic positions of the Russian Far East. In addition, carrying out policy in China together with Japan was also regarded as necessary. The Alarmists appealed for prolongation of the war between Russia and Japan in order to restore the lost positions of Russia in China.

As a result of analysis of the above-mentioned political groups and their approaches to the Russia's foreign policy the following conclusions can be drawn. During the period 1905-1914 the majority of Russian politicians were supporting the rapprochement between Russia and Japan. Only a small minority of the Russian politicians, military circles, government officials in Russian province characterized in the present paper as "Alarmists" supported the war with Japan. Thus, under the circumstances, during the above-mentioned period the Tsar's government was turning toward defence policy in the Far East and the postwar rapprochement of Russia and Japan began.


Literature and the sources:


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Yuriy Sergeevich Pestushko - Candidate of History, docent of the Far Eastern State Humanitarian University (Khabarovsk).


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