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17.09.2012 г.

Russo-Japanese relations in 1905-1907. The beginning of postwar normalization

The present paper is devoted to the study of Russo-Japanese relations in 1905-1907. The focus of research is to observe the influence of situation in Europe on the Russo-Japanese relations in general and the adjustment of Russo-Japanese relations during the postwar years in particular.

Keywords: Russia, Japan, The Treaty of Portsmouth, Far East, Geopolitics, China, Foreign policy, Great Britain, USA, France.

Any peaceful treaty formally stops a war between the sides signed it. At the same time, peaceful treaty cannot solve all the problems arose the war and many other questions of postwar rearrangement of the interstate relations. The Treaty of Portsmouth did not become an exception. After the signing of the treaty many aspects of trade, fishery and delimitation of spheres of influence in the Far East (Manchuria) remained to be undecided. After the ratification of the Treaty of Portsmouth (October 14, 1905) Russia and Japan entered a new period of time during which the both countries had to solve the above-mentioned questions as well as to rearrange their bilateral relations.

The period 1905-1907 became a significant stage of the postwar history of the Russo-Japanese relations. During the period, the both countries laid the foundation for intergovernmental cooperation and joint policy in the Far East. The development of Japanese-Russian relations during the first two years after the Russo-Japanese war and the negotiation process for bilateral agreements of 1907 were examined in the Russian and foreign historiography. In the research of V. A. Marinov the policy measures of Russia and Japan in Manchuria in the postwar era as well as the negotiations for Russo-Japanese agreements of 1907 were analyzed [1, p. 24-43]. A. V. Ignat'ev focuses his attention on the review of Russia's foreign policy in 1905-1907. The researcher comes to conclusion of existence of objective reasons for the normalization of Russo-Japanese relations [2, p. 147-157, 181]. In the research of Hosoya Chihiro it is pointed out that Russo-Japanese normalization and signing of political agreement between the two countries in 1907 were caused by mutual aspiration for intergovernmental adjustment [12, p. 373-376]. American researcher P. Berton expressed the same opinion. At the same time, according to him, Great Britain and France indeed played key role in the postwar adjustment of the Russo-Japanese relations: the above-mentioned countries were interested in Russia's fast returning in the European policy [13, p. 2-5].

The purpose of this paper is to expand the points of above-mentioned researches on the base of unused primary materials and special literature. The following aspects were analyzed in the present paper: postwar measures were taken by Russia and Japan in China, foreign-policy factors that promoted Russian-Japanese rapprochement during the consideration period, significance of the Russo-Japanese agreements of 1907.

The first postwar period was characterized by tension between Russia and Japan. The both countries were dissatisfied with the Treaty of Portsmouth. It seemed to the part of Japanese political and military circles (Kodama Gentaro, Toyama Mitsuru, Okuma Shigenobu) that Russia was the bitterest enemy of Japan, the enemy had not been defeated in the war [15], [3, p. 23-24]. Meanwhile, the part of Russian political and military circles (Pavel Fyodorovich Unterberger, Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin, Vladimir Alexandrovich Suhomlinov) considered that the new war with Japan would occur in the near future [4, p. 24-26], [5, p. 83- 84, 93].

During the period between the ratification of the Treaty of Portsmouth and signing of the first postwar agreements (since October of 1905 for July of 1907), the European policy had exerting influence on the development of the Russo-Japanese relations. During the consideration period, correlation of forces in Europe depended on the conflict of Great Britain and France with German. The Triple Alliance among Germany, Austria - Hungary, and Italy was created in 1882. In 1904-1907, against the Triple Alliance Great Britain and France created the Triple Entente in order not to allow strengthening of German in Europe. The first step for the creation of the above-mentioned alliance was the signing of the agreement between Great Britain and France in 1904. This document demarcated the spheres of interests of both countries in North Africa

Under such conditions as establish of military-political alliances and aggravation of British-German and Franco-German contradictions participation of Russia in the Far Eastern affairs for a long time was against the interests of Great Britain and France. The Russian Empire and its army were necessary in Europe.

During the Russo-Japanese war, since March of 1905, France and German were in dispute over who controls Morocco [6, p. 567-569]. At that time, Paris tried to put financial pressure on the Tsar's government to force Russia return from the Far Eastern policy to the European policy. France was necessary to enlist the support of Russia for policy against German. On the eve of negotiations with Japan in Portsmouth Sergey Yul'evich Vitte was notified in advance by France minister of finance Maurice Rouvier, that if the Russo-Japanese war goes on, Russia would not obtain French credits [2, p. 21-22].

It should be noted that the negotiations between Russia and France on the financial loans to cover Russia's military moving expenses were began at the end of August 1905. By the time, terms and conditions of peaceful treaty between Japan and Russia had already been determined. Consequently, Paris could expect from Russia returning in the European policy and supporting in the conflict over Morocco.

Great Britain, no less than France, was interested in fast returning of the Russian Empire in the European policy. In November 1905, Edvard Grey, foreign ministers of Great Britain, assured Russian ambassador in London Aleksandr Konstantinovich Benkendorf that until Russia recover from domestic disorder Great Britain would not try to violate status quo in Asia, in the spheres of interests of the both countries [2, p. 54]. Hence, postwar adjustment of relations between Russia and Japan was began under conditions when Great Britain and France were striving for involvement Russia into anti-German coalition

In the beginning of 1906, the governments of Japan and Russia exchanged their diplomatic representatives. Grigorii Alexandrovich Kozakov was appointed to Tokyo as the charge d'affaires. In March 1906, Georgii Petrovich Bahmet'ev replaced him as the minister. Motono Ichiro was appointed to the capital of Russia as the minister.

During the first three month of 1906, Motono Ichiro was trying to examine the future of the relations between Russia and Japan. In order to do this, he met with retired S. Y. Vitte and Russian Foreign Minister Vladimir Nikolaevich Lamzdorf. Motono also had an audience with Nicholas II. After the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister and former head of the Russian government, Motono Ichiro gained the following idea: Russia's political circles were going to develop good neighbourly relations with the Japanese Empire [16, p. 655], [17, p. 651].

In the spring of 1906, six month after the ratification of the Treaty of Portsmouth Japan and Russia started negotiations on concluding postwar agreements. The agreements included a range of questions: commerce, fishery, navigation, demarcation of spheres of interests in China. Before the negotiations, the governments of Japan and Russia discussed the questions of fishery and commerce with their representatives from industrial circles. It was necessary in such a case as this.

In the context of normalization between Russia and Japan, during the beginning of the Russo-Japanese negotiations on the fishery, commerce and navigation the both countries managed to fix the problems that were outside the scope of negotiations.

Japan and Russia reached an agreement on cancellation of the Memorandum of Shiheigai (Sipingjie), according to which free movement of foreigners across the territory of Manchuria under Russian and Japanese military occupation was restricted. On the one hand, cancellation of the above-mentioned memorandum removed ban on interstate commerce in the South Manchuria as belonging to the Japanese sphere of influence. At the same time, the cancellation meant penetration of foreign capital (including Japanese capital) into northern Manchuria as belonging to the Russian sphere of influence. It is no wonder then that the proposal of the Japanese side to cancel the Memorandum of Shiheigai at first aroused objections of the Russian industrialists and military circles. They regarded the proposal as a threat to the economical and political interests of Russia in northern Manchuria. But in spite of this Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in a policy of normalization with Japan, decided to approve the Tokyo's proposal to cancel the Memorandum of Shiheigai.

August 27, 1906, Nicholas II approved the decision of the Russian government. September 23, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexandr Petrovich Izvol'skii transmitted to Motono Ichiro, Japanese Ambassador to St. Petersburg, a verbal note. This note stated that "... Russian government, sincerely desirous to arrive at prompt solution of this affair, have decided to abrogate Memorandum of Shiheigai ... on Sep. 28th, <1906>" [18, p. 173].

Several days after the event St. Petersburg gave to the Japanese people immunity from the Russian jurisdiction in northern Manchuria. It should be noted that exterritoriality extended to the foreigners in the Russian sphere of influence. Motono Ichiro informed Hayashi Tadasu about the decision of the Tsar's government to grant the same rights of exterritoriality to Japanese people. "... Japanese subjects ... shall not be subjected to Russian jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases. ... Japanese subjects who have committed crimes shall be delivered to Japanese authorities" [19, p. 176].

The decision of Russia and Japan to withdraw their troops from Manchuria became important moving toward postwar normalization. As early as October of 1905, Russia and Japan signed the agreement, provided that the both countries would withdraw their troops from Manchuria till April of 1907. However, in December of 1906, St. Petersburg decided to withdraw Russian troops from Manchuria before the term begins. There are at least two reasons that can explain the decision of Russian government. In the first place, Russia had no special necessity to keep troops in Northeast China, because the Japanese army in Manchuria anyway exceeded the Russian army. Furthermore, the Russian government obviously intended to show the Japanese government striving for postwar normalization.

The Russian government's decision to withdraw troops from Manchuria received favorable reply in Tokyo. According to the Japanese press, public opinion in Japan was satisfied with the political initiative of St. Petersburg: "We ... believe that it is the opinion of all intelligent Russians who have at heart the true interests of their fatherland, not those of the bureaucracy and military party" [7, p. 3].

The decision of Russian government to subscribe to the proposal about cancellation of the Memorandum of Shiheigai, early evacuation of the Russian troops from Manchuria, the exchange of prisoners in the Russo-Japanese war [20], [8, p. 34-40] obviously became important steps toward postwar settlement between Japan and Russia. It should be noted that normalization of the Russo-Japanese relations came into particular prominence not only at the political level. For example, in 1906 Japan began building of the Orthodox chapel at Port Arthur and decided to put up a monument in the ruins of Russian forts and artillery batteries [9].

At the same time, the Russo-Japanese negotiations on fishery and trade showed that the both sides had different approaches to fishing business as well as to the principles on which the commercial and economic relations of Russia and Japan should be based on. During the negotiations on fishery convention heated arguments began over the places where Japanese fishermen were allowed to catch fish as well as over regulation of marine products, were subjected to catch. The trade negotiations between Russia and Japan were very tense. The Japanese side presented a draft convention according to which Japanese goods could be delivered to Russia through Manchurian boundary without paying any customs duty. Furthermore, the Japanese side insisted on free navigation of Japanese vessels along the Sungari River. Since the above-mentioned Japanese draft convention affected economic interests of Russia, the Tsar's government could not approve it.

By October of 1906, the Russo-Japanese negotiations on fishery and trade were practically disrupted. Russia had to appeal for help to France and Great Britain. In order to find solutions to the problems with Japan Russian Emperor Nicholas II decided to use French loan for Japan. French government could withhold loan guarantees to pressure Japan over satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations with Russia. According to A. V. Ignat'ev, appeal of Russian government to France produced effect. "As a result of the appeal, French government agreed to put pressure on Japan, in view of the proposed loan" [2, p.155]. Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy allow us to judge that Tokyo was informed of the following: it was the intention of French government to differ approval of the new loan until a satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations between Japan and Russia [21, p. 50]. In order to rectify the situation through the Russo-Japanese negotiations, Great Britain arranged consultations between Britain ambassador to St. Petersburg Arthur Nicholson and Motono Ichiro.

Therefore, in July of 1907, Russia and Japan managed to reach agreement in fishery and commerce because of interference by Great Britain and France in many respects. At the same time, Paris and London did not play a key role in conclusion of the above-mentioned agreements. The following factors must be taken into consideration. As a result of the Russo-Japanese War the geopolitical situation in East Asia changed significantly, with Japan's ever increasing power and influence becoming a decisive factor in geopolitics. Moreover, the balance of forces and the balance of power that existed in the Far East was changed. Japan claimed South Manchuria and Korea as her sphere of influence. According to the above-mentioned fact, Russia and Japan had a lot of common interests in Northeast China. The negotiations on Russo-Japanese Fisheries Convention and Russo-Japanese Trade Treaty demonstrated that the keys to Russian-Japanese agreement on these issues might be attained through the review of bilateral relations. The both countries ought to change fundamental principles of relationships in the light of this new geopolitical situation in the Far East.

In January of 1907, in order to maintain the status quo in the Far East the Russian government appealed to Japan with proposal for bilateral political agreement. The appeal of Russian side was approved by Japan. Desire on both sides for postwar solving of political problems gave a good influence to the negotiations on fisheries. It should be noted that the crisis stage of negotiations was passed in January of 1907, after interference by Great Britain and France and after St. Petersburg and Tokyo had exchanged opinions regarding signing of political agrement.

July 30, 1907 Russo-Japanese Convention was signed in St. Petersburg. Thus, Japan and Russia made a first step toward making of shared policy in Northeast China. The Russo-Japanese Convention of 1907 consisted of secret and public articles. According to the Convention, Russia and Japan bound themselves to the respect for territorial integrity of each other. Furthermore, the contracting parties agreed to respect all the rights that were defined by previous agreements. Russia and Japan recognized China's territorial integrity, independence of this country, principle of equal commercial and industrial opportunities for all countries in China.

According to the secret articles of the Russo-Japanese Convention of 1907 Russian government reaffirmed Japanese special interests in South Manchuria as a sphere of Japanese influence, and Japan confirmed Russia's priority in northern Manchuria. The above-mentioned convention determined the demarcation line between the spheres of influence. Japan agreed to undertake the obligation not to obtain concessions for railway and telegraph in the Russian sphere of influence. Russia agreed not to obtain the concessions in the Japanese sphere of influence. In addition, Russia recognized treaties and conventions were concluded between Japan and Korea. The Russian government also promised not to put obstacles affecting the development of Japan-Korea relations. Japan, on her part gave the grant of most-favoured-nation treatment in Korea to Russia. The Japanese government also confirmed Russia's special interests in Outer Mongolia, promised not to interfere into Russia's affairs in Outer Mongolia and not to do anything to harm Russian interests [10, p. 168-170].

Great Britain ambassador to Tokyo Claude M. Macdonald noted in one of his report that conclusion of Russo-Japanese agreements on fisheries, commerce and policy in 1907 was very well received by the public in Japan. Japanese "...have come to the conclusion that Russia has definitely accepted the situation, and has decided to abandon her ambitions in the Far East, at any rate for a considerably period" [14, p. 55].

Russia treated the above-mentioned agreements as a guarantee to save Far Eastern border and, consequently, as a possibility for concentrating the foreign policy in Europe [2, p. 178].

Conclusion of the first postwar agreements between Japan and Russia became a significant event for the both countries. After only two years of the Russo-Japanese War, Tokyo and St. Petersburg managed to carry out shared policy in China. Hence, since the ratification of The Treaty of Portsmouth in October of 1905 till the conclusion of the postwar agreements in July of 1907, Russo-Japanese relations has changed significantly. Tokyo and St. Petersburg managed to solve a series of problems connected with previous war as well as to settle documentary questions of fishery, commerce and spheres of influence in China.

On the one hand, Tokyo and St. Petersburg were obliged to Great Britain and France for the postwar normalization. The two countries made efforts in the direction of pushing Russia and Japan towards rapprochement. At the same time, the normalization of Russo-Japanese relations in a considerable degree was determined by striving of both countries towards solving the problems in Northeast China. Hence, in 1907 efforts of Great Britain and France, as an external factor, played a role in signing of Russo-Japanese Fisheries Convention and Ruso-Japanese Trade Treaty. Conclusion of Russo-Japanese Political Convention can be explained by common striving of St. Petersburg and Tokyo towards solving the vexed Manchurian questions and splitting up spheres of influence there.

Subsequently, restrictions on foreign trade in Northeast China imposed by Japan and, therefore, coolness in Japan's relationships with the United States and Great Britain gave influence on the Russo-Japanese relations. Measures towards common defence of interests and strengthening positions in China became the foundation of the relationships between Russia and Japan.

After the conclusion of the first postwar agreements in 1907, Russia and Japan were busy in solving the problems irrelevant to the bilateral relations in the Far Fast. The Tsar's government concentrated on European affairs. In the context of the European policy, Russia was continuing to discuss the terms of future Anglo-Russian agreement on the delimitation of interests in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. August 31, 1907, Great Britain and Russia signed Anglo-Russian Agreement to respect Tibet's territorial integrity. The above-mentioned agreement also divided Iran into spheres of influence and provided that the Russian government recognizes Afghanistan as outside the Russian sphere of influence [11, p. 120-121], [6, p. 610-611]. Thereby, according to the wishes of Great Britain, Russia made a step towards joining the Anti-German coalition.

After conclusion of the agreements with Russia in 1907, the foreign policy of Japan was focused on strengthening in Korea. In July of 1907, Japan and Korea signed an agreement gave the Japanese Resident-General more authority. Moreover, according to the above-mentioned agreement the Korean Empire had lost the right to conduct diplomatic exchanges with other countries (the name Dai-sanji Nikkan Kyōyaku第三次日韓協約 is used in the historical researches in Japan). In September of 1907, Russia and Japan signed a preliminary agreement on the rank of diplomatic representatives. As a result, the diplomatic representatives of the both countries were raised to the rank of embassies. With the exception of above-mentioned preliminary agreement, Russia and Japan did not take any noticeable steps in the bilateral relations until the spring of 1908.


The Russo-Japanese War significantly changed the geopolitical situation in East Asia. The Japanese Empire strengthened position as a regional leader. On the contrary, the international prestige of Russia and her regional positions were seriously damaged. In accordance with the Treaty of Portsmouth, the southern part of Sakhalin, the Russian rail system in southern Manchuria and the lease for the Liaodong Peninsula were transferred to Japan by Russia. After the end of the Russo-Japanese War the both countries had to formulate new principles of intergovernmental relations.

Russia and Japan were dissatisfied with the results of the War. Hence, the both countries had paltry chance for reconsidering the bilateral relations. In spite of all this, in October of 1905, Japan and Russia began to withdraw their troops from the battle area in Northeast China. In the beginning of 1906, the both countries exchanged their diplomatic representatives. In the spring of the same year, Japan and Russia started negotiations on commerce, fishery, and demarcation of the spheres of influence in China.

Since the Russo-Japanese negotiations were very tense, the interference by Great Britain and France was necessary. As a result of the negotiations, Russia and Japan managed to reach fundamental agreement on policy and economy. The first postwar Russo-Japanese agreements of 1907 opened a new page in the history of relations between the two countries. "Mutual compromises and defence of interests in Manchuria" became key elements of the Russo-Japanese relations [22, p. 188]. Because of community of political and economical interests the two countries managed to strengthen their interstate relations as well as to make shared policy in Northeast China.


Literature and the sources:


1.           V. A. Marinov. Russia and Japan before the I World War (1905 - 1914). History of relations / V.A. Marinov. - M. : Nauka, 1974. - 151 p.

2.           A. V. Ignat'ev. Foreign Policy of Russia in 1905 - 1907 / A.V. Ignat'ev. - M. : Nauka, 1986. - 301 p.

3.           Data about military measures of Japan. Military council in Tokyo. April 11 / 24, 1906. RGVIA (Russian state military archive). - Fund 2000. - List 1. - Case № 1070. - P. 23 - 24.

4.           Commander in Chief of the Priamurskii military district. "Our position in the Far East at the moment". December 23, 1906. RGVIA. - Fund 2000. - List 1. - Case № 103. - P. 24.

5.           Diary of A.N. Kuropatkin. January 30, 1906 // Red Archive. - 1925. - T. 8. - P. 82 - 95.

6.           History of diplomacy. - T. 2. - M.: State publishing house of political literature, 1963. - 820 p. It is a matter of the Morocco Crisis of 1905. France occupied Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881. The French government was at the time trying to establish a protectorate over Morocco. Since 1902 for 1904, France concluded secret conventions with Italy, Great Britain and Spain. The French government confirmed priority of Italy, Great Britain and Spain in Libya, Egypt and northern Morocco. In exchange of it, France enlisted the support of the above-mentioned countries against Germany. In 1905, France asked the Sultan of Morocco for reforms, invitation of French advisers and grant of concessions for French companies. Germany also had real interests in Morocco and tried to dismiss demands of France. March 31, 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Tangier and pledged German support for Moroccan Sultan.

7.           Russian Evacuation of Manchuria. January, 29, 1907. AVP RI (Foreign policy archive of Russian empire). - Fund "Mission in Seoul". - List 768. - Case № 280. - P. 3.

8.           Y. A. Shulatov. On the way to cooperation. Russo-Japanese relations in 1905 - 1914 / Y. A. Shulatov. - Khabarovsk - Moscow : Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2008. - 304 p.

9.           "Rodina". - 2004. - № 1. Rejim dostupa: - Zagl. s ekrana. - Jaz.russ.

10.      E. D. Grimm. Collection of treaties and other documents on the history of international relations in the Far East (1842 - 1925) / E. D. Grimm. - M. : Institute of Oriental Studies, 1927. - 220 p.

11.      Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 (on Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet) // Russo-Chinese relations. Official documents (1689 - 1916). - M. : Publishing house of oriental literature, 1958. - P. 120 - 121.

12.      Hosoya Chihiro. Japan Policies toward Russia / Hosoya Chihiro // Japan's Foreign Policy, 1868 - 1941. A Research Guide. - New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1974. - P. 340 - 406.

13.      P. A. Berton. The Secret Russo-Japanese Alliance of 1916 / P. A. Berton. - UMI Dissertation Services. Degree Date: 1956. - 439 p.

14.      General Report on Japan for the year 1907 // British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. Part I. From the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the First World War. - Series E. Asia, 1860 - 1914. - Volume 9. Annual Reports on Japan, 1906 - 1913: University Publications of America, 1989. - P. 32 - 80.

15.      我陸軍の戦後経営に関し参考とすべき一般の要件、1908年.防衛研究所、東京、文庫宮崎.-40. (The conditions that can be useful for postwar development of our military forces, 1908. Archive of National Institute for Defense Studies, Tokyo. - Fund "Bunko Miyazaki" - 40).

16.      在露国本野公使より西園寺兼任外務大臣宛、1906年5月14日.『日本外交文書』.-39.-.-東京:外務省、1959年(Motono Ichiro - Saionji Kimmochi, May 14, 1906 // Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, Volume 39, Part 2, Tokyo, Gaimusho, 1959).

17.      在露国本野公使より西園寺兼任外務大臣宛、1906年3月29日.『日本外交文書』.-39.-.-東京:外務省、1959年 (Motono - Saionji, March 29, 1906 // Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, Volume 39, Part 2, Tokyo, Gaimusho, 1959).

18.      Motono - Hayashi, Tokio. Petersburg, Sept. 23, 1906 // Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, Volume 39, Part 1, Tokyo, Gaimusho, 1959.

19.      Motono - Hayashi, Tokio. Petersburg, Sept. 29, 1906 // Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, Volume 39, Part 1, Tokyo, Gaimusho, 1959.

20.      満大日記.防衛研究所、東京、陸軍省陸満普大日記、M39~4.16. (Notes on Manchuria. Archive of National Institute for Defense Studies, Tokyo. - Fund "Ministry of Defence. Notes on continent and Manchuria" - M 39 4. 16). The exchange of prisoners of war was finished February 7, 1906, when the last group of Russian soldiers and officers left Japan. February 19, 1906, V. A. Danilov, who was the head of Central committee for evacuation of war prisoners, expressed appreciation to Japan for humane treatment of Russian. Ooi Kikujiro, who directed return of Japanese war prisoners to Japan, made the same statement toward Russia.

21.      林外務大臣より在仏国栗野大使宛、1907年1月17日.『日本外交文書』.-40.-.-東京:外務省、1961年(Hayashi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan - Kurino, Japanese ambassador to France, January 17, 1907 // Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, Volume 40, Part 2, Tokyo, Gaimusho, 1961).

22.      「日本政府の対外政策方針決定」//資料体系アジア・アフリカ国際関係政治社会史、第巻、東京、パピルス出版、1987年、187-190ページ。 (Establishing of Japan government's foreign policy // Documents on socio-political history and international relations in Asia and Africa. - T. 2. - Tokyo: Papirusu shuppan, 1987. - P. 187 - 190).

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