The Russian Army and the Japanese War, Vol. I (of 2) Being Historical and Critical Comments on the Military Policy and Power of Russia and on the Campaign in the Far East
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Title: The Russian Army and the Japanese War, Vol. I (of 2)
Being Historical and Critical Comments on the Military Policy and Power of Russia and on the Campaign in the Far East
Author: A. N. (Alekseĭ Nikolaevich) Kuropatkin
Editor: E. D. (Ernest Dunlop) Swinton
Release Date: November 11, 2018 [eBook #58256]
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THE RUSSIAN ARMY AND THE
THE RUSSIAN ARMY AND
THE JAPANESE WAR,
BEING HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL COMMENTS ON
THE MILITARY POLICY AND POWER OF RUSSIA
AND ON THE CAMPAIGN IN THE FAR EAST,
WITH MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
IN TWO VOLUMES: VOL. I.
E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY
Printed in Great Britain
“The General stands higher than any other Russian officer, not onlyin Russian opinion, but in that of professional soldiers all the worldover, and if any human agency can change the deplorable situation toRussia’s advantage, Kuropatkin may be the man to do it.”
“It may be that a military genius would have overcome the moral andphysical difficulties we had to encounter. Possibly; but an Alexeieff,a Kuropatkin, a Linievitch, a Grippenberg, a Kaulbars, and a Bilderlingwere unable to do so,”
Though these two quotations epitomize the[Pg vi]raison d’être and tendency of this book, they by no means afforda complete description of its scope. Were it nothing but anapologia, not even the former reputation and position of itsauthor would save it from the neglect which invariably awaits theexcuses of the man who has failed. But it is no mere apologia.For, apart from its tone of disappointment, apart from the dominantnote of failure which is current throughout, and the explanations andreasons repeated on almost every page, the work is one long-continuedprotest. It is a protest from first to last that the war was not—as faras Russia was concerned—fought to anything like a finish; that it wasbrought to a premature conclusion; that peace was declared at themoment when victory lay within Russia’s grasp, when her strength was atits greatest, and that of her enemy had begun to ebb. Whether true orotherwise, this view should not be rejected without consideration asthe natural cry of an unsuccessful party. These pages give food forthought; they, moreover, contain much that has hitherto rested inobscurity with regard to the attitude of the Russian War Ministry, itsefforts to prevent the war, its general policy, and other matters.
The author endeavours to drive home his protest by marshalling anarray of facts, and by analogy from the military history of his countryfor more than two centuries. Whether he[Pg vii]proves his case is for the reader to judge. Be that as it may, his bookmust claim attention as being the absolute opinion of the one man onthe Russian side best qualified to throw light upon the causes andcourse of the greatest world-disturbing international struggle that hastaken place for more than a third of a century. It has also asentimental interest in that it is the utterance of one who, after along and meritorious career in his country’s service, and after holdingthe highest appointments his profession offered, has failed and retireddiscredited into the depths of the country. Whether he will reappear inpublic life or not is unknown; but when his distinguished services forRussia are called to mind, and a few of the stupendous difficultieswith which he had to contend in this last campaign are realized, it isimpossible to withhold sympathy.
The son of a Russian provincial official, Alexei NicolaevitchKuropatkin was born on March 17, 1845. After being educated in thecadet corps and the Pavlovsk War School, he was, at the age ofeighteen, posted as a Lieutenant to the 1st Turkestan Rifle Battalion,with which he saw active service in Central Asia. Having passed withsuccess through the Staff College, and being graded as Staff Captain,he in 1874 accompanied a French expedition into the Sahara. In 1876 hetook part in the Central Asian Campaign of that year, being onSkobeleff’s staff, winning[Pg viii]many laurels, and being wounded. During the Turkish War of 1877–78 hewas Chief of the Staff, and was again wounded. In the Akhal TekheExpedition of 1880–81 he once more distinguished himself, commandingthe Turkestan Rifle Brigade, and being twice wounded at the storming ofGeok-Tepe. From 1883–90 he was General in Charge of strategicalquestions on the great General Staff. In 1890 he reached the rank ofLieutenant-General, and from that year till 1898 did valuable serviceas Commander-in-Chief of the Trans-Caspian Military District. In 1898he received his portfolio as Minister of War, which position he filleduntil February 20, 1904, when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief ofthe Manchurian Army of Operations (having been promoted to General ofInfantry in 1900). On March 27, 1904, he reached Liao-yang to take uphis duties, and after several battles, in which the Russians werealmost invariably defeated, he was, in March, 1905, superseded in thechief command by General Linievitch. Henceforward he continued to serveon in a subordinate position in command of the 1st Army until the endof the war. After peace was concluded, he remained in Manchuriasuperintending the demobilization of the Russian forces, proceeding, onthe completion of this duty, to his country seat in Russia, where hehas since remained in retirement. It was during his[Pg ix]stay in Manchuria, after hostilities had ceased, and later at his home,that he wrote this book, with the assistance acknowledged by him in theintroduction. Its publication in Russia was suppressed almost as soonas the book appeared, and it is believed that the subject-matter ofthis translation was never printed in Russia. Of the four volumes ofthe original work, the fourth has alone been translated, and is nowpresented to the British public in these pages.
Among the many facts presented to us by the author there are somewhich call for special reference. The first point to claim ourattention is the fact that though General Kuropatkin wasCommander-in-Chief of an army engaged in active operations in thefield, he was for a long time not supreme. Indeed, from the day hearrived at Liao-yang until October 25, 1904, he was subordinate to anofficer not actually at the front, being appointed as assistant(the italics are ours) to the Viceroy—Admiral Alexeieff—whoseheadquarters were at Harbin. Curiously enough, General Kuropatkin saysvery little upon this subject. He merely points out that he was reallyin supreme command only for four and a half months of the war—betweenAdmiral Alexeieff’s departure and his own supersession by[Pg x]General Linievitch—and incidentally mentions various actions and ordersof the Viceroy which forced him to act against his own judgment. Howdetrimental such control must have been to the conduct of operationsneeds no emphasis. It is not within the scope of this preface toattempt criticism or justification of the Russian strategy or conductof the war—be it that of General Kuropatkin or another—but such avicious system of command may account for much that has hithertoappeared inexplicable. Other points which stand out are: the absoluteunreadiness of Russia, the causes which led her into hostilities inspite of this unreadiness, the overwhelming nature of the advantagegained by Japan with the command of the sea, the drag upon Russia’sstrategy constituted by the fortress of Port Arthur, and the fear ofcomplications on the western frontier, which forced her to retain herbest troops in Europe. The handicap that her inferior railwaycommunications were to her arms is obvious, and less remarkable thanthe immense improvement in them effected during the course ofhostilities.
Of the author’s opinions, that of most interest to his owncountrymen is probably the one we have already mentioned—that the warwas, for Russia, prematurely concluded. To us, however, the valueattached by him to a “national” war as opposed to an “army” war isinstructive[Pg xi]while the forethought and care with which the possible price of Empirein the twentieth century was worked out by the Russian War Ministry isenlightening, for who has estimated the probable cost in blood andtreasure of the expansion or maintenance of the British Empire duringthe next hundred years? His views also as to the correct policy to bepursued by Russia on the Afghan and Persian frontiers, and generallywith regard to Great Britain in India and the Middle East, arecertainly important.
One last point, and one which is much to the credit of GeneralKuropatkin, is that he was able to follow where he had once led, andafter having been in supreme command, was content to accept asubordinate position, and do his duty in it, rather than return toRussia before the war was over. It is refreshing to find no word ofrepining over his supersession, nor any direct or indirect complaint ofhis treatment by his Sovereign.
These pages are an exact translation of the portion of the workcomprised within them. The only liberty that has been taken with theoriginal is that some of the frequent repetitions—of which the authoris a past master—and certain passages which are nothing but long listsof names and places, have been eliminated. There is still muchrepetition in the translation, but this has been allowed to remain, inorder that the English version might adhere as closely as possible to[Pg xii]the shape of the original. As the translation had to be made mostlyfrom a faint carbon copy of typescript, the work was attended withconsiderable difficulties. The many faults in style and arrangement canperhaps be explained by the fact that the original had evidently notbeen corrected in proof by the author. The fact, also, that no