Russian Foreign Policy During Nicholas I Part 4
But it was precisely the Bulgarian question that, almost immediately, was to bring down, and this time definitively, the alliance of the three emperors. The serious Bulgarian crisis of 1885-1887 (see bulgaria), just as it removed Bulgaria from Russian influence, so it determined a new, open conflict between Austria and Russia. According to Mysteryaround, the alliance of 1881 was never renewed; Bismarck still tried to maintain a certain solidarity at least between Russia and Germany, by signing the counter-insurance pact (1887), but since this, after the fall of Bismarck (1890), was no longer renewed, so at the beginning of the last decade of the century XIX the possibility of a friendly collaboration between Russia and the two central empires was seriously compromised. And instead there was the alliance of Russia with France, which substantially sketched as early as 1891 took on a definitive and precise form on December 27, 1893 (see double alliance): thus arose that Franco-Russian bloc, feared for some time by Bismarck, which was to profoundly change the European situation.
However, in the first period following the alliance, and precisely in the decade 1895-1905, the center of gravity of Russian foreign policy was, more than Europe, again the Far East, where a new power, Japan, was asserting itself. with evident danger for that Russian expansion towards Manchuria, which has been underway for some time. The Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895, which ended with the complete victory of Japan, which obtained, in the peace of Simonosaki, the Liao-Tsung peninsula with the fortress of Port Arthur, and southern Manchuria, therefore determined the immediate intervention of the Russia which, backed by France and Germany (the latter tried then, as then again in 1905, to reconnect with Russia to reach a Franco-German-Russian block), he managed to force Japan to revise the peace treaty. With this decisive action, which contained within itself the seeds of the next conflict, Russia, by imposing on Japan a diplomatic failure similar to that which it had suffered, in the Balkan question, seventeen years before the Congress of Berlin, clearly affirmed its willingness to consider Manchuria and northern China a field reserved for its own action. Which, in the years immediately following, became in effect pressing and decisive: with changes to the route of the great Trans-Siberian railway, which was passed through northern Manchuria (Nerčinsk-Vladivostok line) and with the creation of a Russian-Chinese bank, broad foundations were given to Russian economic expansion in the Far East; while, in the political field,
Then when Germany occupied Kiao-Chow in 1897, the Russian government, which had supported the German government in its action, contrary to the commitment made by the powers to respect the territorial integrity of China, had China surrender Port Arthur and the southern part of the Liao-Tsung peninsula (Russian-Chinese convention of March 15, 1898: rent for a renewable term of 25 years), and the right to connect Port Arthur, via Mukden, to Harbin and the Trans-Siberian railway.
Therefore, despite the Treaty of Seoul (February 1897) with which Russia and Japan sought a basis of agreement, undertaking to respect the independence of Korea, the friction between the two powers became more and more acute. Then when the revolt of the boxers (1900) and the military intervention of the great powers in China provided Russia with the pretext to occupy Manchuria with its own troops, not withdrawing from the occupation even when the revolt of the boxers was quelled, the The situation changed profoundly, in a sense unfavorable to Russia, as a result of the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902. The Anglo-Russian clash in central-western Asia, a clash that was revived again in those years due to the increased Russian influence in Persia (Russian-Persian trade treaty of 1900), thus merging with the
The situation worsened rapidly: the Russian government had committed itself to evacuating Manchuria by 8 October 1903; but still at the end of 1903 nothing had been done in this regard, both because businessmen were moving around the Russian military and political leaders in the Far East who tried to exploit the Russian occupation of Manchuria in their own interest and thus hindered the promised evacuation; and also because in Russia itself, more than one politician, starting with the interior minister Plehve himself, saw in a war in the Far East, considered to have a safe and rapid outcome, the best diversion to face the obscure situation internal Russia and to crush the revolutionary movements.
Faced with the peremptory request of Japan (Manchuria to Russia, Korea to Japan), the Russian government hesitated, conducted negotiations for a long time: when it decided to access the Japanese requests it was too late. Encouraged by English circles, thanks to its military preparation, Japan, seizing the pretext of the Russian lack of response, broke off the negotiations, and in the night from 8 to 9 February 1904, without declaration of war, began military operations, attacking the fleet in the Port Arthur roadstead and knocking out various large units.
The war that followed (see Russian – Japanese, war) was, to the surprise of the whole world, a big blow to the power and prestige of Russia which, beaten by sea and by land, in the peace of Portsmouth (5 September 1905) had to give up the Liao-Tsung peninsula, give Port Arthur, the southern part of the island of Sakhalin, to Japan, and undertake to evacuate Manchuria.