The Visit of the Vice-Chief of the Japanese Army’s General Staff Kawakami Sōroku to Priamur Military District (1897)

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In 1897, the Vice-Chief of the Japanese Army’s General Staff, Lieutenant General Kawakami Sōroku, visited the Russian Far East. Based on a large body of hitherto unstudied documents from the Russian State Military Historical Archive, this article analyzes the composition of the Japanese delegation as well as that of the Russian administration that hosted the Japanese guests. Among the hosts were Vladimir A. Oranovskiy and Vladimir K. Samoilov, who would later became famous as military orientalists and as the founders of Russia’s military intelligence in the region. The highest official who met the Japanese mission was the Temporary Chief of Troops of Priamur Military District, Lieutenant-General Nikolay I. Grodekov, widely known at that time as a military man, administrator, and scholar. The article discusses in detail the preparation of the visit by the Russian regional government, including the planned itinerary, preparations for the diet of the guests as well as their accommodation and transport issues. Equally analyzed are the organizational difficulties that occurred during the visit. The main interests of the Japanese delegation were the current condition of the Russian forces in a region, the development of military transport and port infrastructure, the level of regional colonization, issues of military training and combat readiness, new artillery systems, small arms, and winter outfit. The Japanese General Staff was particular interested in the defense condition of Vladivostok Fortress, with one officer in the Japanese delegation being assigned to investigate this particular question. An interesting feature is the cooperation between the General Staff and semi-commercial Japanese organizations for the collection of data about the current state of the Russian Far East. The article also studies the conclusions drawn by the Russian military attaché in Japan, which appear to be inaccurate and questionable. While this visit did not arouse much interest in the central administration of the Russian War Ministry, it was of utmost importance to Japan, which already at that time regarded the Russian Empire as a potential threat and enemy.

About the authors

Roman S. Avilov

Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS

Author for correspondence.

Kandidat Istoricheskikh Nauk [PhD in history], Senior Researcher, Department of the History of the Russian Far East

89, Pushkinskaya St., Vladivostok, 690001, Russia


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Copyright (c) 2020 Avilov R.S.

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