September 06, 2011
Second Call for the Peace Conference! Puck, v. 58, no. 1497. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division
On September 5, 1905, the Portsmouth Treaty was signed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the Russo-Japanese war officially ended. The war was fought over Japanese and Russian spheres of influence in Korea and Manchuria and over control of Port Arthur. From the beginning, Japan held the upper hand though they suffered great casualties. The campaigns of 1904 centered around Port Arthur until it was surrendered by the Russians in early 1905. The 1905 theater was further to the north near Mukden and the Straits of Tsushima where the Russian Army and Navy were defeated on May 28, 1905.
Terms of peace however were not set until the signing of the treaty in September, almost four months after the last battle. Japan could not afford the war to go on longer. Fear of bankruptcy and famine back home meant they needed the war to end. Russia was dealing with a brewing revolution against the Czar and the war with Japan had been unpopular. However, the Russian and Japanese envoys did not come to Portsmouth in the mood to negotiate. Russia refused to agree to an indemnity, and Japan quickly became frustrated with Russia’s refusal to compromise on any points of the treaty. With the talks in trouble, Theodore Roosevelt did not hesitate to go over the delegates’ heads to the Czar and Emperor themselves to urge for a conclusion to the negotiations.
In the end, Japan, technically the victors of the war, agreed to no indemnity and few compromises from the Russians in order to avoid more war, something neither nation could afford. The signing of the treaty was a crowning achievement for Roosevelt and his foreign relations and earned him the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize.