The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 marked the first major defeat of a European power by an Asian power in the modern era. Tsarism's humiliation on the Pacific was the first in a series of convulsions that would ultimately topple the Romanov dynasty. And the confrontation in Manchuria, with its enormous land battles involving the use of trenches, artillery barrages, and machine gun fire, heralded many of the murderous innovations of World War I.
Contemporaries in the West paid a great deal of attention to the Russo-Japanese War; journalists, military attachés and others wrote scores of books about the dramatic events in the East that enjoyed a wide readership in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. It remained a backwater of military history for much of the previous century.
The increasing attention paid to conflicts outside of Europe is reviving interest worldwide in this historical landmark. Until very recently those studying Russia's role have had to rely on secondary accounts, most of which are either dated or tainted by propaganda.
In the wake of Russia's defeat against Japan, the Military History section (Voenno-Uchenyi Arkhiv or VUA) gathered a mass of documents to provide the primary source base for the General Staff's official multi-volume history of the war. The collection also contains much important material dealing with politics and international relations, as well as the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The Military History section's holdings are immense and cover virtually every aspect of the tsarist army's role in the Russo-Japanese War. Here scholars can study intelligence reports and war plans, commanders' reports to Tsar Nicholas II about the Japanese Navy's surprise attack on Port Arthur, the base's lengthy siege, the major land battles in Manchuria, and the Baltic Fleet's annihilation at Tsushima.