Russo-Japan Peace Conference representatives. Left to right: Russian Finance Minister Count Sergei Witte, Baron Rosen, US President Theodore Roosevelt, Japanese Ambassador to the US Kogoro Takahira, and Japanese Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura.

It was a time when nations jostled for territory and trade. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 was waged mainly for the control of Manchuria and Korea. The US fully supported Japan and hoped that Japan would keep Korea open to all nations for commerce. The war started before it was declared with Japan launching a surprise attack to destroy part of the Russian fleet at Port Arthur in Manchuria and landing troops in Korea. The US and Great Britain cheered Japan. The US assumed that Japan would open up Asian markets. President Theodore Roosevelt believed that Japan was fighting Russia for America. But then, he also feared that if Japan won the war, there might be a struggle between the US and Japan in the future.

In the famous Battle of the Sea of Japan on May 27-28, 1905, Japan astonishingly defeated the Russian fleet which had sailed from the Baltic Sea eighteen months before. Even before this battle, Japan was financially drained and asked Roosevelt to mediate an end to the war. Although Japan was winning the war, they were outnumbered by the Russians who had the troops and resources to keep fighting. The Russian czar, however, finally relented after seeing his Baltic fleet destroyed.

A peace conference was held at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in July and Aug. 1905. The principle representatives are pictured in the postcard above. The caption on the bottom of the card identifies these men. The Japanese handwriting in-between is only correspondence and not part of the original postcard which has a postmark dated Aug. 30, 1905.

Harvard-educated Jutaro Komura was a star in Japan's Foreign Ministry and a successful diplomat in Washington DC and Peking. He was in favor of obtaining control in both Manchuria and Korea. Komura also was instrumental in having Japan form an alliance with Great Britain in 1902. This move further strengthened Japan's position vis-a-vis Russia. Anybody attacking Japan would also have to face the British who had the world's largest navy.

Count Sergei Witte created the Trans-Siberian railway and he was highly respected by the US.

For mediating peace between Japan and Russia, President Roosevelt went on to become the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

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Bengt   [Sep 19, 2008 at 03:57 AM]
From: bengt.fagerholm@akseli.fi (Apr 07, 2004 03:13)
Dear Sirs,
Would it be possible for you to send this picture through e-mail to me? I am working on a book about St.Petersburg. All pictures are from old postcards. It would be nice to have Sergey Witte on a postcard.
Best regards
Bengt Fagerholm, Helsinki, Finland

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