Russia obtained information on Japan’s strategy for the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, including the plan for a major offensive in northeastern China in March 1905, through a Tokyo-based French correspondent and other sources, according to the recent study by a Russian scholar.
Dmitri Pavlov, a professor of history at the Moscow State Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automation, says Russia found out in August 1904 that Japan would attack Mukden as early as January 1905.
Mukden — now the northeastern Chinese city of Shengyang — was under Russian control at the time.
According to documents obtained by Pavlov from the Imperial Russia government archives, a former senior Russian diplomat to Korea known as Alexander Pavlov was in charge of espionage in Japan.
Commissioned by the czar, Pavlov began his espionage career in Shanghai in April 1904, shortly after the start of the Russo-Japanese War.
When Russians were forced to leave Japan after the start of the war, Alexander Pavlov found collaborators from among foreign correspondents and bankers based in Japan.
A correspondent of the French newspaper Le Figaro by the name of Balais was reportedly Pavlov’s most important asset. France was an ally of Russia at the time.
Balais, who spoke fluent Japanese, arrived in Japan in June 1904 and worked as a spy for nine months.
Balais obtained information from the Japanese military and Foreign Ministry. He also visited ports and hospitals under his journalistic cover.
Until he left Japan for fear of being exposed as a spy, Balais sent around 30 reports to Pavlov in Shanghai by regular sea mail, Dmitri Pavlov said.
Acting on Balais’ information, Alexander Pavlov sent an official telegram to Moscow in August 1904 alerting the government that Japan would attack Mukden by January 1905. Balais’ reports contained information on the types of munitions and vessels Japan had, the number of troop deserters, and personal relationships of Japanese military commanders, Russian documents show.
The Russo-Japanese War ended in August 1905 with the signing of the Portsmouth Treaty, which was negotiated through U.S. mediation. The treaty gave Japan control of the Kwantung Peninsula along with Port Arthur and the southern part of Sakhalin Island up to the 50th parallel.
According to Japanese experts, Dmitri Pavlov’s study, which will be published in Russia in a book, is the first substantial work on Russia’s spy network in the Russo-Japanese War.
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