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Treaty of Portsmouth now seen as global turning point

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The Sakhalin and Kurile islands, whose ownership was still under discussion last month in Tokyo at a meeting between Russian and Japanese heads of state, were the central sticking point in the Portsmouth treaty, and nearly scuppered the deal. Chief Russian diplomat Sergius Witte twice pocketed cables from Czar Nicholas asking him to come home.

For Russia, the war was a disaster for the Czar; grumbling in the streets added to unhappiness leading eventually to the rise of the Bolsheviks.

In Japan, the war had an opposite effect: It brought Japan international prominence, and stoked pride. The event closely melded military and emperor - and set the stage for Japan's push through all of Asia. Emperor Hirohito, says Mr. Bix, grew up playing childhood military games from the Russo-Japanese War. Later, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, Japan refused to leave Manchuria, arguing that to do so would "give up the fruits of the ... Russo Japanese War," as Hara Yoshimichi, privy council in Tokyo, put it. Naval tactics, especially Japan's "single blow" approach against the Russian navy, prefigured Pearl Harbor.

It would be hard to overstate how transfixing the war was at the time. "The loss of life was terrible on both sides," says Peter Randall, a Treaty of Portsmouth historian. "In the Port Arthur battle the Japanese kept attacking and attacking, and with modern weapons the severity was frightening. The entire world was watching. "

Concern ran so high that many American churches held services for peace. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, asked her church members to pray daily for peace from June 17 to July 1 1905.

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