This publication, the fruit of an ambitious collaborative effort between Russian and Japanese historians, presents a parallel view on the complex and sensitive problems surrounding the history of Russo-Japanese bilateral relations. Such a joint project between historians and political scientists from the two countries did not emerge in a vacuum, as outlined in the forewords by Iokibe Makoto and Anatoliĭ V. Torkunov in this volume.

During the post-Stalin period, Soviet and Japanese historians and economists had an opportunity to meet and exchange opinions despite the ideological disagreements between our two countries. Political scientists joined this academic exchange in the perestroika era of the 1980s and 1990s, and a number of platforms were created for dialogue between Japanese and Soviet, then Russian, scholars. The Gorbachev Foundation kindly supported these academic exchanges after the breakdown of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

The end of the Soviet era enabled a number of Russian historians and others working in the humanities field to continue their academic careers at Japanese universities. For example, Hōsei University’s recruitment of Konstanin O. Sarkisov, one of the contributors to this volume, opened up new channels for academic exchange between Russian and Japanese specialists. And Russia witnessed something of a renaissance in Japan under the aegis of Aleksandr N. Yakovlev, a founding father of the perestroika policy.

In the 21st century, academic exchange was given a fresh impetus with the election of Vladimir Putin as Russia’s president. A Japanese-Russian public forum was established to address the preparations of a bilateral peace treaty on the “Track Two” principles, which helped to avoid the narrow limits of official positions. Russia was enthusiastic about the promotion of public contacts with Japan, and the former Russian ambassador to Japan, Alexander N. Panov, and other Russian community leaders did much to develop the public dialogue.

Although perhaps not obvious at first glance, a shift in Russian-Japanese contacts surfaced following the disastrous events of the Tōhoku Earthquake, the ensuing tsunami, and the meltdown at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in eastern Japan on March 11, 2011. Iokibe Makoto, a long-time advocate of Japanese-Russian relations, headed the governmental staff dealing with the aftermath of this catastrophe. Russia was one of the countries to assist Japan in the clean-up, and against the backdrop of a new situation between Russia and Japan, Shimotomai Nobuo and Iokibe Makoto met with Professor Torkunov, the rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). At that meeting, Professor Torkunov remarked on the successful example of the non-governmental Russian-Polish commission of historians working on a “parallel history” project between the two nations. He suggested the launch of a similar venture regarding Russo-Japanese history.

Six months following that conversation a delegation of ten Japanese scholars visited Russia; the group was led by Professor Iokibe, even though at this time he was fully immersed in coordinating the Fukushima reconstruction. The Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS RAS) hosted a frank exchange of opinions with fourteen Russian Japanologists, including Alexander N. Panov, Dmitry V. Streltsov and Sergey V. Chugrov, on the possible approach of a joint study relating to the over two centuries of history of Russian-Japanese relations. This marked the beginning of this Russian-Japanese “parallel history” project, which kicked off a year later in October 2012 at the first official meeting of historians in the Japanese city of Morioka. In 2015, the results of a three-year mutual research project were published in Russian as Rossiĭsko-yaponskie otnosheniya v formate parallel′noĭ istorii (Russian-Japanese Relations in the Format of a Parallel History) and in Japanese as Nichiro kankei shi. Parareru hisutorī no chōsen (The History of Japanese-Russian Relations. Challenges of a Parallel History) by the MGIMO Press and the University of Tokyo Press. The present study demonstrates that Russian-Japanese relations followed a general trajectory in their historical development. The successful outcome of our joint work rests upon on earlier achievements in both Russia and Japan in the field of history and other affiliated areas of scholarship.

One reoccurring problem within the lengthy history of Soviet (Russian)-Japanese relations—dating back to even before the 1855 demarcation between Etorofu (Iturup) and Urup—is territorial. The lack of success in resolving this problem through diplomatic efforts signals the complexity of the issue and the difficulty in resolving it. This publication attempts to address this issue from the perspective of modern scholarship and knowledge, and in the process to dispel the many existing stereotypes such as the long-standing belief that the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 was preventable.

A History of Russo-Japanese Relations: Over Two Centuries of Cooperation and Competition is only the beginning of an ongoing journey. New horizons were opened up in the history of Russian-Japanese relations by the efforts of many courageous Russian historians, sociologists, and political scientists who began their research in the perestroika years, among them Alekseĭ A. Kirichenko and his study of Japanese prisoners of war. And conversely, the achievements in the area of Japanese history have augmented the work of Russian historians. As editors we hope that the efforts of the numerous eminent scholars contributing to this volume will draw the attention of general and specialist readers in Russia, Japan, and around the world.

A project of this size posed enormous challenges, and we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the many authors who generously gave their time in contributing to the present publication, which we hope will become a valuable research tool for anyone is interested in Russo-Japanese relations, in particular, and more generally to international relations in Asia. We must acknowledge with great appreciation the indefatigable efforts of our English-language editor Amy Reigle Newland and the assistance of Johan-Christian Newland in redrafting select maps. We would also like to express our extreme gratitude to Patricia Radder, Irene Jager, and the staff at Brill Publishers who were instrumental in overseeing all aspects in the production of the book. Finally, we would like to single out the International Chodiev Foundation and its chairman and founder, Dr. Patokh Chodiev, who provided the financial support for the publication of this English version.

A History of Russo-Japanese Relations

Over Two Centuries of Cooperation and Competition


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