Today’s installment concludes The Russo-Japanese War,
the name of our combined selection from Charles F. Horne and Leo Tolstoy. The concluding installment, by Leo Tolstoy is from a short essay “War and Christianity”. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) wrote many other works than just War and Peace.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed ten thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in The Russo-Japanese War.
Place: Korea and Manchuria
As always has been, and is, the case, in regard to all defeats, so also now people attempt to explain the defeat of the Russians by the bad organization of the Russian military department, by the abuses and blunders of the commanders, and so forth. But this is not the chief point. The reason of the successes of the Japanese is not so much in the bad government of Russia, nor in the bad organization of the Russian Army, as in the great positive superiority of the Japanese in the military art. Japan has conquered not because the Russians are weak, but because Japan is at the present time perhaps the most powerful State in the world, both on land and on sea; and this is so, first, because all those technical scientific improvements which once gave predominance in strife to Christian nations over un-Christian have been assimilated by the Japanese — owing to their practical capacities and the importance they attach to the military art — much more successfully than by the Christian nations; secondly, because the Japanese are by nature braver and more indifferent to death than the Christian nations are at present; thirdly, because the warlike patriotism utterly incompatible with Christianity which has been with so much effort inculcated by Christian Governments among their peoples, is yet extant in all its untouched power among the Japanese; fourthly, because servilely sub mitting to the despotic authority of the deified Mikado, the strength of the Japanese is more concentrated and unified than the strength of those nations who have outlived their servile submission. In a word, the Japanese have had and have got an enormous advantage, in that they are not Christians.
However distorted Christianity may be among Christian nations, it yet, however vaguely, lives in their consciousness, and men are Christians. At all events the best among them cannot devote all their mental powers to the invention and preparation of weapons of murder; cannot fail to regard martial patriotism more or less indifferently; cannot, like the Japanese, cut open their stomachs merely that they may avoid surrendering themselves as prisoners to the foe; cannot blow themselves up into the air together with the enemy as used previously to be the case. They no longer value the military virtues and military heroism as much as formerly; they respect less and less the military class; they can no longer without consciousness of insult to human dignity servilely submit to authority; and above all they, or at least the majority of them, can no longer commit murder with indifference.
In all times, even in peaceful activities inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, Christian nations could not compete with non-Christian. So it was, and continues to be, in the monetary strife with non-Christians. However badly and fallaciously Christianity may be interpreted, the Christian recognizes (and the more so the more he is a Christian) that wealth is not the highest good and, therefore, he cannot devote to it all his powers, as does he who has no ideals higher than wealth, or who regards wealth as a divine blessing. The same in the sphere of non-Christian science and art; in these spheres, both of positive experimental science and of art which places pleasure as its aim, the precedence has belonged, does, and always must belong to the least Christian individuals and nations. What we see in the manifestation of peaceful activity was bound to exist all the more in that activity of war winch is directly repudiated by true Christianity. It is this inevitable advantage in the military art of non-Christian over Christian nations which, given equal means of military science, has been so unmistakably demonstrated in the brilliant victory of the Japanese over the Russians.
And it is in this inevitable and necessary superiority of non-Christian nations that lies the enormous significance of the Japanese victory.
The significance of the victory of the Japanese consists in this: that this victory has shown in the most obvious way not only to vanquished Russia, but also to the whole Christian world, all the futility of the external culture of which Christian nations were so proud; it has proved that this external culture which appeared to them to be some kind of a specially important result of the age-long efforts of Christendom is something very unimportant and so insignificant that the Japanese nation, distinguished by no specially superior spiritual qualities, when it needed this culture could in a few decades assimilate all the scientific wisdom of the Christian nations, inclusive of bacteria and explosives, and could so well adapt this wisdom to practical purposes that in its adaptation to the military art, and in the military art itself — so highly valued by Christian nations — it could surpass all these nations.
For ages the Christian nations, under the pretext of self-defense, have competed in inventing the most effectual methods of destroying each other (methods immediately adopted by all their opponents), and they have made use of these methods both for the intimidation of each other and for the acquirement of every kind of advantage over uncivilized nations in Africa and Asia. And lo! among the non-Christian nations there appears one warlike, adroit, and imitative which, having seen the danger threatening it together with other non-Christian nations, with extraordinary facility and celerity assimilated all which military superiority had given Christian nations, and became stronger than they, having understood the simple truth that if you are beaten with a stout and strong club you have to take a similar or still thicker and stronger club, and with it strike the one who strikes you. The Japanese very quickly and easily assimilated this wisdom, and at the same time all this military science, and possessing besides all the advantages of religious despot ism and patriotism, they have manifested military power which has proved stronger than the most powerful military State. The victory of the Japanese over the Russians has shown all the military States that military power is no longer in their hands, but has passed, or is soon bound to pass, into other un-Christian hands, since it is not difficult for other non-Christian nations in Asia and Africa, being oppressed by Christians, to follow the example of Japan, and having assimilated the military technics of which we are so proud, not only to free themselves, but to wipe off all the Christian States from the face of the earth.
Therefore, by the issue of this war, Christian Governments are in the most obvious way brought to the necessity of still further strengthening those military preparations, whose cost has already crushed their people, and while doubling their armaments still foresee that in time the pagan nations op pressed by them will, like the Japanese, acquire the military art and throw off their yoke and avenge themselves on them, no longer by words but by bitter experience. This war has confirmed, not only for Russians, but also for all Christian nations, the simple truth that coercion can lead to nothing but the increase of calamities and suffering.
This victory has shown that, occupying themselves with the increase of their military power, Christian nations have been doing not only an evil and immoral work, but a work opposed to the Christian spirit which lives in them — a work in which they, as Christian nations, must always be excelled and beaten by non-Christian nations. This victory has shown the Christian nations that all to which their Governments directed their activity has been ruinous to them, and an unnecessary exhaustion of their strength, and above all the raising up for themselves of more powerful foes among non- Christian nations. This war has proved in the most obvious way that the power of Christian nations can in no wise lie in military power contrary to the Christian spirit, and that if the Christian nations wish to remain Christians, their effort should be directed not at all to military power, but to something different: to such an organization of life which, flowing from the Christian teaching, will give to men the greatest welfare, not by means of rude violence, but by means of rational cooperation and love.
In this lies the great significance for the Christian world of the victory of the Japanese.
This ends our selections on The Russo-Japanese War by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- Article in Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume XX by Charles F. Horne published in 1914.
- short essay “War and Christianity” by Leo Tolstoy.
Charles F. Horne begins here.
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