Battle of Mukden

The Battle of Mukden (奉天会戦 Hōten kaisen), one of the largest land battles to be fought before World War I and the last and the most decisive major land battle of the Russo-Japanese War,[7] was fought from 20 February to 10 March 1905 between Japan and Russia near Mukden in Manchuria. The city is now called Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province in China.

The Russian forces, numbering more than 340,000, under General Alexei Nikolajevich Kuropatkin, fought the attacking Imperial Japanese Army forces numbering more than 270,000, led by Marshal Marquess Ōyama Iwao. Involving 610,000 combat participants and 164,000 combatant casualties, it was the largest modern-era battle fought prior to World War I, and possibly the largest battle in world history up to that point. The scale of the battle particularly in the amount of ordnance being expended, was unprecedented in world history. The Japanese side alone fired 20.11 million rifle and machine gun rounds and 279,394 artillery shells in just over ten days of fighting (the Russians fired more), matching the ammunition consumption of the German army in the entire 191-day Franco-Prussian War.[8]

Battle of Mukden
Part of the Russo-Japanese War
Russian Field Gun during the Battle of Mukden

Russian field gun firing during the battle of Mukden
Date20 February – 10 March 1905
(2 weeks and 4 days)
South of Mukden (modern Shenyang), Manchuria
Result Japanese victory[1]
Japanese occupy all of southern Manchuria
Russian forces retreat to northern Manchuria
Japan Empire of Japan Russia Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Ōyama Iwao Aleksey Kuropatkin
262,900 infantry
7,350 cavalry
992 guns
200 machine guns[2]
340,000 troops[3]
1,219 guns
88 machine guns[2]
Casualties and losses

75,504 total:

  • 15,892 killed
  • 59,612 wounded[4][5]

88,352 total:

  • 8,705 killed
  • 51,438 wounded
  • 28,209 MIA, of those 22,000 fell into captivity[6]


Following the Battle of Liaoyang (24 August to 4 September 1904), Russian forces retreated to the river Sha Ho south of Mukden and regrouped. From 5 October 1904 to 17 October 1904, during the Battle of Shaho, the Russians unsuccessfully counter-attacked, but managed to temporarily slow the Japanese advance.

A second Russian counter-offensive, the Battle of Sandepu, fought from (25–29 January 1905) was likewise unsuccessful.

The fall of Port Arthur to General Nogi freed up the Japanese 3rd Army, which advanced north to reinforce the Japanese lines near Mukden in preparation for an attack.

By February 1905, the manpower reserves of the Japanese army had been drained. With the arrival of General Nogi's Third Army, Japan's entire fighting strength was concentrated at Mukden. The severe casualties, bitter cold climate, and approach of the Russian Baltic Fleet created pressure on Marshal Ōyama to effect the complete destruction of the Russian forces, rather than just another victory from which the Russians could withdraw farther into Manchuria.

Disposition of Forces

Formation of a division of the Japanese 1st. Army after the Battle of Mukden
Formation of a Japanese division

The Russian line to the south of Mukden was 90 miles (140 km) long, with little depth and with a central reserve. On the right flank, in flat ground, was the Second Manchurian Army under General Baron von Kaulbars (who had replaced the unfortunate General Oskar Gripenberg). In the center, holding the railway and the highway was the Third Manchurian Army under General Baron von Bilderling. The hilly terrain on the east flank was held by the First Manchurian Army under General Nikolai Linevich. This flank also held two-thirds of the Russian cavalry, under General Paul von Rennenkampf. General Kuropatkin had thus disposed his forces in a purely defensive layout, from which it would be difficult to impossible to execute an offensive without opening a major gap in the lines.

On the Japanese side, the Japanese First Army (General Kuroki) and Japanese Fourth Army (General Nozu) advanced to the east of the rail line, and the Japanese Second Army (General Oku) to the west. General Nogi's Japanese Third Army was kept concealed behind the 2nd Army until the start of battle. A newly formed Japanese Ōryokukō (Yalu River) Army under General Kawamura provided a major diversion on the Russian eastern flank. The Yalu River Army was much under strength, and consisted only of the IJA 11th Division (from Port Arthur) and reservists. Despite that it was technically not under the Japanese Manchurian Army but directly under Imperial General Headquarters to attack Primorsky Krai politically, the division was substantially under Manchuria HQ under the commander's decision.

General Kuropatkin was convinced that the main Japanese thrust would come from the mountainous eastern side, as the Japanese had proven themselves effective in such terrain, and the presence of the former 3rd Army veterans from the 11th Division in that area reinforced his convictions.

Field Marshal Ōyama's plan was to form his armies into a crescent to encircle Mukden, cutting off the possibility of Russian escape. He was explicit in his orders that combat within the city of Mukden itself was to be avoided. All during the war, the Japanese had pursued a meticulous civil affairs policy aimed at avoiding civilian casualties and keeping the Chinese populace on their side – a stark contrast with the previous First Sino-Japanese War and subsequent Second Sino-Japanese War.

The battle

Russian Cavalry under Reconnaissance Mission during the Battle of Mukden
Russian Cavalry under Reconnaissance Mission during the Battle of Mukden

The battle opened with the Japanese 5th Army attacking the left flank of the Russian forces on 20 February. On 27 February 1905 the Japanese 4th Army attacked the right flank, while other Japanese forces also attacked the Russian front lines. On the same day, the Japanese 3rd Army began its movement in a wide circle northwest of Mukden.

By 1 March 1905, action on the eastern and center fronts was largely static. The Japanese had made small advances but under heavy casualties. However, by 7 March, General Kuropatkin began withdrawing forces from the eastern front to counter the Japanese 3rd Army's moves on the western flank of Mukden, and was so concerned about General Nogi's movements that he decided to lead the counterattack himself. The shifting of forces from east to west was not well coordinated by the Russians, causing the 1st and 3rd Manchurian Armies to all but disintegrate into chaos. Then Kuropatkin decided to withdraw his troops north towards Mukden to face the Japanese forces head-on on the city's southwest and at the banks of the Hun River in the city's southeast.

Then Field Marshal Ōyama seized the chance he had been waiting for, and his orders to "attack" were changed to "pursue and destroy". Luck was further with the Japanese due to the late thaw in the weather. The Hun River, guarded by the Russian left flank commanded by Major General Mikhail Alekseyev, remained frozen, and was not an obstacle to the Japanese attack. However, as they crossed the river, the Japanese attack was hampered when they encountered stiff resistance and heavy artillery fire coming from the Russians, now commanded by General Paul von Rennenkampf, resulting in yet more heavy casualties. After heavy fighting the Japanese succeeded in taking the northern bank of the river, causing the Russian defense lines defending the bank to collapse and the far edge of their left flank to be partially cut off from the rest of the main body of Kuropatkin's army. At the same time a salient was formed just 15 kilometers west of Mukden, enabling the Japanese to totally encircle the Russians on their right flank in the process.

Russian troops in combat against Japanese troops

All but encircled and with no hope for victory, General Kuropatkin gave the order to retreat to the north at 18:45 on 9 March. The Russian withdrawal was complicated by General Nozu's breach through Russian rearlines over the Hun River, and quickly turned into a disorganized rout. The panicked Russian forces abandoned their wounded, weapons and supplies in their flight north towards Tiehling.

At 10:00 AM on 10 March, Japanese forces occupied Mukden. After they occupied Mukden the Japanese continued their hard-driven pursuit of the Russians, but this was hampered when Ōyama knew that his army's supply lines were stretching too thin; however, he continued the pursuit of the enemy, though in a lazy, slow manner. The pursuit was stopped 20 kilometers short of Mukden, but the Russians were already fleeing farther north from Tiehling towards the Sino-Russian border at a fast pace, and the battle was over with the Japanese as the victor.

Throughout the battle, many foreign military observers were present in order to observe how the next great war might be fought. The Battle of Mukden heavily foreshadowed the tactics to be used in World War 1


Retreat of the Russian Army after the Battle of Mukden
Retreat of Russian soldiers towards the Sino-Russian border after the battle

Russian casualties amounted to nearly 90,000.[4][5] The Russians had also lost most of their combat supplies as well as most of their artillery and heavy machine guns. Fearing further Japanese advances, General Kuropatkin ordered that the town of Tieling be put to the torch, and marched his remaining men 10 days further north to a new defense line at Hspingkai (modern Siping, Jilin province, China), where General Mikhail Batyanov (who replaced General von Bilderling as commander of the Third Manchurian Army) organized defenses against a possible renewed Japanese offensive. However, Kuropatkin did not hold this line for very long, and soon organized a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from the region. The Japanese forces suffered 75,000 casualties[4][5] which included a higher percentage of killed and wounded over the Russians. The Japanese captured 58 artillery pieces.[9]

No serious fighting on land occurred after this battle as both Russian and Japanese armies were exhausted from the conflict.


Forces returning 2
Japanese propaganda from the war: woodcut print showing Tsar Nicholas II waking from a nightmare of the battered and wounded Russian forces returning from battle. Artist Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1904 or 1905.

With the defeat of the Russian Manchurian Army in Mukden, the Russian forces were driven out of southern Manchuria for good. However, with problems concerning its overstretched supply lines, the Japanese army failed to destroy the Russian forces stationed in the region completely and Kuropatkin's forces, though severely demoralized, short of supplies and on the verge of disintegration, were still largely intact. But the battle of Mukden was decisive enough to shatter the Russians' morale and, with the unfinished Trans-Siberian railroad now in Japanese hands, undermined the tsarist government's war effort. The final, decisive battle of the war would be eventually fought on the waters of Tsushima.[10]

The victory shocked the imperial powers of Europe, as the Japanese proved overwhelming throughout the battle although the Russians had more manpower and material. It showed that European armies were not automatically superior to those of other nations, and could be even decisively outmatched in battle. Tsar Nicholas II was particularly shocked, when the news reached the palace in St. Petersburg, that the relatively tiny Asian empire of Japan, could defeat the powerful and huge Russian empire. The tsarist government was irritated over the incompetence and clumsiness of their commanders during the battle. The generals Aleksandr Samsonov and Paul von Rennenkampf began to loathe each other as Samsonov very publicly accused von Rennenkampf of failing to assist him. In World War I these Generals would command the two armies involved in the even more disastrous Battle of Tannenberg.


  1. ^ Tucker 2009, p. 1542: "Thus, the Battle of Mukden is not the decisive victory that the Japanese need."
  2. ^ a b Clodfelter 2017, p. 359.
  3. ^ Menning, p.187
  4. ^ a b c Menning p.194
  5. ^ a b c Martin p.207
  6. ^ Russian Main Military Medical Directorate (Glavnoe Voenno-Sanitarnoe Upravlenie) statistical report. 1914.
  7. ^ Palmer, Colton & Kramer 2007, p. 673
  8. ^ John Steinberg (editor). "The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective: World War Zero." Volume II. Brill Academic Pub: May 2005. Pages 191-192.
  9. ^ "Russo-Japanese War, Lessons Not Learned," page 88, by Major James D. Sizemore. The Japanese captured relatively few Russian artillery pieces at Mukden.
  10. ^ Tucker 2009, p. 1542.


  • Clodfelter, M. (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492–2015 (4th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  • Connaughton, Richard (2003). Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
  • Martin, Christopher. The Russo-Japanese War. Abelard Schuman. ISBN 0-200-71498-8
  • Menning, Bruce W. Bayonets before Battle: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861–1914. Indiana University ISBN 0-253-21380-0
  • Nish, Ian (1985). The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War. Longman. ISBN 0-582-49114-2
  • Palmer, R. R.; Colton, Joel; Kramer, Lloyd (2007). A History of the Modern World (10th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-310748-6.
  • Tucker, Spencer (23 December 2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  • Sedwick, F. R. (1909). The Russo-Japanese War. Macmillan.

Coordinates: 41°47′N 123°26′E / 41.783°N 123.433°E

1905 in Japan

Events in the year 1905 in Japan.

1st Siberian Army Corps

The 1st Siberian Army Corps was an elite unit of the Imperial Russian Army. It was raised in May 1900 and disbanded in August 1918.

1st Siberian Rifle Regiment

The 1st Siberian Rifle His Majesty's Regiment (Russian: 1-й Сибирский стрелковый Его Величества полк) was an infantry regiment of the Russian Imperial Army, part of the 1st Siberian Rifle Division. Existing from 1883 until 1918, it was part of the Russian force in Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion, then later fought in the Russo-Japanese War at the battles of Liaoyang and Mukden, before taking part in World War I.

2nd Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 2nd Division (第2師団, Dai-ni shidan) was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its tsūshōgō was Courageous Division (勇兵団, Isamu-heidan).

Aleksey Kuropatkin

Aleksey Nikolayevich Kuropatkin (Russian: Алексе́й Никола́евич Куропа́ткин; March 29, 1848 – January 16, 1925) was the Russian Imperial Minister of War from 1898 to 1904, and often held responsible for major Russian defeats in the Russo-Japanese War, most notably at the Battle of Mukden and the Battle of Liaoyang.

Alexander Samsonov

Aleksandr Vasilyevich Samsonov ( Russian: Алекса́ндр Васи́льевич Самсо́нов; 14 November [O.S. 2 November] 1859 – 30 August [O.S. 17 August] 1914) was a career officer in the cavalry of the Imperial Russian Army and a general during the Russo-Japanese War and World War I.

Andō Teibi

Baron Sadayoshi Andō (安東貞美, Andō Sadayoshi, 20 October 1853 – 29 August 1932), also known as Teibi Andō, was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army and 6th Governor-General of Taiwan from 30 April 1915 to June 1918.

Fifth Army (Japan)

The Japanese 5th Army (第5軍, Dai-go gun) was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army based in Manchukuo from the Russo-Japanese War until the end of World War II. During World War II it was under the overall command of the Kwantung Army.

First Army (Japan)

The Japanese 1st Army (第1軍, Dai-ichi gun) was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was raised and demobilized on three separate occasions.

Fourth Army (Japan)

The Japanese 4th Army (第4軍, Dai-yon gun) was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army based in Manchukuo from the Russo-Japanese War until the end of World War II.

Hibiya incendiary incident

The Hibiya incendiary incident (日比谷焼打事件, Hibiya yakiuchi jiken) was a major citywide riot which erupted in Tokyo on 5 September 1905 in protest of the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.

Although the Imperial Japanese Navy had decisively defeated the Imperial Russian Navy at the Battle of Tsushima, and the Imperial Japanese Army had taken Port Arthur and had won a major victory over the Imperial Russian Army at the Battle of Mukden, Japanese forces were overextended in Manchuria, and the Japanese economy could no longer sustain a prolonged war effort. Ignorant of the actual war situation, a diverse assortment of activist groups called for a rally at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo to protest what they saw as the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, announced earlier that day. The protesters were especially incensed that Japanese territorial gains in the Liaodong Peninsula and the northern half of Sakhalin were to be returned to Russia, and that the Russian government would not pay any war reparations to Japan.

A crowd began to gather at Hibiya Park early in the evening of 5 September 1905 only to find that the police had banned the rally and barricaded the park gates. The crowd swelled to about 30,000 people, but the police still refused to open the gates. The crowd then turned riotous, marched towards the Imperial Palace grounds, and rampaged across the city for the next two days.

Before order was finally restored, angry mobs had destroyed or damaged more than 350 buildings, including the residence of the Home Minister and 70 percent of the police boxes in the city. Casualties included 17 people killed, over 450 policemen, 48 firemen and civilians injured, and hundreds arrested. News of the Tokyo violence touched off similar disturbances in Kobe and Yokohama and further stimulated hundreds of nonviolent rallies, speeches, and meetings throughout Japan for the next several months. This unrest directly contributed to the collapse of Prime Minister Katsura Tarō's cabinet on 7 January 1906.

The Hibiya Incendiary Incident marks the beginning of a period in Japanese history that historians call the Era of Popular Violence (民衆騒擾期, minshū sōjō ki). Over the next 13 years Japan would be rocked by a series of violent protests (nine different riots in Tokyo alone), culminating in the Rice riots of 1918.

Ilya Shatrov

Ilya Alekseevich Shatrov (April 1, 1879 (or 1885) - May 2, 1952) was a Russian military musician, conductor and composer, known for composing the waltz On the Hills of Manchuria in 1906, recounting his experiences at the Battle of Mukden during the Russo-Japanese War, which he dedicated to one of his comrades fallen at the battle.

Junior Captain Rybnikov

"Junior Captain Rybnikov" (Shtabs-Kapitan Rybnikov, Штабс-капитан Рыбников) is a short story by Alexander Kuprin first published in Mir Bozhy's January 1906 issue.

Kuroki Tamemoto

Count Tamemoto Kuroki GCMG (黒木 為楨, 3 May 1844 – 3 February 1923) was a Japanese general in the Imperial Japanese Army. He was the head of the Japanese First Army during the Russo-Japanese War; and his forces enjoyed a series of successes during the Manchurian fighting at the Battle of Yalu River, the Battle of Liaoyang, the Battle of Shaho and the Battle of Mukden.

Military attachés and observers in the Russo-Japanese War

Military attachés and observers in the Russo-Japanese War were historians creating first-hand accounts of what was arguably the world's first modern war. They helped to create primary-source records of this war between Imperial Russian forces and Imperial Japan forces, which has been characterized by some as a rehearsal for the First World War.

Nikolai Linevich

Nikolai Petrovich Linevich, also Lenevich and Linevitch (Russian: Николай Петрович Линевич, Ukrainian: Ліневич Микола Петрович; 5 January 1839 [O.S. 24 December 1838] – 23 April [O.S. 10 April] 1908) was a career military officer, General of Infantry (1903) and Adjutant general in the Imperial Russian Army in the Far East during the latter part of the Russo-Japanese War.

On the Hills of Manchuria

"On the Hills of Manchuria" (Russian: На сопках Маньчжурии, translit. Na sopkah Manchzhurii) is a haunting waltz composed in 1906 by Ilya Alekseevich Shatrov. The original and orchestral arrangement is written in E-flat minor while the folk arrangement is in F minor.

The original title of the waltz was "The Mokshansky Regiment on the Hills of Manchuria" and referred to an incident during the Battle of Mukden, the disastrous final land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, when the Mokshansky Infantry Regiment was encircled by Japanese forces for 11 days, during which it sustained considerable casualties. Shatrov served in the regiment as bandmaster and composed the tune on returning from the war. While the regiment was stationed in Samara in 1906, he made the acquaintance of Oskar Knaube (1866–1920), a local music shop owner, who helped the composer to publish his work and later acquired ownership of it.

"On the Hills of Manchuria" achieved colossal success and Knaube boasted of having published some 82 different editions of the piece. Soon after its publication, the poet Stepan Petrov, better known by the pen-name of Skitalets, provided the lyrics which contributed to its wider success. The original words concern fallen soldiers lying in their graves in Manchuria, but alternative words were adapted to the tune later, especially during Second World War.

During the 1990s the song was featured in two films. In Nikita Mikhalkov's Urga (Close to Eden, 1991), the drunken lorry driver Sergei has the notes tattooed on his back and later sings the song in a nightclub, with the band playing from his back. Then in the British-American Onegin (1999) it was used anachronistically as the tune played at Tatyana's naming day.

The song was also included in the 2010 movie Fortress of War.

Russo-Japanese War

The Russo-Japanese War (Russian: Русско-японская война, translit. Russko-japonskaja vojna; Japanese: 日露戦争, translit. Nichiro sensō; "Japanese-Russian War") was fought during 1904-1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea.

Russia sought a warm-water port on the Pacific Ocean for its navy and for maritime trade. Vladivostok was operational only during the summer, whereas Port Arthur, a naval base in Liaodong Province leased to Russia by China, was operational all year. Since the end of the First Sino–Japanese War in 1895, Japan feared Russian encroachment on its plans to create a sphere of influence in Korea and Manchuria. Russia had demonstrated an expansionist policy in the Siberian Far East from the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century. Seeing Russia as a rival, Japan offered to recognize Russian dominance in Manchuria in exchange for recognition of Korea as being within the Japanese sphere of influence. Russia refused and demanded Korea north of the 39th parallel to be a neutral buffer zone between Russia and Japan. The Japanese government perceived a Russian threat to its plans for expansion into Asia and chose to go to war. After negotiations broke down in 1904, the Japanese Navy opened hostilities by attacking the Russian Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur, China, in a surprise attack.

Russia suffered multiple defeats by Japan, but Tsar Nicholas II was convinced that Russia would win and chose to remain engaged in the war; at first, to await the outcomes of certain naval battles, and later to preserve the dignity of Russia by averting a "humiliating peace". Russia ignored Japan's willingness early on to agree to an armistice and rejected the idea to bring the dispute to the Arbitration Court at The Hague. The war concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt. The complete victory of the Japanese military surprised world observers. The consequences transformed the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage. It was the first major military victory in the modern era of an Asian power over a European one. Scholars continue to debate the historical significance of the war.

Second Army (Japan)

The Japanese 2nd Army (第2軍, Dai-ni gun) was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was raised and demobilized on four separate occasions.

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