Russia's Japan Expedition of 1852 to 1855

Russia's Japan Expedition of 1852 to 1855

Russia's Japan Expedition of 1852 to 1855

Russia's Japan Expedition of 1852 to 1855

Excerpt

The centennial of the opening of Japan by the United States has refocussed attention on our most colorful and undaunted Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. Ever since Pearl Harbor, there has been an increasing interest in his exploits. Perhaps as much, if not more, has been written about Perry in the last thirteen years as during the preceding eighty-seven. His name has become a historical landmark, as evidenced in such titles as Japan since Perry and From Perry to Pearl Harbor. But, preoccupied with Perry, we have lost sight of a man whose name had been on the lips of many Japanese in the 1850's: Vice-Admiral Evfimii Vasil'evich Putiatin. "Putiatin" became in fact synonymous with "foreigner" or "foreign" in Japan, and there is a record of an old samurai who went by the name of Yamato-Putiatin because he was versed in such Western accomplishments as the fabrication of matches.

Putiatin was in command of the Russian squadron that visited Japan at about the same time as Commodore Perry -- and for more or less similar purposes. This Russian expedition had been scheduled to start out as early as 1843. It had been postponed for financial and diplomatic reasons until news of the imminence of an American Japan Expedition persuaded Tsar Nicholas I to delay no further. And so it happened that the "red devils" (akaoni), as the Russians were then called by the Japanese -- either because their hair appeared . . .

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