A Hundred Years Of War Between Montenegro and Japan

Interestingly enough the war between Montenegro and Japan lasted for over 100 years. From the 1904 when the war was declared by Montenegro, up to the 2006 when the peace treaty was officially signed

Photo: wikimedia
cramirez2400 (CC0), Pixabay

Back in 1904, both Russian and Japanese Empire had intentions of expanding their influence in Manchuria and Korean peninsula. Russians were trying to get a port on a warmer sea which could be used all year round, since their port in Vladivostok was not available during winter. Russians decided to pay the Chinese for usage of their Port Arthur. This is why the Japanese considered Russia to be a serious rival for expansion and a threat to their imperialistic plans, so they decided to offer the Russians a peace treaty which would give the Russians dominance over Manchuria and the Japanese would get the Korean peninsula.

Russians decided to reject this offer and the negotiations broke down, and that is the reason why the Japanese opened hostilities and made a surprise attack on Port Arthur in 1904. This is how the Russo – Japanese war broke out and Montenegrins declared war on Japan as a sign of support to their Slavic brothers.

Montenegrin army

Montenegrins established relations with Russia in the early 18th century, when the Russian Emperor offered to help them fight the Ottoman Empire. From that point on, Montenegrins regarded Russia to be their protector and they even referred to it as ‘’Mother Russia’’. They received annual financial aid, resources and political support. At one point, Montenegro was even ruled by a man who claimed to be the Peter III Romanov, which was of course a lie.

This man of unknown origin used the affection Montenegrins had for the Russians to gain power, but he was assassinated after a short period of time. Ties between Russia and Montenegro grew stronger over time, and the best proof is the fact that the Montenegrins not only declared war on Japan, but there were even volunteers that went all the way across the globe to fight alongside their Slavic brothers against the Japanese. One of the most striking events related to the Montenegro’s involvement in that war, was the story about Aleksandar Lekso Saicic, a Montenegrin who defeated a samurai in a sword fight.

Illustration of a Montenegrin soldier fighting a samurai

The aforementioned event took place in  Eastern Manchuria, somewhere near the city of Vladivostok during the second year of the conflict. Two armies were about to clash, but at one point, a Japanese horseman went towards the Russian army waving a white flag. Russians were confused by the unusual request from the Japanese General who demanded that before the battle they arrange a duel between two of their champions.

Even though the Russians thought that this request was a bit strange, they knew that if their champion won, they would get a serious pshychological boost for their army. As soon as the word spread around the army camp that the Russian generals were looking for a volunteer to fight against a samurai, Lekso decided to step up. He convinced the General that he was the right person for the duel. After taking several serious blows, he somehow managed to defeat the samurai (all of this is described in an epic poem which is really famous in Montenegro), and this gave the psychological advantage to the Russian army. Lekso was then promoted into a Captain, he got many decorations and the Russians even decided to award him with a pension.

The sword he used to kill the samurai is being kept to this day in the Russian Military Museum in Moscow. There were many other volunteers from Montenegro who participated in that war, which was eventually won by the Japanese. The peace treaty between Russia and Japan was signed in Portsmouth in 1905, but the Montenegrins did not sign the peace treaty at the time, since it had no relevance.

Aleksandar Saicic with his decorations wikimedia

Time passed, Montenegro lost its independence as it became a part of Yugoslavia and the treaty with Japan was not signed and the fact that Montenegro was still at war with this country was overlooked. Only after more than a hundred years, back in 2006, when Montenegro became independent once again the diplomatic relations with Japan were re-established and the peace treaty was officially signed.

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