Japanese Battleship Arrives off Vladivostok

The Iwami pictured in harbor in 1907.

January 12 1918, Vladivostok–With the Russians in the process of leaving the war, the remaining Allies had to decide how to handle their former ally.  The Bolsheviks had made no friends among the Allies by publishing secret treaties and ceasing debt payments, but a full-scale intervention against the Bolsheviks was completely out of the question given the continuing war against Germany.  However, the Allies could take some limited actions around the periphery.  In late December, the British ordered a cruiser from Hong Kong to Vladivostok to safeguard their interests there–mainly, the 600,000 tons of Allied supplies, meant for the Russian war effort, that were stored there for shipment on the Trans-Siberian Railway.  

The Japanese, considerably closer and with more at stake in the Russian Far East, sent their own battleship, the Iwami, arriving on January 12, two days before the British.  The Iwami, a pre-dreadnought, had been captured from the Russians at Tsushima in 1904, and now returned to menace the Russians again.  The Bolsheviks had taken over Vladivostok in late November; if the sudden Allied naval presence in the harbor was intended to scare them out, it failed to do so.  The Iwami, soon joined by the Asahi and other Allied vessels, would remain off Vladivostok for several months, while the Japanese (who had little involvement in the war in Europe apart from a minor naval commitment in the Mediterranean) considered further intervention in Siberia.

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