Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Aurora, St. Petersburg

A 100+ years old cruiser, Aurora, was moored in St. Petersburg as a museum.  It participated in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.  The war was actually fought mostly in northeast China, around Liaodong Peninsula and the Yellow Sea.  Russia and Japan were fighting for control of Liaodong Peninsula and in particular, Port Arthur (Lushun, 旅順), a strategic military port which is part of Dalian (大連), China, but close to Korea, Japan as well as Russia.  Russia and Japan were fighting for a part of China, in China, causing great loss of Chinese lives and property.  Yet China could do nothing about it.

Japan surprised the whole world by defeating Russia in that war.  This was the first major military victory in modern history of an Asian country over a European country.  It contributed to the discontent in Russia, the collapse of the Russian monarchy and the Communist takeover in the October Revolution.  It also contributed to the awakening of the Chinese - to the realization that total destruction and colonization of the country was imminent.

During the October Revolution in 1917, a shot was fired from the Aurora which signalled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace.  The Communists took over Russia, Communism spread to China; and in 1949, the Communists took over China.  Today, Russia is emerging from almost a century of Communist dictatorship, although the government is still very much authoritarian.  In China, the Communists are still in power.

It was hard to describe how I felt when I saw this boat in St. Petersburg.  On the one hand, I was glad to be able to see an important piece of history, which made a lot of what I have learned come alive. On the other hand, many of the thoughts that came to mind were certainly not very pleasant.

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