Battle of Mukden, 1905

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Aleksey Kuropatkin versus Oyama Iwao: A Japanese army under Oyama seizes the initiative with an offensive against a Russian army under Kuropatkin. Can Kuropatkin parry Oyama’s thrusts long enough to launch his own?

The significance of this battle is purely psychological but on a global scale. Tsushima Strait was more one-sided but Mukden sent the original shockwave of a large European nation being defeated by a small Asian nation.
The Russo-Japanese War was one the largest wars leading up to World War I and should have given generals and theorists a better idea of what to expect in twentieth-century warfare. Unfortunately, those who actually studied the war, and did not dismiss it as an irrelevant, backwater war between the backward sometimes-European Russians and the racially inferior Japanese, drew the wrong conclusions. For these observers, the Battle of Mukden and the war as a whole illustrated that, even with the new technology of the age such as machine guns and artillery, well-trained infantry with high morale could still maneuver and overcome defensive positions as it could in the past. There are two major problems with this analysis of course. First, the ratio of machine guns would rise dramatically by 1914 and only increase from there, making defensive firepower much more deadly. There were only 54 and 254 machine guns in the Russian and Japanese army groups respectively at Mukden (Menning, 1992: 187), a fraction of what similar-sized formations would possess in 1914. Second, the battlefield around Mukden allowed Oyama to outflank Kuropatkin’s defensive line. It was simply assumed that any defensive line would end at some point, allowing an attacking army to get around its flanks in a war of maneuver. It was not in the realm of imagination that nation-states could field a force large enough to man a defensive line from the English Channel to Switzerland. The Battle of Mukden offers a cautionary tale of conducting lessons learned studies in any age.
Poor command and control were responsible for the Russian defeat. Kuropatkin made many of the right moves and should have been able to counterattack against the Japanese left flank and turn it instead of the other way around. However, communications broke down, a common shortfall of the era’s Russian military, allowing Oyama to operate within Kuropatkin’s decision cycle with ease. For a more sophisticated analysis of the Russian military, please check out Menning’s Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914.
mukden preview 2
This animation was one of the more time-consuming ones for two reasons: sheer numbers and the length of time the battle was undecided. Determining the numbers involved was not difficult as it was very clear which were incredibly inflated for no apparent reason. Although I do not use Wikipedia, except for finding new battles to animate, the numbers were so inaccurate that I felt it was my duty to correct them and properly cite them. I urge viewers to skim through Wikipedia’s many battle articles and spend a few moments to do the same: correct the strength columns and cite your reliable source.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted

Corvisier, Andre. A Dictionary of Military History. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1994.

Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Martin, Christopher. The Russo-Japanese War. New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1967.

Menning, Bruce W. Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Aleksey Kuropatkin:
Japanese soldiers:
Map of Northeast Asia:

Map of the world:

Oyama Iwao:

Russian soldiers:


If you enjoyed the Battle of Mukden 1905 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Tuyuti 1866, another battle featuring a long out-flanking march around a defensive line in the Modern Era:

tuyuti preview 1

Battle of Maling 342 BC, another battle fought in modern day China:

maling preview 1

Battle of the Marne 1914, the next battle chronologically on the site:

marne preview 1

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Readers Comments (2)

  1. This was great!

    I just finished reading “Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear” and your animation really helped in understanding Mukden.

  2. Graham J.Morris October 4, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    A first-rate potted account of the battle!

    Very well done: – Graham J.Morris (Battlefield Anomalies)

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