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Posadnik

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The Posadnik was a Russian corvette which, under the command of a Captain Birilev, spent several months at Asô Bay on Tsushima Island in 1861, pressing for official sanction for the establishment of a Russian base, and refusing to leave.

The ship arrived on 1861/2/3 and claimed it had sustained damage in a storm and needed to stay for a brief time to undertake repairs. However, the Russians then remained for weeks, refusing to leave, and receiving supplies from other Russian ships which came and went. Eventually, the crew began building structures on the shore. Tsushima han officials roped off the entrance to the bay at Ôfunakoshi, and the domain's chief councilor in Edo, Sasu Iori, petitioned the shogunate as he had done before to re-enfeoff the Sô elsewhere, and to take over direct control of the island, as the shogunate had done temporarily in Matsumae earlier in the century. He also recommended that Kyushu daimyô be obligated to contribute to Tsushima's defenses, as they contributed to those of Nagasaki. One day in the fourth month, a Russian launch forced its way past the ropes, into the bay. A series of skirmishes resulted between the Russians and Japanese onshore; in the first of these, a samurai and a peasant were killed by Russian gunfire.

High-ranking shogunate officials Oguri Tadamasa and Mizoguchi Katsuyuki then arrived on 5/7. The pair met with Birilev who insisted upon meeting with Tsushima daimyô Sô Yoshiyori, so he could pressure Yoshiyori to grant permission for a base. Yoshiyori then met with the captain, and refused to grant such permission. Historian Robert Hellyer suggests Yoshiyori may have been trying to allow the situation to drag on, in order to pressure the shogunate to finally take over, allowing the Sô to escape having to deal with the domain's continued worsening financial situation, and continued Western incursions. Little progress had been made when Oguri and Mizoguchi departed on 5/20.

Seeking to push for an end to the situation, rôjû Andô Nobumasa, chief of foreign affairs for the shogunate, met with British consul Rutherford Alcock and British Royal Navy Rear Admiral Sir James Hope, and asked for help. The HMS Ringdove and HMS Encounter arrived at Tsushima on 7/22; Hope met with Tsushima officials and with Birilev, and was initially unsuccessful in convincing Birilev to leave. However, the Russian ship Oprichnik arrived a few days later (on 7/26) with orders from both the Russian consul in Hakodate, Iosif Antonovich Goshkevich, and from Russian naval command, that he depart the island. The Posadnik finally departed on 8/15, and the Abrek, another Russian ship, arrived on 8/23 to ensure the Oprichnik would not simply take Birilev's place. The last of the Russian vessels finally departed on 8/25, putting an end to a six-month-long series of tensions.

References

  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 209-213.
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