The New Zealand Graphic achieved a satirical milestone in its 8 July 1905 issue when, perhaps for the first time, a New Zealand journal published cartoons from a foreign viewpoint. These were an intriguing series of Japanese propaganda cartoons about the Russo-Japanese War.The Russo-Japanese war began in February 1904 when the Japanese attacked the Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur, in Liaoning province, China. In March the Japanese army invaded Korea and by May had encircled the Russians in Port Arthur. The Russian army in Manchuria tried to relieve Port Arthur but could not get further than Mukden. In January 1905 the Russian defenders at Port Arthur surrendered. Then in February 1905 the Japanese forced the Russians to retreat from Mukden back into Manchuria. After the naval battle in the Tsushima Strait in May 1905, when the Japanese virtually destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet, the Russians grudgingly negotiated and signed a peace agreement at the Treaty of Portsmouth.The propaganda cartoons reproduced in the Graphic proudly and joyously celebrate the unstoppable Japanese advance toward Port Arthur. In the first, Kintaro, the warrior hero from Japanese mythology, uses his enormous battleaxe to slice his way through the ‘feeble’ barbed wire defences surrounding Port Arthur. Two ancient and ‘very much surprised’ Russian soldiers watch his progress with surprised concern.

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Ref: ‘The insuperable wire fences, which were overcome’ cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-28-1

When readers survey the range of Russo-Japanese war cartoons published by the New Zealand Graphic, the paper does not seem to have either supported or opposed the war. Some cartoons seem to suggest that the war would simply stir up revolution in Russia, while others view with trepidation the rise of Japan as a military and economic power in the Pacific. It is not clear why these Japanese propaganda prints with their patriotic viewpoint should have appeared in the Graphic. The prints were originally published in Japan as a propaganda booklet (possibly by publisher Tomizato Nagamatsu), so a journalist or traveller might have obtained a copy and then passed it on to the Graphic.
The next cartoon derides the supposedly formidable cossacks, one of whom cannot even get a horse to move. The cartoon suggests the baby commanding the cossacks has fallen off his horse. The cossack is saying “Damn, our commander is so small, the horse is belittling us and won’t move. I need to go home quickly and change his diaper or I will get yelled at.” The cartoon implies that Cossack regiments commanded by such juvenile weaklings couldn’t possibly frighten the Japanese soldiers.
Ref: ‘The "bogey" Cossack regiments…’ cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-28-3

Many Japanese artists like Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), Toshihide Migita (1862-1925) and Kabaragi Kiyokata (1878-1972) produced coloured patriotic woodblock prints during the Russo-Japanese War. There is a collection of Russo-Japanese propaganda including woodblock prints in Cornell University Library’s Kroch Asia Rare Materials Archive, where readers can see the original colour versions of the prints reproduced in the New Zealand Graphic. The archive also provides English translations of the Japanese text featured on the prints.
Many of these prints were issued as postcards. However, the series of prints we see here were published as a propaganda booklet. They appear to have been painted by Kobayashi Kiyochika. Kiyochika was the main illustrator for the satirical Japanese newspaper, Marumaru Chinbun. Surprisingly for an anti-government satirist, his Russo-Japanese war cartoons closely follow Japanese Government propaganda. They portray the victorious Japanese forces as valiant heroes, while the invading Russians are aged, thin, foolish or effeminate.Next is a cartoon showing the Japanese bombarding the Russians with artillery shells and naval torpedoes. The Russians are saying “If we stay still cannons attack us, and if we move too much the water mines get tangled onto us. I really need a wing now.”
Ref: ‘In front are the shells, at sea are the torpedoes’ cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-29-3

The cartoon below shows the Japanese army making its final attack on the Russians holed-up in Port Arthur. The caption claims it is ‘The beginning of the end – an uncomfortable situation.’ The Japanese soldier is pushing the rock and saying “Now, if you want your life you’d better surrender. If you are stubborn, one more push is all it will take.” The Russian soldier clinging to the rock is meant to be General Stoessel, the defender of Port Arthur. Stoessel is saying “I’m hungry and my arms are about to fall off. Please help me.” The cheering figures on the left could represent the Manchu people, whom the Japanese claimed to be liberating from Russian exploitation.
Ref: ‘The beginning of the end..." cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-28-4

The next cartoon is captioned ‘the famous Russian advance backwards.’ This happened when the Russian army trying to reach Port Arthur was defeated and had to withdraw north to Mukden. In the cartoon General Kuropatkin has taken off his boots to rest his weary feet, while the glum-looking officer on the left with the red-cross flag collects Russian wounded.
Ref: "The famous Russian advance backwards" cartoonfrom the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-29-1

When the Japanese attacked the Russians at Mukden they almost succeeded in encircling their troops. The next cartoon shows a Russian officer fleeing with his mistress during the panicky retreat after the Russian rear guard collapsed. The words in the cartoon are derisively mocking: ‘Folly is the most incurable of maladies.’
Ref: ‘After Mukden. The escape of an officer and his mistress’ cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-28-2
The last Japanese cartoon shows the consequences of the Russians’ defeat. It implies that after all the Russians’ weapons and warships have been destroyed, the Manchu people can see their oppressors for the shaky power they are – the Russian emperor (and his troops) have no clothes. Here the ‘unhappy Russ’ is stripped, humiliated and mocked by the Manchu people, who add insult to injury by carrying off Russian supplies.
Ref: "Beaten, stripped, disgraced, discredited...’ cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 8 July 1905.Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050708-29-2

The Russians surrendered Port Arthur to the Japanese on 5 January 1905. Soon afterwards, New Zealand Graphic cartoonist E.F. Hiscocks drew a satirical cartoon about the ‘brave’ Russian commander, General Stoessel, pictured trying to defend Port Arthur with a broken sword. Perhaps the broken sword derides Stoessel’s half-hearted defence, because he controversially surrendered the port despite having large supplies of food and ammunition.At the bottom of the cartoon is Admiral Rozjestvenski. He commanded the Russian Baltic Fleet which sailed halfway round the world to reinforce the naval squadron at Port Arthur. Ironically, by the time his fleet reached Korea, Port Arthur had already surrendered. The cartoon implies that the fleet’s slow progress (2 knots) is really because Rozjestvenski is frightened to attack the Japanese navy. He is portrayed as having drunk himself insensible on vodka to try and fortify his courage.
Ref: "Two men: a contrast" cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 14 January 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050114-1-1

When the Japanese defeated the Russians at Mukden the Russians withdrew further into Manchuria. But even though the war turned into a costly disaster for the Russians, they refused to surrender and the war became a stalemate. In the next cartoon by American cartoonist E.W. Kemble, a bulldog (implying Japan is Britain’s eastern protégé) is taunting the wounded Russian bear, who sits doggedly in defence, ready to fire his broken cannon.

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Ref: "The Little Bulldog of the East" cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 22 April 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050422-1-1
Even after the destruction of the Baltic Fleet, the Russians did not rush to seek a diplomatic conclusion to the war. The final cartoon by E.F. Hiscocks depicts a complacent Czar Nicholas, out-of-touch with the poor condition of his troops in Manchuria. Despite Japanese victories he is determined to send more troops and fight to the end, regardless of the cost in Russian lives. Meanwhile at the Czar’s feet, his son Alexei plays with Nicholas’s crown. The cartoon’s message is that the uncaring attitude of the Romanovs towards the welfare of their people will cause more revolutionary sentiment in Russia.
Ref: "A fighter (by proxy)" cartoon from the New Zealand Graphic, 3 June 1905. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19050603-1-1