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Russia had been looking for someone to sell Alaska to, as it was proving too remote for them to exploit, and proved more expensive than it was worth. Besides the United States of America, only Britain, specifically the Dominion of Canada, would be potentially interested in the purchase. However, Russian antagonism towards Britain prevented them from selling it to them.
Enter Japan. In 1875, Japan and Russia negotiated the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, under which Japan renounced Sakhalin Island in exchange for the Kuril Islands. The Japanese, now bordering Russian Alaska in the far north, began to take an interest in it.
In 1897, Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
In 1900, gold was discovered in the Klondike region, setting off a major gold rush. Japanese prospectors flooded into Alaska and over the border into Canada. Though some animosity existed between the Japanese prospectors on the one hand and the Canadian and American prospectors on the other, a relative degree of order was preserved, thanks in large part to co-operation between Canadian and Japanese police forces.
First Russo-Japanese War
Russia, however, was not happy about this discovery. Combined with the belief of many in the government that Russia needed "a short victorious war to stem the tide of revolution", Russia declared war upon the Empire of Japan in 1904, beginning the First Russo-Japanese War
The war began with a naval assault by the Russians against the Japanese. The Japanese won this battle, though not nearly as decisive a victory as in OTL. Japanese troops moved through Korea into Manchuria. The war was fought hard by both sides, but in the end, it proved a stalemate. Japanese troops continued to occupy parts of Manchuria, while Russian troops were in northeastern Korea. Finally, both sides exhausted by the fighting, a peace treaty was drawn up, with President ?? of the United States arbitrating. No territory would exchange hands, nor would any indemnities be paid. Japan would withdraw her troops from Manchuria, and Russia would do the same in Korea. Japan would recognized Russian interests in Manchuria, while Russia recognized Japanese interests in Korea. Perhaps needless to say, Japan retained control of Alaska. Japan also sought to strengthen ties with Britain.
The war shook Japan's confidence in their armed forces. The war was considered a Japanese victory, as they had retained their territory and solidified control over Korea, however, the costs were immense. Japan began to seek closer alliance with Britain to protect herself from further Russian aggression. Major reforms of the navy and army were also instituted.
The Russian Revolution was much the same as in OTL.
Japan, by stalemating Russia, became an example of an Asian power standing up, successfully, to European imperialism.
Annexation of Manchuria
In 1909, the Russian Empire forced China to cede Manchuria, setting the stage for the Second Russo-Japanese War.
Second Russo-Japanese War
Japan was outraged by Russia's annexation of Manchuria, and attempted to force Russia to retroceed it by diplomatic pressure and threats of war.
Tensions were high as the year 1910 began. Both Russia and Japan began preparations for war, mobilizing troops. Neither side was willing to back down. On March 1, 1910, with Japanese encouragement, Manchurian rebels proclaimed the existence of a free and independent Manchu Kingdom.
Russia proclaimed war upon the breakaway state, and Japan immediately proclaimed war upon Russia in defense of the kingdom, initiating the Second Russo-Japanese War.
Britain proclaimed provisional neutrality, largely out of fear of disrupting the balance of power in Eastern Europe, where Russia was needed to balance German and Austro-Hungarian might.
Japan readily defeated Russia's Pacific Fleet in a series of engagements in the Sea of Japan, and the Imperial Army entered Manchuria, quickly pushing further.
By 1912, most of Manchuria had been liberated, and Japanese troops had taken control of parts of the Russian Maritime Provinces, which were intended to be annexed to Manchuria, which they had historically belonged to. On July 30, 1912, as the war was raging, the Emperor of Japan passed away, and was succeeded by his son, who became known as the Taishō Emperor.
Initially, the Russians hoped that the new Emperor would prove more amenable to peace talks. However, the new Emperor proved to have little power, and the military continued the plans they'd made during his father's reign.
The world was stunned at Russia's sheer incompetence in the war, and, late in 1912, the Tsar abdicated, passing the crown to his brother, who declined it.
It was hoped by the military commanders that this would allow the war to be fought more effectively, but this proved a forlorn hope, and revolution broke out. The borderlands declared independence, while various groups in Great Russia fought for control.
Russian Civil War
Russia was in shambles. The Second Russo-Japanese War transitioned into the Russian Civil War. Japan saw in the civil war an opportunity to permanently shatter their old foe. Other nations, too, saw in it an opportunity to gain influence in Russia. Soon, the various Powers were intervening in Russian affairs. Germany recognized the independence of Poland, the Baltic Republics, and Finland, while Austro-Hungary recognized the new Ukrainian Republic.
A faction of the socialists, known as Bolsheviks, seized control in St. Petersburg, arresting the tsar and his family, who were deported to the Urals. The Socialists were later forced to flee to Moscow, after the British captured St. Petersburg.
In 1914, the British liberated the Tsarevich and his sisters, the Tsar himself having already been executed. Alexei was proclaimed Tsar in St. Petersburg.
By 1915, the combatants sought peace, and the Congress of St. Petersburg was called. Most of the breakaway states were recognized as sovereign, and the Socialists in Moscow and the Tsarists in St. Petersburg, recognized each other. The Russian Empire was proclaimed dead. In Moscow, the Moscovite Soviet Socialist Republic (later to call itself the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic) was proclaimed, while in St. Petersburg, the Kingdom of St. Petersburg (later calling itself the Russian Empire) was declared. Hostilities between the two, and, to a lesser extent, between the smaller breakaway states, would later erupt in the Great War.
A Short Peace
The Powers began carving out spheres of influence in the former Russia. Japan gained strong influence over the Siberian Republic, which was later proclaimed a kingdom. The collapse of Russia threw the international balance of power out of alignment. With Russia destroyed, the French and British found themselves without a powerful Eastern front against Germany. Japan's control over Siberia and interests in the Ural Republic was seen as a promising sign. In addition, the expense of the war had lead to a near-collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had dropped out of the Civil War to fight off their own rebellions. By 1920, a delicate balance had been restored.