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Rasplata — Vladimir Semenov
Author's Preface
My book " Rasplata " in its present form is considerably more complete than it was on its first appearance. The contents first came out as a series of essays in the Russ newspaper, and gave rise, at the time, to a number of articles and comments in the Press, in which these were generally referred to as "reminiscences."

Against such a conception of my work I must enter an energetic protest. "Rasplata" in no way contains "reminiscences," but is simply the diary of an eye-witness, presented in the form of a narrative. Its whole value lies in this fact. It is material for the writing of history.

I kept a diary from January 30, 1904, to December 19 1906 (even a little longer), and made daily entries, on specially important days even hourly. Everything I tell of here is based on the data of my diary. In every case, at the moment the event occurred I noted the time by watch ; the general feeling at the time was noted somewhat later. My diary also contains conversations and remarks, which I wrote down whilst still fresh in my mind. Naturally, they stand in a very condensed form-mere headings sometimes.
" Rasplata, " naturally, also includes observations and explanations, which I added later. But then this fact is always specially noted. Moreover, I desire all the more to lay stress on the fact that this is not a narrative written from memory, but a diary, as I know from personal experience how unreliable one's memory is. This is especially the case in action. I have occasionally made myself a perfectly clear picture of this or that incident, which was decidedly influenced by the statements of others. When I then read over my diary again, I found my picture did not correspond with the notes made at the time. These short notes, however, were sufficient in every instance to enable me once more to bring before my eyes the correct picture of the event.
Here is an example of how one can forget details, even when they were really important, and had been personally noted in one's diary.

The Japanese state in their official account of the battle of Tsu-shima (May 2 7, 1905), that at 4.40 P.M. I the destroyer division, commanded by Commander Sudzuki, attacked the battleship Suvoroff which had sheered out of the line and was burning fiercely, that one of its torpedoes had hit the battleship on the port side aft, and in consequence the vessel had heeled 10º. None of those belonging to the Suvoroff, who were taken off by the Buiny, could call to mind that the ship had been hit by a torpedo. They even protested energetically that this could not have taken place. It was true, the Suvoroff was at that time a complete wreck, but still an incident like this was bound to have been noticed. Many of the Buiny's officers and men, on the other hand, testified that when their destroyer went alongside the Suvoroff, she was heeling 10º to port, if not more. The officers and men who came on board the Buiny from the battleship corroborated this. They remembered that it had been possible to get the Admiral who was unconscious, on to the destroyer by allowing him to slide down over the backs of several men. But these men had been standing on various projections close to the water-line on the starboard side, which was high out of the water.

By our time it was 4.20. The Japanese reckoned their time from the meridian of Kioto, our squadron from the noon position of the day preceding the battle. When was this heel produced? Were the Japanese right in attributing it to a hit from one of their torpedoes? The battleship's people declared this to be inadmissible. Was it in consequence of the armour plates on the port side becoming loosened under the influence of the hail of Japanese shell, and the seams opening out? None of the eyewitnesses were able to state, even approximately, when this heel was noticed. I must add that we were only asked the question several months after the battle. I myself made the greatest efforts to think it all out and to reproduce the sequence of events from memory, but had to reply quite candidly: "I don't know any more." When I afterwards read over the laconic notes in my diary on the battle, I read : "3.25 P. M.-Strong heel to port; the upper battery is burning fiercely." Instantly everything came back to me. This note proves that this heel already existed at 3.25, that is, an hour before the torpedo attack with which the Japanese connected it. Without my diary I might perhaps have sided with the view of those who maintained that this hit by a torpedo had never been noticed in the heat of the action.

I won't boast about my memory (though I have been told that in this respect God had not dealt with me in a niggardly spirit), but it certainly is remarkable that one can altogether forget a fact which had been noted down in writing.

Let me once more emphasise this: "Rasplata" is not based on reminiscences, but on a diary.

I will not, however, conceal the fact that occasionally, when under the influence of later accounts, I have been tempted to omit this or that passage, not to reproduce the judgment on this or that event, which I had formed on the spot and at the time. I have resisted this temptation. I said to myself: "It was thus." At that time we had these ideas, this conception. Perhaps we were sometimes mistaken, but these mistakes arose owing to what we had gone through and what we had felt. Do I, after all, mean to write a history of the war? No. I desire, in this work, to present to the reader a picture of the experiences of one who took part in the war, and who noted everything he observed at the time and place in his diary. Up to now none of my old shipmates and comrades of the war has addressed himself to me with a request for any rectification.

If contradictions should be published as to any details, then they emanate from persons who, by order from above, are engaged upon the writing of History in the seclusion of their studies, and who base themselves in this labour on official reports. I do not propose to enter into any arguments with these.


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