The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was to prove advantageous for Japan and its Western maritime backers Britain and the United States, while the conflict was a multifaceted disaster for Russia. Amidst the bloodshed, however, were found moments of chivalry exemplified by the warriors of each side. Here is one such account:
Hunter and scout Vasilii Timofeevich Riabov was born in 1871 and grew up in the village of Ivanovka outside Penza. Almost a century and a half has gone by, yet his memory persists through the centuries.
After his discharge from active military duty and joining the reserve, Riabov relocated to the neighboring village of Lebedevka. He was a brave and active man, he loved the theater and his wife, even though he sometimes hit her after drinking. And sometimes he used other people’s things without permission. That happened too. But he atoned for all his sins with his act of bravery.
From the beginning of the [Russo-Japanese War], Riabov enlisted as a volunteer in the 284th Chembarskii Infantry Regiment. It was in its ranks that he participated in the battles that took place in Manchuria. He served on the hunting team, which is what they called volunteer scouts in those days. With the help of gestures, facial expressions, and gait, he could imitate the Chinese locals, which often amused his friends.
Following the battle of Liaoyang, in the autumn of 1904, the Russian command badly required new information about the location of enemy units. On 14 (27) September of 1904, Vasilii Riabov volunteered to go on a reconnaissance mission disguised as a Chinese peasant wearing a false braid attached to the back of his head.
The Japanese did not discover this Russian reconnaissance scout, and Riabov was already on the way back to his unit. However, an officer passing by ordered him to give water to his horse. Riabov, who did not know the Chinese language, perhaps did not understand the order or carried it out inaccurately. As a result, the irate Japanese officer pulled his braid, which…fell off. That’s how everything became clear.