Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. THURSDAY, JULY 13, 1905. THE WAR.
The invasion and capture by the Japanese of the Russian island of Sakhalierv, situated off the coast or Siberia, is stated to have created a profound impression in the Russian capital. During the last twenty years or so the "Devil's Island" has been utilised by the Russian Government as a depot for convicts, and its name indicates that it has become associated with the worst evils of the Russian system of punishment by exile. Its convict population consists both of criminals of the most degraded type and of well-educated political prisoners, who have been banished from their country, the former for crime and the latter for political offences, real or alleged. The loss of such a characteristically Russian possession has served to bring home powerfully to the Russian mind the hopeless nature of the struggle as it now is, and it will probably do a good deal towards advancing the prospects for peace. The island was surrendered altogether by Japan to Russia thirty years ago in return for another concession in the Kurile Islands. Previously Japan and Russia had agreed to hold a half each, but this led to unsatisfactory results, and the cession to Russia was agreed on. The most important commercial asset of Sakhalien Island is the fur trade, and of its forty thousand inhabitants quite one half belong to the convict class. The conditions of life on the "Devil's Island," from a moral point of view, are a3 low as it is possible for them to be, and the fact that several thousand of the convicts have been exiled there for murder, added to the fact that the criminal population are allowed to marry, makes the whole place well worthy of its title. The island is close to the northern port'on of Japan, and probably its geographical proximity is Japan's chief reason for undertaking its invasion. As a possible colony it would be useless, being cursed as it is with a climate of arctic rigour. The average temperature throughout the year is actually below, z^ro. The island contains about 30,003 square miles. Besides the furbeariug animals on which it 3 trade mainly depends, it pos3esee3 timber and coal, and it remains to be seen what urn Japan will make of these. At anyrate, under Japanese rule, Sakhalien Island will cease to be the inferno it has been during the last thirty years, and for this alone Japan dfiserves the thanks of the civilised world. The peace plenipotentiaries have started for the scene of the momentous conference, and it will not be long now till the negotiations are under weigh. That peace will be concluded is tolerably certain, as it is not likely that Russia will be wHing to face the loss or destruction of Vladivostock, which she will be compelled to do ultimately unless she arranges terms with Japan. The report that Russia intends to propose to take over the liability for the Japanese war losses in place of paying a straight out indemnity is interesting, as this proposal will offer a solution tor a difficulty that appeared an insurmountable barrier to the conclusion of peace at any proximate date. The payment of an indemnity is a course to which there may be two serious objections from Russia's standpoint. In the first plac*l, it would be a tremendously difficult operation to raise the necessary amount, and, in the second place, even if Russia could manage to achieve this feat, it is quite likely she would prefer to expend the money in fitting out a new navy with which to throw down the gauntlet to Japan at some date in the future. Failing the payment of an indemnity or the arrangement of some such conditions as those referred to above, Japan will not consent to peace, and in that case Russia will have to let go her hold of her last port on the open ocean, which means that she will be once more confined within her own borders without the possibility of expansion.