Treaty of Portsmouth - Commemoration

Commemoration

In 1994, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum was created by the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire to commemorate the Portsmouth Peace Treaty with the first formal meeting between Japanese and Russian scholars and diplomats in Portsmouth, New Hampshire since the negotiation of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in 1905. As the Treaty of Portsmouth is considered one of the most powerful symbols of peace in the Northern Pacific region and the most significant, shared peace history for Japan, Russia and the United States, the Forum was designed to explore from the Japanese, Russian and American perspectives, the history of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and its relevance to current issues involving the Northern Pacific region. The Forum is intended to focus modern scholarship on international problems in the "spirit of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty".

Four Forums were held prior to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty 100th anniversary in the City Council Chambers at Portsmouth City Hall. The first Forum in 1994 was facilitated by the Japanese Consulate in Boston. Subsequent dialogues considered the latest developments in Russo-Japanese relations with specific reference to the Kuril Islands. Since then, the Forum has brought the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and its model of diplomacy to wider awareness through the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Treaty in 2005, commemorations of Theodore Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize for his Treaty diplomacy (2006–2009) and legislation in 2010 making September 5th Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day in New Hampshire. The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty provided a platform for organizing commemorative events at many levels.

In her 2009 book, Japanese Society at War: Death, Memory and the Russo-Japanese War, Naoko Shimazu detailed Japan's response to the 1904-05 war, the subsequent peace and the 100th anniversary commemorations, writing "he Portsmouth Peace Treaty Centennial held in Portsmouth NH was most probably the largest centennial event held on the Russo-Japanese War in 2004-05."

In the months leading up to the 100th anniversary, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum encouraged original research in local archives, newspaper files and family histories. Charles B. Doleac, the Chairman of the Forum, translated this research into a timeline of events as they happened in Portsmouth in 1905, fostering a new understanding of the dynamics at work in the formal, informal and backchannel negotiations and of the accommodating interplay of the diplomatic and social agendas of all participants including the ordinary people in Portsmouth that summer. Since then, the Forum has documented new insights derived from this timeline and subsequent discoveries in permanent resources including the exhibit An Uncommon Commitment to Peace, and its companion catalogue, recognized by the Library of Congress as the most accessible educational resource on the subject, a Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail (and map supported by the New Hampshire Division of Tourism), a curriculum guide for grades 4-8 distributed to all school districts in New Hampshire, a series of New Hampshire Humanities Council lectures and articles on the Treaty and New Hampshire's citizen diplomacy and a variety of commemorative events.

As an organizational tool, the timeline inspired many local organizations to produce concerts, lectures, exhibits, dinners and re-enactments. In 2005, dozens of local organizations and hundreds of their volunteers celebrated the theme of the 1905 peace treaty—reached with ordinary citizens providing a crucial, neutral, supporting atmosphere, not for one or the other of the protagonists, but for peace. These organizations created a calendar of more than 45 events in 2005 and since then, including:

  • 10 exhibits, displayed at the Portsmouth Historical Society, New Hampshire State Archives, Portsmouth Athenaeum, NH Art Association, Seacoast African-American Cultural Center, Children's Museum of Portsmouth, Green Acre Baha’i School, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, Old York Historical Society, Wentworth by the Sea hotel, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
  • 4 original plays including the 2005 NH Humanities Council statewide Chautauqua and Pontine Theatre
  • 15-week concert series, three original musical compositions and Seacoast Wind Ensemble commemorative concerts and multiple original art works created for a statewide juried exhibit by the NH Art Association
  • 22 lectures presented in conjunction with the Portsmouth Public Library, the Portsmouth Athenaeum, the Portsmouth Historical Society, Green Acre Baha'i School and Dartmouth College
  • 9 publications and a documentary film
  • an official port visit by the U.S. Navy’s destroyer, USS Ross (DDG-71)
  • re-enactments of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard welcome and Treaty signing commemoration, the New Hampshire National Guard’s Welcoming Parade and receptions by private citizens in honor of the diplomats,
  • two State Dinners hosted by the Governor of New Hampshire and a Mayor's Tea Reception for Portsmouth's Sister Cities of Nichinan, Japan and Severodvinsk, Russia, all at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel, which provided accommodations for both the Japanese and Russian delegations in 1905 for 30 days, at no charge
  • visits by the Japanese Ambassadors to the US, the Japanese Public Affairs Minister to the US, and the Consuls-General of Japan in Boston.

The Forum tradition returned in 2006 with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Theodore Roosevelt. At that event, the president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association presented a bust of TR to the commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum chairman presented an authentic replica of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Shipyard for their Building 86 museum. In 2007, the Forum welcomed Ambassador Dennis Ross as the guest speaker. In 2008, Samantha Power was guest of honor. In 2009 the Forum presented a rebroadcast of the ceremony awarding the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama.

In 2010 the NH Senate and NH House of Representatives voted unanimously to enact legislation making September 5 — the day the Treaty was signed in 1905 - "Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day" in perpetuity, statewide. Governor Lynch signed the legislation on August 17, 2010, and issued the first Governor's Proclamation for September 5, 2010. In Portsmouth the day was celebrated with a NH Humanities Council lecture, a peace flag-raising at Green Acre in Eliot, Maine, a memorial salute at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and bell-ringing throughout the seacoast area of Maine-New Hampshire.

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