Japanese prisoners of war in the Soviet Union

Japanese prisoners of war in the Soviet Union

By the end of World War II there were from 510,000 to 600,000Japanese POWs in the Soviet Union and Mongolia interned to work in labor camps. Of them, about 10% died, mostly during winter of 1945-1946. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/monitoring/63012.stm Japanese POW group says files on over 500,000 held in Moscow] , "BBC News", 7 March, 1998 ] [ [http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/8D22741F69F38DD3802568C40036B229?opendocument UN Press Release] , Commission on Human Rights, 56th session, April 13, 2000.] [http://www.auditorium.ru/books/407/ POW in the USSR 1939-1956:Documents and Materials] Moscow "Logos Publishers (2000)" (Военнопленные в СССР. 1939-1956: Документы и материалы] Науч.-исслед. ин-т проблем экон. истории ХХ века и др.; Под ред. М.М. Загорулько. - М.: Логос, 2000. - 1118 с.: ил.) ISBN 5-88439-093-9 ] Anne Applebaum "Gulag: A History", Doubleday, April, 2003, ISBN 0-7679-0056-1; page 431. [http://www.anneapplebaum.com/gulag/intro.html Introduction online] ) ]

The majority of about 3.5 million of Japanese armed forces outside Japan was disarmed by the United States and Kuomintang China and repatriated in 1946. Western Allies had taken 35,000 Japanese prisoners between December 1941 and August 15, 1945, i.e., before the Japanese capitulation [Ulrich Straus. " [http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=118051176320560 The Anguish of Surrender: Japanese POWs of World War II] ". Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-295-98336-3.] The Soviet Union held the Japanese POW much longer and used them as labor force.


The majority of Japanese who were held in the USSR do not consider themselves as "Prisoners of War" and refer to themselves as "internees", because they voluntarily laid down their arms after the official capitulation of the Japan, i.e., after the end of the military conflict. The number of Japanese prisoners captured in combat was very small. [http://www.dodi.ru/glossary/ru/v/v18/ Japanese POW in the USSR] ru icon]

After the defeat of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, Japanese POWs were sent from Manchuria, North Korea, South Sakhalin and Kuril Islands to Primorski Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Kazakhstan (South Kazakhstan Province and Zhambyl Province), Buryat-Mongol ASSR, and Uzbek SSR. In 1946 49 labor camps for Japanese POW under the management of GUPVI housed about 500,000 persons. In addition there were two camps for convicted for various crimes.

Handling of Japanese POWs were, according to the USSR State Defense Committee Decree no. 9898cc "About Receiving, Accommodation, and Labor Utilization of the Japanese Army Prisoners of War" ("О приеме, размещении, трудовом использовании военнопленных японской армии") dated by August 23, 1945.

A significant numberquantify|date=August 2008 of Japanese were assigned to the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (over 200,000 persons), in 8 camps, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur (2 camps, for two railroad branches), Sovetskaya Gavan, Raychikha railroad station (Khabarovsk Krai), Izvestkovaya r/r station (Khabarovsk Krai), Krasnaya Zarya (Chita Oblast), Taishet, and Novo-Grishino (Irkutsk Oblast).

The repatriation started in 1946.

Those remaining after 1950 were detained as convicted under various accusations. The release continued since 1953 under various amnesties, and the last major group of 1025 Japanese POWs were released on December 23, 1956.

There are about 60 associations of Japanese former internees and members of their families. The Soviet Union did not provide the lists of POWs and did not allow the relatives to visit the burial sites. This became possible after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Japanese internees and Russians

Historian S. Kuznetsov, dean of the Department of History of the Irkutsk State University, one of the first researchers of the topic, who interviewed thousands of former internees came to the conclusion that the "Siberian Internment" (the Japanese term) was a unique and paradoxical phenomenon. Many of them have nostalgic and sentimental recollection of this period of their life. In their memoirs and recollections they drew a distinction between the attitude of the Soviet state machine and ordinary Russian people.

Unlike Germans, Japanese were not associated in the perception of Russians with Nazi atrocities in the Russian land, although initially the attitude of Russians was hostile, under the influence of Soviet propaganda. What is more, romantic relations between Japanese internees and Russian women were not uncommon. For example, in the city of Kansk, Krasnoyarsk Krai about 50 Japanese married locals and stayed. Japanese noticed the overall poverty of the Russian population.

They also met Soviet political prisoners in the GULAG prison camps abundant in Siberia at the time, and acquired a good understanding of the Soviet system. All of them recall the ideological indoctrination during the compulsory daily "studies of democracy", however only a very small number of them embraced communism. On the other hand, many Japanese retained negative memories of being robbed of personal property, and brutality of camp personnel, harsh winters and exhausting labor.

Japanese ex-internees today

Various associations of former internees seek for compensation for wartime treatment and for pensions from the Japanese government. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0XPQ/is_1999_Feb_15/ai_53928150 Japanese, Korean, Dutch POWs to hold meeting in Tokyo] ] An appeal to the Commission on Human Rights says

Those who chose to stay in Russia and eventually decided to return had to deal with significant Japanese bureaucracy. A major problem is difficulty in providing the documentary confirmation of their status. Toshimasa Meguro, a 77 year old former POW, was permitted to visit Japan as late as in 1998. He served 8 years of labor camps and after the release was ordered to stay in Siberia. [ [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30E14F638590C718DDDAD0894D0494D81&n=Top%2fNews%2fWorld%2fCountries%20and%20Territories%2fRussia "Japan's Blossoms Soothe a P.O.W. Lost in Siberia"] , "New York Times", April 12, 1998 ]

Research in Russia

Research in the history of the Japanese POWs has become possible in Russia only since the second half of 1980s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Until this time the only public information about any World War II POWs taken by the Soviet Union was some numbers of prisoners taken. After opening the secret Soviet archives the true scope of the POW labor in the Soviet Union has become known, and the topic became discussed in newspapers and magazines.

Japanese POWs have become the subject of the historians of Siberia and the Russian Far East, who gained access to local archives of NKVD/MVD and CPSU [ [http://mion.isu.ru/pub/sib-japan/3.htm Internment of Japanese in the USSR in Soviet and Russian historiography] ru icon}] A number of "kandidat" (Ph.D.) dissertations had been presented about Soviet POW in various regions. In 2000 a fundamental collection of documents related to POWs in the USSR was published, which contained significant information about Japanese.

In the 2000s several books about Japanese POWs were published in Russia. [Kasatonova E.L. (2003) "Japanese POW in the USSR: A Big Game of Great Powers" ("Yaponskiye voyennnoplennye v SSSR: Bolshaya igra velekikh derzhav") ISBN 5-89282-218-4 ru icon] [Bondarenko, E. Yu. (2002) "Foreign POWs in the Russian Far East, 1914-1956" ISBN 5-7444-1326-X ru icon] [Kasatonova, E. L. (2005) "The Last Prisoners of the World War II: Little Known Pages of the Russia-Japan Relations" ISBN 5-89282-258-3 ru icon]

About 2,000 memoirs of Japanese POWs in the Soviet Union have been published in Japan. [http://russia-japan.nm.ru/kuznetsov02.htm Russia in the Eyes of Japanese Internees] ru icon]


ee also

*Operation August Storm
*Japanese people in Russia

Further reading

*"Japanese POW in Primorye (1945-1949)"
**Issue 1: "POW Labor in Coal Industry" ("Японские военнопленные в Приморье (1945-1949 гг.) Вып.1 Труд военнопленных в угольной промышленности" Владивосток: Государственный архив Приморского края, Мор. гос. ун-т им. адм. Г. И. Невельского) 2005.- 152 pp. ru icon
**Issue 2: "POW Labour in Various Speheres of the Notional Economy of the Primorsky Krai"(Японские военнопленные в Приморье (1945-1949 гг.) : документы Государственного архива Приморского края Выпуск 2: Труд военнопленных в отраслях народного хозяйства Приморского края, 2006 ISBN 5834303552
*Nicole Piper, "War and Memory: Victim Identity and the Struggle for Compensation in Japan" "War & Society" (2001) vol. 19, issue 1, pp. 131-148.

External links

* [http://kiuchi.jpn.org/en/nobindex.htm The Notes of Japanese soldier in USSR]

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