After World War II there were from 560,000 to 760,000 Japanese personnel in the Soviet Union and Mongolia interned to work in labor camps as POWs.Of them, it is estimated that between 60,000-347,000 died in captivity.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia. Its area is roughly equivalent with the historical territory of Outer Mongolia, and that term is sometimes used to refer to the current state. It is sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, where it neighbours the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, although only 37 kilometres (23 mi) separates them.
The majority of the approximately 3.5 million Japanese armed forces outside Japan were disarmed by the United States and Kuomintang China and repatriated in 1946. Western Allies had taken 35,000 Japanese prisoners between December 1941 and 15 August 1945, i.e., before the Japanese capitulation The Soviet Union held the Japanese POWs much longer and used them as a labor force.
The Kuomintang of China is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei, that was founded in 1911, and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.
The majority of Japanese who were held in the USSR did not consider themselves as "Prisoners of War" and referred to themselves as "internees", because they voluntarily laid down their arms after the official capitulation of Japan, i.e., after the end of the military conflict. The number of Japanese prisoners captured in combat was very small.
After the defeat of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria, Japanese POWs were sent from Manchuria, 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 POWs under the management of GUPVI housed about 500,000 persons. In addition there were two camps for those convicted of various crimes.
The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, formally known as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation or simply the Manchurian Operation, began on 9 August 1945 with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It was the last campaign of the Second World War, and the largest of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War, which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang and northern Korea. The Soviet entry into the war and the defeat of the Kwantung Army was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent the Soviet Union had no intention of acting as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.
Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of the Buyeo, Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically.
Sakhalin is Russia's largest island, lying in the North Pacific Ocean between 45°50' and 54°24' N. It is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. Sakhalin, which is about one third the size of Honshu, is just off the east coast of Russia, and just north of Japan. The island's population was 497,973 as of the 2010 census, made up of mostly ethnic Russians and a smaller Korean community. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Ainu, Oroks and Nivkhs.
Handling of Japanese POWs was, in line with 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 23 August 1945.
A significant number of Japanese were assigned to the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (over 200,000 persons), in eight camps, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur (two 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).
Komsomolsk-on-Amur is a city in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, located on the left bank of the Amur River in the Russian Far East. It is located on the Baikal-Amur Mainline, 356 kilometers (221 mi) northeast of Khabarovsk. As of 2010, it had a population of 263,906 (2010 Census); 281,035 (2002 Census); 315,325 (1989 Census).
Sovetskaya Gavan is a town in Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, and a port on the Strait of Tartary which connects the Sea of Okhotsk in the north with the Sea of Japan in the south. Population: 27,712 (2010 Census); 30,480 (2002 Census); 34,915 (1989 Census).
Krasnaya Zarya is the name of several rural localities in Russia.
The repatriation of Japanese POWs started in 1946.
|1949||97,000||971 transferred to PRC|
|1950||1,585||leaving 2,988 remaining in USSR|
Those remaining after 1950 were detained having been convicted of various crimes. The release of these persons continued from 1953 under various amnesties, and the last major group of 1025 Japanese POWs was released on 23 December 1956.From then on, some Japanese POWs were released in small groups, including those who would only return in the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some Japanese prisoners who had been held for decades, who by this point had married and had started families, elected not to permanently return to Japan.
There are about 60 associations of Japanese former internees and members of their families today. The Soviet Union did not provide the lists of POWs and did not allow the relatives of those POWs who died in captivity to visit their burial sites. This became possible after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Historian S. Kuznetsov, dean of the Department of History of the Irkutsk State University, one of the first researchers of the topic, interviewed thousands of former internees and came to the following conclusion:
"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.
However, many of the inmates do not share Kuznetsov's views and retain negative memories of being robbed of personal property, and the brutality of camp personnel, harsh winters and exhausting labor.One of these critics is Haruo Minami who later became one of the most famous singers in Japan. Minami, because of his harsh experiences in the labor camp, became a well-known anti-communist.
Most Japanese were captured in Soviet-occupied Manchuria (northeast China) and were taken to Soviet POW camps. Many Japanese died while they were detained in the POW camps; estimates of the number of these deaths vary from 60,000, based on deaths certified by the USSR, to 347,000 (the estimate of American historian William F. Nimmo, including 254,000 dead and 93,000 missing), based on the number of Japanese servicemen and civilian auxiliaries registered in Manchuria at the time of surrender who failed to return to Japan subsequently. Some remained in captivity until December 1956 (11 years after the war) before they were allowed to return to Japan. The wide disparity between Soviet records of death and the number of Japanese missing under Soviet occupation, as well as the whereabouts of the remains of POWs, are still grounds of political and diplomatic contention, at least on the Japanese side.
According to the map formulated by combining two maps, published by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government, there were more than 70 labor camps for the Japanese prisoners of war within the Soviet Union:
Because of the difficulty in retrieving formal USSR Government records, the numerical data are based on reports obtained from former POWs and elsewhere by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare and the current Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare of the Japanese Government. The Japanese Government is disinterring the remains of the Japanese POWs who died in the USSR; more data may be anticipated, for example, at sites such as http://www.mhlw.go.jp/seisaku/2009/11/01.html "Investigation of records regarding persons deceased during detention in Siberia." (Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare Policy Reports 2009.)
Various associations of former internees seek compensation for their wartime treatment and for pensions from the Japanese government.An appeal to the Commission on Human Rights says
Japan had a moral and legal responsibility to compensate the victims of its aggression, yet the Japanese Government had so far refused to provide compensation to former prisoners of war for their period of forced labour in Siberia, although it had made concessions to prisoners from other regions. The veterans had sued the Japanese Government in 1981 for compensation and had eventually been issued with labour certificates by the Russian Government, as requested by the court, but their appeal had been rejected.
Those who chose to stay in Russia and eventually decided to return had to deal with significant Japanese bureaucracy. A major problem is the 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.
Tetsuro Ahiko is the last remaining Japanese POW living in Kazakhstan.
Research into the history of the Japanese POWs has become possible in Russia only since the second half of the 1980s, with glastnost and the dissolution 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 has been discussed in the press.
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 CPSUA number of kandidat (PhD) 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.
About 2,000 memoirs of Japanese POWs in the Soviet Union have been published in Japan.
The Japanese novelist Toyoko Yamasaki wrote the 1976 novel Fumō Chitai, about an Imperial Army staff officer captured in Manchuria, his captivity and return to Japan to become a businessman. This has been made into a film and two television dramas.
A dramatisation of experiences as a Soviet POW form a portion of the latter part of the epic movie trilogy, The Human Condition, by Masaki Kobayashi.
Kiuchi Nobuo reported his experiences about Soviet camps in his "The Notes of Japanese soldier in USSR" online comic series.
The South Korean movie My Way (2011) also shows the treatment of Japanese and Japanese-recruited Koreans in Soviet POW camps.
The Gulag was the government agency in charge of the Soviet forced-labor camp-system that was set up under Vladimir Lenin and reached its peak during Joseph Stalin's rule from the 1930s to the early 1950s. English-language speakers also use the word gulag to refer to any forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union, including camps which existed in post-Stalin times. The camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners. Large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as by NKVD troikas or by other instruments of extrajudicial punishment. The Gulag is recognized by many as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.
A prisoner of war (POW) is a person, whether a combatant or a non-combatant, who is held captive by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase "prisoner of war" dates back to 1660.
The Russian Far East comprises the Russian part of the Far East, the eastermost territory of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean.
Dalnerechensk is a town in Primorsky Krai, Russia. Population: 27,604 (2010 Census); 30,092 (2002 Census); 33,596 (1989 Census).
A prisoner-of-war camp is a site for the containment of enemy combatants captured by a belligerent power in time of war.
Forced settlements in the Soviet Union took several forms. Though the most notorious was the Gulag labor camp system of penal labor, resettling of entire categories of population was another method of political repression implemented by the Soviet Union. At the same time, involuntary settlement played a role in the colonization of remote areas of the Soviet Union. This role was specifically mentioned in the first Soviet decrees about involuntary labor camps.
Camps for Russian prisoners and internees in Poland that existed during 1919–1924 housed two main categories of detainees: the personnel of the Imperial Russian Army and civilians, captured by Germany during World War I and left on Polish territory after the end of the war; and the Soviet military personnel captured during the Polish–Soviet War, the vast majority of them captured as a result of the battles of 1920. Locations of the camps included Strzałkowo, Pikulice, Wadowice, and Tuchola.
Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union was considered by the Soviet Union to be part of German war reparations for the damage inflicted by Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union during World War II. German civilians in Germany and Eastern Europe were deported to the USSR after World War II as forced laborers, while ethnic Germans living in the USSR were deported during World War II and conscripted for forced labor. German prisoners of war were also used as a source of forced labor during and after the war by the Soviet Union and the Western Allies.
Lesozavodsk is a town in Primorsky Krai, Russia, located on the Ussuri River, 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) from the Sino–Russian border and about 300 kilometers (190 mi) north of Vladivostok, the administrative center of the krai. Population: 37,034 (2010 Census); 42,185 (2002 Census); 44,065 (1989 Census); 37,000 (1972). It was formerly known as Ussuri (Уссури).
A civilian internee is a civilian detained by a party to a war for security reasons. Internees are usually forced to reside in internment camps, often pejoratively called concentration camps and similar to prisoner of war camps or civilian prisons. Historical examples include Japanese American internment and internment of German Americans in the United States during World War II. Japan interned 130,000 Dutch, British, and American civilians in Asia during World War II.
Systematic POW labor in the Soviet Union is associated primarily with the outcomes of World War II and covers the period of 1939-1956, from the official formation of the first POW camps, to the repatriation of the last POWs, from the Kwantung Army.
Polish prisoners of war and internees in Soviet Russia and Lithuania — Polish soldiers and citizens who were captured and interned during the Polish-Soviet War and remained in the custody of Soviet and Lithuanian authorities. Their condition is one of the less researched controversies of that period.
By the end of World War II the number of Romanian prisoners of war in the Soviet Union was significant, about 140,000 of them having been taken prisoner even after August 23, 1944, the date when Romania switched its alliance from the Axis Powers to the Allies.
During World War II, Nazi Germany engaged in a policy of deliberate maltreatment of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), in contrast to their treatment of British and American POWs. This resulted in some 3.3 to 3.5 million deaths.
Foreign forced labor was used by the Soviet Union during and in the aftermath of World War II, which continued up to 1950s.
The topic of forced labor of Hungarians in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II was not researched until the fall of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that up to 600,000 Hungarians were captured altogether, including an estimated 200,000 civilians. An estimated 200,000 citizens perished. It was part of a larger system of the usage of foreign forced labor in the Soviet Union.
The Main Administration for Affairs of Prisoners of War and Internees was a department of NKVD in charge of handling of foreign civilian internees and POWs in the Soviet Union during and in the aftermath of World War II (1939–1953).
Approximately three million German prisoners of war were captured by the Soviet Union during World War II, most of them during the great advances of the Red Army in the last year of the war. The POWs were employed as forced labor in the Soviet wartime economy and post-war reconstruction. By 1950 almost all surviving POWs had been released, with the last prisoner returning from the USSR in 1956. According to Soviet records 381,067 German Wehrmacht POWs died in NKVD camps. German historian Rüdiger Overmans maintains that it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that one million died in Soviet custody. He also believes that there were men who actually died as POWs amongst those listed as missing-in-action (MIA).
Soviet prisoners of war in Finland during World War II were captured in two Soviet-Finnish conflicts of that period: the Winter War and the Continuation War. The Finns took about 5,700 POWs during the Winter War, and due to the short length of the war they survived relatively well. However, during the Continuation War the Finns took 64,000 POWs, of whom almost 30 percent died.
Some Soviet prisoners of war who survived German captivity during World War II were accused by the Soviet authorities of collaboration with the Nazis or branded as traitors under Order No. 270, which prohibited any soldier from surrendering.