On August 9, 1945 Soviet Union went to war against Japan, by this joining the
Potsdam declaration of July 26, 1945 (13 articles of unconditional surrender of
Japan), which was already accepted by the US, the UK and China. However already
on August 15 the Japanese army was ordered to hand over the arms by Emperor
Hirohito. Reason for such decision was the American nuclear bombs, which forced
the Japanese to accept the conditions Potsdam conference. On August 16 the
Commander in Chief of the Pacific Army General D. Mac Arthur ordered to stop all
offensive attacks, it was followed by all Allied troops excluding Mongolia and
the Soviet Union. On August 17 Stalin signed a directive ordering continuation
of offensive attacks as in five days Soviet troops could take a huge part of
Manchuria and this satisfied the Kremlin. Furthermore by ignoring article 9 of
Potsdam declaration the Soviet government did not guarantee Japanese troops
return to the homeland. In this article it says that Japanese soldiers have to
be sent home after disarmament.
On September 2, 1945 on board of the American plane carrier 'Missouri' an act of
Japanese surrender was signed. More than 520 thousand Japanese soldiers were
conveyed to the USSR. They were told that they are taken to South Korea to be
loaded on ships and sent to Japan. Japanese were deceived, trains headed in
stead of South Korea to the North. 20 thousand were taken to Mongolia. The
remaining 500 thousand prisoners of war were transported to Korea and Manchuria.
They were taken to the camps of Ministry of Interior as well as to the other 50
labour camps of Ministry of Defense in the Far East and Siberia.
From the very beginning arrival of prisoners of war caused problems for the
local residents, there was not enough production, winter clothing, medicines and
accommodation. Due to that in winter 1945-46 55 thousand prisoners of war died.
For 1950 400 thousand soldiers were rehabilitated and returned to Japan. In 1956
the rest of the remaining Japanese left.
For a long time the fate of the remaining Japanese was not known of. Japan asked
several times the Russian side for information about the remaining prisoners of
war, who died in Soviet camps. The answer was that there is no such information.
Only in 1956 after the signing of Soviet Japanese declaration, the Soviet side
declared of over 3 thousand Japanese soldiers, buried on 22 Russian cemeteries.
Furthermore, until 1990 the Japanese did not receive any prove, it was all kept
in Soviet archives stamped as 'confidential'. The Japanese pay great attention
to the memory of the forefathers and their burial places. This goes not only for
the Japanese graves but also for the graves of foreigners buried in Japan. Hence
after the nuclear explosion in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 Russian cemetery there
was reestablished by the ordinary Japanese people. Territory of the cemetery was
cautiously cleaned and gravestones and crosses were put to their original places
as well as trees were planted. The dead were returned their eternal peace.
Sakura trees were blooming in the cemetery filled with strange epitaphs (for the
Japanese) in Russian already the following spring.
It is of great importance for the Japanese to reestablish the reputation of
their compatriots who were taken as prisoners of war after the surrender of
Japan, to find out of their fate and to visit the graves.
The second important issue for Japan is to change the status of prisoners of war
into illegal interns concerning those who were in the Soviet camps. It has
nothing to do with financial compensation issue, but with a wish to reestablish
equity of human moral. In Japan there is Japanese Association of Inters Taken by
Force. Its leader is a member of the Japanese parliament, former prisoner of war
Mr. Aidzawa Hideyki. In 1990 an Association of Mutual Understanding (an NGO) was
founded by senior research fellow of the Oriental Institute of the Russian
Academy of Science Kirichenko in order to cooperate with former Japanese
prisoners. Currently Mr. Kirichenko is a president of the association.
The Association managed to convince the Russian officials to make the secret
documents concerning fates of the Japanese not returning from the Soviet camps
public. The organization also attracted public attention on that humanitarian
issue. This problem has to be solved in order to benefit for the further
cooperation of the two countries.
Since June 1993 the two associations organize common seminars in which famous
scientists, politicians, public figures and journalists participate. There is an
increasing number of young people interested in development of Japanese Russian
good-neighbourly relations based on common understanding and trust,
participating in the work of the seminars. Furthermore for this youth an equally
important issue is reestablishment of historical fairness in humanitarian
During the visit to Japan in 1991 president of the USSR Mr. Gorbachev handed
over list of deaths in Soviet camps. Consequently many Japanese could find out
about their relatives. In 1993 during the visit to Japan Russian President Mr.
Yeltsin apologized on behalf of Russian people for illegal capture of Japanese
soldiers by the Soviet Union in 1945.
According to the data provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Labour
total number of deaths in Soviet camps including the territory of Manchuria is
55 000 however according to the Russian investigator V. P. Galicky the number
reaches 62 000. Moreover former director of the Museum of Military History of
Habarovsk Far Eastern Military District, current director of Kiev Museum of
Military History, V. V. Karpov declared during the interview to the Society of
Japanese Eurasian countries that in his mind the total number of interns was 657
000 out of which over 97 000 died. There is another opinion from the author of
Killing of prince Kanoe (also translated into Japanese), V.A. Arhangelsky, who
proposes the figure of 1 million interns and 374 000 deaths.
On March 31, 2003 Center of North East Asian Research of the University of
Tohoku (in Japan) published a book 'Japanese Interns in Siberia, List of Deaths'.
A. A. Kirichenko, President of the Association of Mutual Understanding
contributed enormously to this invaluable book for the Japanese people. Mr.
Kirichenko collected information from Russian archives, checked names and death
places of Japanese soldiers over 15 years. This book, edited by the President of
the Association contains data of 35 424 interns, who died in the camps of the
Ministry of Interior, labour battalions and hospitals during the period of
September 1945 until December 1956. It also includes a list of 400 cemeteries.
Book of Memories caused a sensation in Japan. Relatives, who received true
information of their nearest and dearest ones, of the exact places where these
people are buried and of dates of death, can now freely visit the graves, which
is of enormous importance for the Japanese, who are tightly connected to their
ancient traditions and honour their forefathers. However until today over 20 000
names of prisoners of war have not been located. It needs to be done urgently.
The Japanese side has excavated and transported to Japan the remains of
approximately 8000 to the present day.
Furthermore, it is certainly necessary to touch upon the issue of caretaking of
Japanese cemeteries in Russia. The condition of these cemeteries is worsening
each year and it causes the relatives visiting the graves great sorrow. It
cannot continue this way, it is of utmost necessity to show that we, Russians
also values forefathers not depending of nationality, territory where they are
or whether they are blood relatives. Russian soldiers who died in Japan were
buried honorably and their graves are being taken care of by the local
population. The Japanese side does not require Russia to take care of the
Japanese cemeteries similarly to the way Russians are being taken care of for
example in the city of Macuyama. The Japanese are simply asking not to break and
destroy the graves. Unfortunately effort of the society is not sufficient, help
of the local authorities is also needed. For the sake of Russian Japanese
friendship we would like to solve the issue of this 'historical heritance'. Only
strong states can afford to acknowledge mistakes of the past. Recognition on the
government level of true facts of what happened to the Japanese interns, only
increases respect for Russia in the eyes of the international community.