Massacres unfolded in the Far East and Siberia
The February Revolution of 1917 was perceived by the military-political circles in Japan relatively calmly and even with optimism. It was believed that the transition from a monarchic to a bourgeois regime in the context of continued bloodshed on the European front of the world war would distract Russians from Far Eastern problems for a long time, allow Japan to freely conquer China, and penetrate the economy of Primorye and other Russian regions.
A completely different reaction was caused by the news of the birth as a result of the proletarian revolution of a new state – Soviet Russia. “The very fact of the creation of a socialist state of workers and peasants, the fact of the overthrow of the monarchy and capitalism, aroused in the ruling classes of Japan boundless fear and burning hatred of the Soviet Union.”, – noted Japanese historians. Soviet Russia was declared “The most dangerous and worst enemy”, a hasty development of plans began “Obstructing the path of the communist revolution to the east of the Ural ridge”… It was meant “To seize Siberia on their own, strangle the revolution and establish a puppet regime on the territory of Siberia”…
On December 8, 1917, one of the ideologists of Japanese militarism, General Kazushige Ugaki, spoke before the students of the Imperial Military Academy, who attacked the Bolsheviks, accusing them of “They broke the empire that had existed for centuries, trampled the principles of democracy and created an anarchic system of power for irresponsible intellectuals and beggars”… Fearing the impact of socialist ideas on the minds of the Japanese, the general demanded the creation “Governments of a firm hand and great determination in the struggle against national traitors who present themselves as revolutionaries”…
The Japanese generals did not consider revolutionary Russia a serious adversary and predicted a quick conquest “Vast Asian territories up to the borders between Asia and Europe”… The fact that the “humanitarian reasons” put forward later as a justification for the intervention were only a cover is evidenced by the calls for aggression published in the Japanese press immediately after the reports of the October Revolution. Here are the headlines of articles that appeared in November-December 1917 in the newspaper “Hochi Shimbun”, the mouthpiece of reactionary circles in Japan: “Troubles in Russia and the demand for the dispatch of Japanese troops”, “One of the ways is the independence of Siberia”, “The urgent task of sending troops to Siberia. Let’s Demonstrate the Power of Japan ”,“ Send Troops! ”.
The government of the young Soviet republic, aware of the threat of invasion hanging over the Russian Far East and Siberia, was looking for an opportunity to enter into negotiations with Japan. In December 1917, it turned to the Japanese representatives in Petrograd with a proposal to revise all contractual obligations between tsarist Russia and Japan and conclude a new trade and economic agreement. However, having embarked on a course of suppressing the revolution and occupying Russian territory, the Japanese government did not want normal relations with the new Russia.
From the end of 1917, negotiations were held between the United States, Britain, France and Japan to organize an intervention. It was decided that the overthrow of the Soviet regime in the Far East and Siberia would be carried out mainly by Japanese troops. However, the United States was not going to completely give these lands to the Japanese. Politicians in Washington were concerned about Tokyo’s attempts to negotiate in advance its rights to obtain fishing, mining and forestry concessions in Siberia, which would mean the establishment of Japan’s sovereignty there. To prevent this, it was decided to send American troops to the Russian Far East.
The reason for the invasion was the murder by unknown persons in Vladivostok on the night of April 5, 1918, of two employees of the Japanese trade office “Ishido”. It was like a planned provocation – a signal to start an operation. Without waiting for clarification of the circumstances, on the same day, under the cover of artillery of warships entering the inner harbor of the port, two companies of Japanese infantry and a unit of British marines landed in Vladivostok. Having quickly occupied the city center, the Japanese command tried to present their actions as a police action in order to maintain public order. However, the next day, the scale of the operation expanded – the forces of a landing squad of 250 people captured the well-fortified Russky Island, which covered Vladivostok from the sea.
These actions marked the beginning of an armed intervention. On the day of the landing of the Japanese troops, the Soviet government issued a message: “The imperialist strike from the East, which had been preparing for a long time, broke out. The imperialists of Japan want to strangle the Soviet revolution, cut off Russia from the Pacific Ocean, seize the rich expanses of Siberia, enslave the Siberian workers and peasants. “… A government directive to the Vladivostok Council warned: “Do not make yourself illusions: the Japanese will probably attack. It’s unavoidable. They will probably be helped by all allies without exception. Therefore, we must start preparing without the slightest delay and prepare seriously, prepare with all our might. “…
To move deeper into Siberia, the Japanese and Americans provoked a revolt of the Czechoslovakians. The Czechs and Slovaks, who were previously part of the Austro-Hungarian army, were sent home through Vladivostok by the decision of the Soviet government. By the end of May, 63 echelons with 40 thousand repatriates united in the Czechoslovak Corps stretched across Siberia from Penza to Primorye. The Soviet authorities were worried that the corps followed through unprotected Russian territory with weapons. To exclude any incidents along the way, an order was given to surrender the weapons. Resisting this, the corps command called on the soldiers and officers to disobey, which resulted in an open mutiny.
Tokyo and Washington decided to take advantage of the situation. On July 6, 1918, the White House authorized the dispatch of troops to Siberia “to provide assistance to the Czechoslovakians.” To begin with, it was decided to send Japanese and American troops numbering 7,000 bayonets. However, the Japanese, for whom the main thing was to quickly occupy as many strategically important regions of the Far East and Siberia as possible, were not going to impose restrictions on the number of their interventionist troops. On August 2, under the cover of destroyers, having landed a landing at the mouth of the Amur, they captured the city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, and on August 12 they transferred an infantry division of 16 thousand people to Vladivostok. Together with the Japanese, the city was occupied by contingents of British, French and American troops.
Japanese General Otani was appointed commander of the occupation forces in Russia. According to official American data, 72,000 Japanese and over 9,000 American soldiers were sent to the Russian Far East. In the literature, there are indications that up to 100 thousand Japanese soldiers and officers operated in the Far East and Siberia during different periods of the occupation.
Although in the appeal to the governments of the great powers, including Japan, adopted on November 7, 1918, by the VI Extraordinary Congress of Soviets, it was proposed to start negotiations for peace, the intervention in the east of Russia continued and covered more and more new regions – Primorye, Amur region, Baikal region. In the conditions of an acute shortage of regular troops here, the partisan movement spread everywhere. By the fall of 1919, under the leadership of underground Bolshevik organizations, there were 45-50 thousand fighters in partisan formations: in Transbaikalia – 15-20 thousand, in the Amur Region – 10 thousand, in the Amur Region and Northern Sakhalin – 6 thousand, in Primorye – 10-15 thousand.
Having a multiple advantage in the number of troops, the invaders, nevertheless, could not control the occupied territory of the eastern part of Russia on their own. This forced them to use their henchmen from among those who took refuge in China and who headed the white-bandit formations of atamans Semenov, Kalmykov, Gamow. With their help, all laws and institutions of Soviet power were canceled in the territories occupied by Japanese troops, and pre-revolutionary order was restored. The rights of officers, ranks and titles of tsarist officials, the Cossack estate were restored. The nationalized enterprises were returned to their former owners. The peasants were allowed to use only “Those land faces that were before March 1917”…
Japanese invaders and railroad workers killed by them. Photo: BDT
During the Civil War, a significant part of Siberia was captured by the troops of the armies of Kolchak, who, having awarded the title of the Supreme Ruler of Russia, coordinated actions with the Japanese command and received material assistance from him. All forces advocating the overthrow of Soviet power, both the interventionists and the White Guards, used brutal methods of fighting political opponents and partisans. All over the Far East and Siberia, bloody massacres unfolded against representatives of the Soviet government and sympathizers. In order to intimidate the local population, entire villages were burned, mass demonstration shootings were arranged, and punitive operations were carried out.
There is a lot of evidence of the atrocities and inhuman treatment of the local population by the occupiers. Here is one of them. Residents of the village of Kruglaya Rozhdestvenskaya Volost reported in March 1919: “25 people were shot by the Japanese, after whom there were 25 souls of families. The village was visited by Japanese troops 2 times: on February 17, 1919, 23 yards were burned, on October 25, 1919, 67 yards were burned, property was looted. The total loss from fire and robbery is expressed in 201,315 rubles in gold “…
By the end of 1919, as a result of the fighting of the Red Army and Siberian partisan formations, Kolchak’s army was defeated. Having lost hope for the restoration of the old regime in Russia, the governments of the United States and the Entente countries withdrew their troops from Siberia. However, the Japanese government, not wanting to join this decision, continued the occupation of Russian territory. To achieve the withdrawal of Japanese troops from the Far East, on February 24, 1920, the Soviet government proposed Tokyo “To start with peaceful negotiations in order to guarantee both peoples peaceful coexistence, good neighborly relations and mutual satisfaction of their mutual interests”…
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