Russian lists internees who died in Soviet labor camps

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At a time when the hardships suffered by Japanese prisoners in Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union after World War II are just a fading memory, a Russian researcher has come up with a new list of internees who died there.

The list compiled by Alexey A. Kirichenko of the Russian Academy of Science’s Oriental Studies Research Institute makes a new addition to two existing lists — one held by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and another published in July 1991 as a special issue of the magazine Gekkan Asahi.

Kirichenko’s compilation, “The List of Dead Japanese Internees in the Former Soviet Union after World War II,” was published by the Center for Northeast Asian Studies of Tohoku University.

The university sent 1,200 copies to university libraries, prefectural governments and newspaper offices.

Kirichenko says in the preface that his work is the product of the first attempt to put together relevant information contained in documents kept at Russian archives.

“The list may contain information so far unknown,” said Kyosuke Terayama, an associate professor of Russian history at the center who helped Kirichenko in the publication stage.

“Through partial comparison between Kirichenko’s and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s list, we found that in one part of Kirichenko’s list there are about 130 more names than in the corresponding part of the ministry list.”

Terayama said he has yet to compare each of the names on the three lists. He added that Kirichenko’s list itself contains some overlap.

On Aug. 9, 1945, the Soviet Union started attacking the Japanese forces in the Manchurian puppet state of Manchukuo — and a few days later on Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands — in violation of the Japan-Soviet Neutrality Treaty, which was still in effect.

It is believed the Soviet forces took about 594,000 Japanese prisoner, carted them off for use as laborers, and that about 55,000 of them died.

Kirichenko’s list contains the names of 37,354 dead internees (written in the Russian alphabet and katakana), including 84 non-Japanese — 55 Koreans, 22 Chinese, six Mongolians and one Uighur.

The list is divided into 28 areas and regions where the prisoners died.

It gives internees’ military rank, year of birth and date of death, as well as reference numbers to the places where the labor camps were located.

According to the list, the largest number — 9,361 — died in the Khabarovsk region, followed by 6,362 in the Maritime Province of Siberia, 5,232 in the Chita region, 4,536 in the Irkutsk region, 2,422 in the Altai region and 1,871 in the Krasnoyarsk region. Some prisoners died in places far from Siberia, including Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and the Ukraine.

Kirichenko said there is a possibility that about 11,000 prisoners died in Mongolia, about 8,000 others on the Korean Peninsula and between 2,000 and 3,000 while being transported, pushing the death toll to around 75,000.

About 200,000 Japanese prisoners, or 40 percent of the total, were forced to engage in the construction of the Baikal-Amur railway, he said.

About 80 percent of the deaths occurred during the harsh winter from 1945 to 1946, when many of the inmates, forced into cramped living quarters, suffered malnutrition, Kirichenko said.

This list also names 15 prisoners who were executed by firing squad after military tribunals, and 92 others who died while being detained separately from other prisoners due to crimes, failed escape attempts and other reasons.

The burial sites are also listed.