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On Aug. 9, 1945, the Soviet Army started invading Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Japanese military in today’s Northeast China, violating the Japan-Soviet Neutrality Pact. Many Japanese, both civilians and soldiers, perished there and the Soviet Union took many Japanese to labor camps in Siberia and other places of the Soviet Union. At least an estimated 55,000 Japanese died due to hard labor in wretched conditions.

Mr. Misao Naito, better known by his pen name Gosuke Uchimura, who died Jan. 30, was a Japanese whose fate was affected by the Soviet invasion and then Japan’s surrender in World War II. Unlike most others, he was charged by the Soviet Union with political crimes and put in prison.

Mr. Uchimura spent most of his time in the dreaded Alexandrovsky Central Prison about 70 km northwest of Irkutsk. Experiencing absurd circumstances imposed by what he calls “criminal socialism,” he spent some 11 years in Soviet detention facilities and prisons until his return to Japan in December 1956.

Back in Japan, he worked for Nissho, a trading house, and then taught at Hokkaido University and Sophia University. Remarkable were his tenacious efforts through his numerous books and articles to delve into the question of what was the Soviet Union, what is Russia, and what kind of people Russians are. As he once recalled, the fact that he was born March 18, 1920, exactly one year before the Kronstadt rebellion was suppressed by Bolshevik forces, was suggestive of his fate.

After graduating in November 1943 from the Harbin Academy, a Russian studies university, Mr. Uchimura served as a civilian worker at the headquarters of Japan’s Kwantung Army in the Manchukuo capital of Hsinking (today’s Changchun), translating Russian transcripts of Habarovsk radio broadcasts prepared by Russian deserters.

He was eventually arrested by the MVD (the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Internal Affairs) and forced to endure absurd situations. He was charged with violations of the notorious Article 58 of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic’s Penal Code, being told that “Having worked as a translator at the Kwantung Army headquarters, you must be a person of high ability. Given such ability and intelligence, you will definitely commit anti-Soviet crimes in the future. So you are guilty.” For this “crime” he was given 25 years’ imprisonment, five years’ deprivation of civil rights and five years’ banishment.

In the Alexandrovsky prison, he decided that the biggest philosophical question for him was whether he or the Soviet Union would survive the other. Thus he read the fourth Russian edition of Lenin’s collected works in order to detect “ruptures” in his logic and prose style and to use Lenin to beat Lenin.

In the on-and-off interviews conducted by Mr. Ikuro Suyama, an editor, over 7 1/2 years from late 1997 and published as a book by Keigado Shuppan Co., Mr. Uchimura said that “bottomless lawlessness became the law” of the Soviet Union — a logical development of Lenin’s belief that justice was whatever was advantageous for the Bolsheviks.

His direct contact with Russians in prison led him to think that as humans, Russians are “infinitely generous” not only to others but also to themselves to the point of creating anarchy in which anything is allowed. But he was objective enough to appreciate “something humane” in Russia. When a Russian military escort heaped the Russian version of “f*** your mother” on him and other Japanese prisoners, a Russian lady who saw the scene came back and indignantly censured the soldier. Mr. Uchimura recalled that he was happy that day, thinking that citizens like her maintained Russia’s honor.

An episode involving Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn shows that Mr. Uchimura was a man of principle. While in Tokyo, Solzhenitsyn phoned Mr. Uchimura and said, “Why haven’t you contacted me?” Mr. Uchimura retorted: “This is Japan. A visitor here in Japan doesn’t shout in an entrance hall, ‘I have come.’ A visitor doesn’t behave with an arrogant face like you.”

He had been moved by Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” But through other works, Mr. Uchimura came to detect in the Russian writer an “only-I- know-the-Gulag” attitude and he began to criticize Solzenhitzyn’s belief that he had the power to make deals with Russian authorities as smacking of hubris.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr. Uchimura was jubilant. But unlike most anticommunists he was not particularly enthusiastic about “bourgeois democracy.” He regarded it as something humans have no other choice but to live with and steer.

More than a year before his arrest by the MVD, Mr. Uchimura had actually been released from a Russian detention facility. An elder friend of his, who had also been given his freedom, however, began shivering with a typhus fever just outside the facility. Mr. Uchimura decided to take him back to the facility because it had a hospital. This act, which eventually culminated in his arrest by the MVD, illustrates the depth of his humanity.

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