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The Russians were perhaps the only Europeans who volunteered to fight for the creation of a Greater East Asia under the auspices of Japan. However, they pursued their own goals.
The Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War forced hundreds of thousands of Russians to leave the country. Both they and their children did not stop hoping that one day they would be able to return to their homeland and overthrow the Soviet regime they hated.
And if many Russian emigrants in Europe in their struggle against the USSR relied on Hitler, then those who settled in the Far East chose the Japanese Empire as their allies.
Since the 1920s, the Japanese have been establishing contacts with White émigrés living in northeastern China in Manchuria. When the Kwantung Army occupied the region in 1931, a significant part of the Russian population supported them in the fight against the Chinese troops.
On the territory of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, the puppet state of Manchukuo was proclaimed, headed by the last Chinese emperor Pu Yi. However, the real power was in the hands of Japanese advisers and the command of the Kwantung Army.
The Japanese and the Russians came together on the basis of a common rejection of communism. They needed each other in the forthcoming "liberation" war against the Soviet Union.
As the official ideology of Manchukuo proclaimed, the Russians were one of the five "indigenous" peoples of the country and had equal rights with the Japanese, Chinese, Mongols and Koreans living here.
Demonstrating their benevolent attitude towards the white emigrants, the Japanese actively involved them in cooperation with their intelligence bureau in Manchuria - the Japanese military mission in Harbin. As the head of Mititaro Komatsubara noted: "They are ready for any material sacrifice and are gladly accepted for any dangerous enterprise in order to destroy communism."
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In addition, Russian military detachments were actively created to protect key transport facilities from attacks by local gangsters-hunghuz. Later, they would be recruited for operations against Chinese and Korean guerrillas.
"Russian samurai", as General Genzo Yanagita called the White émigrés who collaborated with the Japanese, underwent both military and ideological training. On the whole, they were neutral or even positive about the idea of building a Great East Asia under the auspices of Japan, but the plan to take away all Russian lands to the Urals caused them strong irritation, which, however, had to be carefully hidden.
“We filtered what the lecturers stuffed us with and threw out of our heads an unnecessary Nippon spirit that did not suit our Russian spirit,” one of the cadets, a certain Golubenko, noted.
The most significant among the Russian military formations created by the Japanese was the Asano detachment, named after its commander, Major Asano Makoto. At different times, it numbered from four hundred to three and a half thousand people.
Founded on the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, April 29, 1938, the squad included both infantry and cavalry and artillery units. Based on the territory of Manchukuo, Asano's soldiers, however, were fully supervised by the Japanese military.
The soldiers of this secret unit were preparing to conduct sabotage and reconnaissance operations in the territory of the Soviet Far East in a future war against the USSR. The Asanovites had to seize or destroy bridges and important communication centers, penetrate into the location of Soviet units and poison food facilities and water sources there.
Twice, in 1938 near Khasan Island and in 1939 on the Khalkhin-Gol River, the Japanese Empire probed the military potential of the Red Army. The Asanovites were sent to the area of hostilities, where they mainly took part in the interrogation of prisoners of war.
There is also information about military clashes between the detachment's fighters and the enemy. So, during the battles on Khalkhin Gol, the cavalry detachment of the Mongolian People's Republic collided with the cavalrymen of the Asanovites and took them for their own. This mistake cost almost all Mongolian soldiers their lives.
By the end of 1941, the Japanese leadership abandoned the impending blitzkrieg against the USSR, known as the Kantokuen plan. By 1943, it became finally clear that the Japanese invasion of the Soviet Far East would not take place in any form.
In this regard, the Japanese carried out a reform of the Russian units. From special sabotage and reconnaissance detachments, they become combined arms. Thus, Asano's detachment, which had lost its status of secrecy, came under the command of the 162nd Rifle Regiment of the Manchukuo Armed Forces.
Nevertheless, in Tokyo, their Russian soldiers were still highly regarded. In May 1944, the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito, Prince Mikasa Takahito, arrived at the location of the Asanovites. He made a speech in which he wished to strengthen the spirit and military training of the Japanese and Russian peoples.
The hard and heroic struggle of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany sparked an explosion of patriotism and anti-Japanese sentiment among the Russian population of Manchuria. Many officers began to cooperate with Soviet intelligence. As it turned out, one of the leaders of Asano's detachment, Gurgen Nagolyan, was even an agent of the NKVD.
When the Red Army invaded Manchuria on August 9, 1945, Russian military units reacted in different ways. A small part of them resisted, but was quickly crushed along with the troops of Manchukuo. Soviet Major Pyotr Melnikov recalled that the Japanese often shouted in Russian in order to confuse and disorient Soviet soldiers, to prevent them from realizing where the enemy was and where their own.
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Most of the Russians decided to change sides. They arrested their Japanese commanders, organized partisan detachments to fight the Japanese and, having taken control of a settlement, handed it over to the approaching Soviet troops. It happened that friendly relations were even established between the soldiers of the Red Army and the White émigrés, and the latter were allowed to carry out guard duty at some objects.
However, the idyll ended when employees of the SMERSH counterintelligence organization followed the Soviet units. Moscow, which possessed a wide intelligence network in Manchuria, was well aware of the activities of local White émigrés over the previous years. They were exported en masse to the USSR, where the most important figures were to be executed, and the rest - up to fifteen years in the camps.