Sakhalin: the Japanese Under Soviet Rule

Mariya Sevela gathers oral recollections from the people of Karafuto, a Japanese colony on the island of Sakhalin from 1905 until the arrival of the Soviet army forty years later.

The island of Sakhalin in the Sea of Okhotsk is a microcosm of Russo-Japanese relations. ‘Discovered’ almost simultaneously by the Russians and the Japanese in the mid-seventeenth century, it witnessed several shifts of rule between 1855 and 1945. Following Japan’s victory over Russia in 1905, by the Treaty of Portsmouth Sakhalin was divided at the 50th parallel. While the northern section remained Russian, the Japanese colony of Karafuto was established on the southern part of the island.

Following the terms of the February 1945 Yalta Agreement between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8th, between the American atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It thus broke its five-year neutrality pact with Japan signed on April 13th, 1941. Compensation for fighting the Japanese in Manchukuo, Karafuto and Chishima promised to be considerable – South Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands were to become Russian once more.

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