Appendices - Hirohito's War
O. Japanese – Soviet Conflict in Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria
Russo-Japanese Relations from the Late Nineteenth Century: At the start of 1941 both Japan and the Soviet Union faced critical issues that superseded their long-term rivalry for dominance in northeast Asia. It was a rivalry that had emerged with imperial Russia’s nineteenth century expansion into the vast, sparsely populated territories of Siberia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Although Russians had started to occupy Siberia as far back as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in ways that can be compared with the later occupation of America by European colonists, it was trade and industrialization that prompted the later more aggressive eastward expansion by the Russian state. Miners, accountants, lawyers and corporations increasingly took the place of Cossack hunters, fur traders and land hungry peasants.
The newcomers created wealth and brought with them the familiar social institutions and culture of civil society in their wake. Peter Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, a leading Russian academic in the fields of botany, zoology and geology, who stayed in Barnaul in 1856–1857, wrote:
“The richness of the mining engineers of Barnaul was expressed not merely in their households and clothes, but more in their educational level, knowledge of science and literature. Barnaul was undoubtedly the most cultured place in Siberia, and I’ve called it Siberian Athens . . .”1
Leading intellectuals such as playwright Anton Chekhov, who travelled through Siberia on his way to Sakhalin Island in 1890, explored the Wild east in the same way that writers such as Mark Twain explored the Wild West [Roughing It, 1972]. Not all travels to the east were voluntary. Novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, along with many dissident intellectuals, was exiled to a katorga (penal camp) near Omsk, and pressed into military service in Semey in eastern Khazakhstan. He married his first wife in the mining and ironworking city of Novokuznetzk (literally: the new-smiths).
A cash strapped Russian state, faced by the repayment of a £15m Rothschild loan and seemingly indifferent to the east, and which had sold Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the United States for Us$7.2m in 1867, had by the end of the century woken up to the economic and geopolitical potential of their far flung Siberian empire. Like the United states and the other imperial powers embedded in China and South East Asia, Imperial Russia also looked to the emerging potential of Chinese markets.