Karl Radek


The Japanese Claims
in the Far East

(17 October 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 90, 17 October 1922, pp. 683–684.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

During the Russo-Japanese Conference at Chang-Chung, which has just broken up without having been able to reach an agreement, the question of the Nikolaievsk episode and the occupation of the island of Sakhaline had been brought up anew.

Sakhaline contains oil and petroleum wells. Sakhaline is the center of remarkable fisheries. Therefore we would not have been surprised had Japan, while negotiating peace with the Republic of the Far East and Soviet Russia, insisted on having her capitalists participate in the exploitation of these natural riches. But Japan preferred to talk of annexing Sakhaline. It is always thus with imperialist powers.

When they speak of peace, they think only of plunder.

But what relation exists between the imperialist appetites of Japan and the events at Nikolaievsk, the reader will ask. We shall see.

After having occupied Eastern Siberia, the maritime province, the region of the Amour, the Japanese took possession of the city of Nikoiaievsk, an important point for the control of the Amour and the Northern part of Sakhaline, Nikolaievsk is situated in a section of fisheries the production of which is not to be regarded with disdain. The occupation of Nikolaievsk was difficult to justify; there were no Czecho-Slovakians that Japan was “morally” obliged to protect, and not the least conflict between the Russian and Japanese workers, accustomed to live on good terms.

It was simple aggression, a blow of the imperialist Japanese brigands against the Russian population, – and nothing more.

After the downfall of Koltchak, the entire country was covered with bands of Red rebels. In November 1919, some partisans led by, Triapitsyn – irregulars, not connected in any way to the Red Army – marched on Nikolaievsk. Upon arriving before the city they first sent two representatives to the Japanese demanding that they evacuate Nikolaievsk. These envoys, Sorokin and Orlov, were murdered. The partisans then seized the fortress of Tchnyra, and after 8 days of bombardment finally compelled the Japanese garrison of Nikolaievsk to surrender at the end of February, 1920.

Careful not to injure their future relations with Japan, the partisans allowed the defeated garrison to retain its arms, and concluded with it an agreement of friendly neutrality. But during the night of March 12, when the partisans thought themselves to be in perfect safety at Nikolaievsk, the Japanese made a surprise attack upon their general quarters. A desperate battle then began which lasted 4 days.

The Japanese were finally defeated and disarmed.

Their attack had been planned by the garrison and the Japanese commander-in-chief who had just (March) landed 1,000 soldiers at Alexandrovsk and there dissolved the Soviets. At first this was done in order to substitute for them the Zemstvos, but after a short time they took the administration of the Island into their own hands, annulled, the fishing contracts concluded by the Russians, monopolized the fisheries, forbade the Russians to exploit the subsoil, – in short, began their colonization according to the customary rules.

In June 1920, the Japanese troops quartered in Alexandrovsk began an offensive against Nikolaievsk by which the Red partisans were forced to evacuate. Before departing, they blew up part of the city and shot the bourgeois elements attached to the enemy and the Japanese prisoners, in reprisal against the excesses committed by the invader of Sakhaline.

This is the Nikolaievsk episode. Its direct cause was the invasion by the Japanese troops of foreign territory and the brutal behaviour of the Japanese forces of occupation. We do not dream of justifying the execution of unarmed captives, nor have we need of such justification for two good reasons: the Soviet Government is not responsible for individual acts of sympathizers – and it has moreover, caused their leader Triapitsyn to be shot for having disobeyed after his submission.

But it is curious to hear the Japanese speak of humanity after their occupation has everywhere been a nightmare of blood for the Russian working population. The Government of Chita has published a pamphlet in English on the Japanese occupation (reproduced in the resolutions of the American Senate on March 2, 1922) which constitutes in itself a terrible indictment of the imperialists of Tokyo. We could cite much from it, but it is better to ask: What lesson is to be drawn from the Nikolaievsk episode?

It is contained in this short phrase: Do not covet the possession of the country of another. That is not the opinion of the Japanese Government. As indemnity for the losses incurred at Nikolaievsk, it demands the northern part of the Island of Sakhaline, thus following the classic example of imperialist bandits.

When Germany needed a Chinese port and when her military experts had fixed their choice upon Tsing-Tao, it of course came to pass that German missionaries had been murdered by the Chinese inhabitants. And the German Government, to avenge its outraged humanity, occupied Tsing-Tao. If Japan wishes to apply this method, she would do well to remember that the Russia of 1922 is not at all the China of 1898. Russia is prepared to discuss with Japan the admission of Japanese capitalists into Sakhaline; but if the Japanese Government imagines that we will pay the costs of its crimes, it is quite mistaken.

Russia wants peace with Japan.

It is time for Japan to understand that the later peace is concluded, the less advantageous it will be to herself.

But the evacuation of Sakhaline is inadmissible for many reasons, chiefly international. Russia is not bound by agreements with Washington, but Japan is; and this obliges her to maintain the status quo in the Far East. In the question of Sakhaline Japan will run up against the categorical refusal of Russia and the United States.

Last updated on 3 December 2020