Staunton, June 25 – Sometimes the appearance of an article on a particular subject, especially if it is obscure, is more important than any of the facts it reports. Such is the case of a new article by Russian journalist Andrey Uvarov about the history of relations between Japan and the ethnic Ukrainian community in the Russian Far East between 1917 and 1945.
During the Russian Civil War and continuing through the 1920s and 1930s through World War II, Tokyo maintained active contacts with Ukrainians in the Russian Far East and in the emigration in Harbin in hopes of using them in various ways against the USSR and Soviet support for groups fighting Japan in China.
This subject has attracted only occasional attention. (The two best sources are Ivan Svit’s Ukrainian-Japanese Relations (in Ukrainian, New York, 1972) and John Stephan’s The Russian Far East (Stanford, 1994). Uvarov’s article on the Strategic Culture portal offers few additional facts (fondsk.ru/news/2022/07/04/kak-japoncy-ukrainskimi-nacionalistami-rukovodili-56596.html).
But it is important because it highlights the convergence of three things: Moscow’s concerns about any foreign contacts with Ukrainian groups and especially with ethnic Ukrainians living within the current borders of the Russian Federation, Kyiv’s increased attention to its co-ethnics there, and Japanese attention to Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in the Far East.
With regard to the first, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/ukrainian-wedge-regions-east-of-urals.html and afterempire.info/2017/09/08/zeleni-klin/; with regard to the second, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/08/kyiv-takes-up-cause-of-ukrainian-far.html and eadaily.com/ru/news/2020/11/16/institut-nacpamyati-s-1939-goda-ukraina-voevala-protiv-shesti-stran; and with regard to the third, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/04/window-on-eurasia-moscow-now-has.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/contacts-between-russian-far-east-and.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/07/japanese-book-independence-for-siberia.html).
Aronov’s article conveys two messages Moscow wants everyone to accept. On the one hand, first, he wants to suggest that all Ukrainian nationalism is the product of actions by outside actors rather than by the Ukrainians themselves, in this case the Japanese and particularly the Japanese military and intelligence services.
And on the other, he insists that such efforts have always failed because of the weakness of the Ukrainian position and the clever actions of Moscow, often at great cost not only to the ethnic Ukrainians the outsiders have sought to use but to the Ukrainians themselves who have been misled by them.