Soviet–Japanese border conflicts

Japanese soldiers pose with captured Soviet equipment during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol

Japanese soldiers pose with captured Soviet equipment during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol

The Soviet-Japanese Border Wars were a series of border disputes between Japan and the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1941 occurred.

Before the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the Soviet Union had had conflicts on the border of Manchuria with Chinese troops. After the creation of Manchukuo, Japan looked back at the Soviet zone of Siberia who shared border. The Japanese military interests in these Soviet territories inevitably provoked two powers clashed frequently in several border disputes.

This undeclared war ended with a decisive Soviet victory at the Battle of Jaljin Goal, which was first and most serious military defeat since the beginning of Japanese expansionism in Asia. With this defeat Japan abandoned the idea of a solo deal with the Soviet Union without German support.

Background Information

The Soviet-Japanese rivalry is rooted clearer Russo-Japanese War of 1904 – 1905, which resulted in a landslide victory Japanese and the beginning of its hegemony as a power in the area. The indirect consequence is that Russia recognized the “economic, political and military” Japanese about Korea. Soon after Korea was forced to become a protectorate and in 1910 definitely was annexed as Japanese territory. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Japan and other countries intervened in Siberia to curb the spread of the Bolsheviks from the Russian Far East. Despite the withdrawal of the United Kingdom or the USA in 1920, the Japanese remained in the area for some time until they retired in 1922. The U.S. and other countries have already seen in this attempt a sample of Japanese expansionism in the area, which partly effected pressed for Japanese withdrawal. The Soviets reasserted control of the area, and with this background that marked relations between the USSR and the new Japanese Empire.

In 1929 there was a small conflict between Chinese and Soviet troops by transmanchuriano Railway administration, although the Soviet superiority ended disputes and restored the status quo between the two.

The Mukden Incident of 1931 served as an excuse for the Japanese militarists to carry out the invasion of Manchuria, to be completed next year and would lead to the founding of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Since the formation of the new state, the expansion of Japan through northern China marked its policy towards the country. The Bridge Incident Marco Polo in 1937 again raised the tension in the area to lead to a war between Japan and China. The Soviet Union was concerned all these events and signed a nonaggression pact with the Chinese, in addition to providing military and economic aid. The Japanese continued to advance into northern China, occupying major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing.


The first incidents

The Japanese Imperial Army recorded at least 152 minor incidents on the border of Manchuria in the period from 1932-1934. The number of incidents increased to over 150 per year in 1935 and 1936, after this date the scale of incidents continued to grow.

In January 1935 came the first serious confrontation, which occurred on the border between Mongolia and Manchukuo. Several Mongolian cavalry squadrons remained clashes with army patrol unit Manchukuo Halhamiao the Buddhist Temple. Manchukuo troops were several casualties, including a Japanese military adviser. Between December 1935 and March 1936 were held during these meetings, both the Japanese and the Mongols used a small number of armored vehicles and aircraft. In this state of things, in 1936 the USSR and Mongolia signed a mutual assistance treaty required each party to come to the aid of the other if they were attacked.

In June 1937 a new conflict occurred, which took place in the Amur River in the Soviet-Manchurian border. Three gunboats Soviets crossed the center line of the river and occupied the island. The artillery of the 1st Division Japanese unit responsible for guarding the border in this section, one of gunboats sank Soviet and injured another. The Japanese Foreign Ministry protested this action and Soviet soldiers left the island.

The Soviet Union, fearing Japanese expansion plans on its territory, had been strengthening its position in the region since early 1934: the second track was built Trans-Siberian Railway to the Chinese border in the autumn of that year. In late 1935 the forces of the region had to fight 6 months autonomy without reinforcements from Europe and in late 1937 the Amur Railroad also received its second route to Khabarovsk. In 1938, 105,800 men were sent to reinforce the units of the Soviet Far East and 120 fortifications were completed. In 1939 the number of tanks had doubled since 1934 and the number of armored vehicles had increased eightfold. However, the terror of the purges, which had spread in the late thirties by Siberia, these defenses weakened and strengthened the Japanese position, each time more threateningly.

Battle of Lake Khasan

The Battle of Lake Khasan, also known as the Incident Changkufeng (Chinese and Japanese:张鼓峰事件) originated with Japanese troops attempted to occupy a poorly defined area in the Convention of Peking (1860) between the Empire Russian and Qing Dynasty. Soviet refusal Japanese claims meant that 29 of the same month the Japanese carried out a first attack was repulsed, but the July 31 Red Army troops had to begin withdrawing. The 19th Division Imperial Japanese Army, including several that were outstanding on the border with the USSR, attacked and subjected to two Soviet infantry divisions. One of the commanders of the Japanese forces conducted a night assault on the Soviet positions established on a hill, with a special method of assault on fortified positions.

Under the command of Commander in Chief of the Far Eastern Front Vasili Marshal Blücher, in the theater of operations were deployed additional forces fought a pitched battle between 2 and 9 August, Japanese expelling the disputed territory. The August 10, 1938 Japanese military attache in Moscow called for an end to hostilities on 11 August. Although the Soviet victory, their losses were considerable and questioned the ability of Blücher during the battle. On October 22 the Soviet police arrested him on charges of spying for the Japanese. Once in prison was tortured and died in unexplained circumstances.

Battle of Jaljin Goal

A new incident began on May 11, 1939, when Mongolian cavalry units, made ​​up of 70 or 90 men, entered the land in dispute with their horses, in search of forage. Were found within the territory of Manchukuo cavalry forces that drove them out of the area. Two days later Mongol troops re-entered and could not be expelled, beginning a military escalation. The Tokyo government, which from the beginning had wanted the fighting in Nomonhan did not become a war with the USSR as it had with China Bridge Incident Marco Polo, tried to control the actions of the Army Kwantung. The emperor himself gave instructions that avoided the extension of the fighting and the ambassador in Moscow was instructed on July 17 to seek the opportunity to begin negotiations for an armistice and the delimitation of the border as soon as possible. The Kwantung Army, however, opposed the start of negotiations without first achieving advantageous military position, managing to delay them.

In mid-August the Soviet commander Georgy Zhukov knew the Japanese plan to attack their positions on August 24 and decided to get ahead of the Japanese offensive. The 20th crossed the river Jalja preceded by a heavy bombardment of artillery and air in order to deal with elite Japanese forces with three infantry divisions, heavy artillery, a brigade of tanks and the best aircraft of the Soviet Air Force (VVS). Two complete Japanese divisions were surrounded, while others were dispersed. On August 27, the Japanese tried to break the siege, but failed. When they refused to surrender, Zhukov ordered troops raze with artillery and air force. This meant the total destruction of the Japanese forces. On August 23 it had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, considered treason by the Japanese, and the Soviets left free to concentrate their troops in the Siberian. After the battle, the Red Army attacked the remaining Japanese troops, forcing them to retreat to Manchukuo. The Japanese casualties, with 18,500 dead and many injured, were of the highest in the imperial army suffered from the early twentieth century. The Soviets lost 9,824 soldiers killed, wounded and prisoners.


As a result of the Japanese defeat in Jaljin goal, they signed on April 13, 1941 Neutrality Pact with the Soviet Union similar to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of Non-Aggression of 1939. In the central part of it, establishing the neutrality of the parties in case of war between one with another country, for a period of five years. In the same treaty establishing the territorial integrity of Mongolia and Manchukuo, committing each country to respect both. The Kwantung Army received a blow to its prestige and Japan abandoned the idea of a solo deal with the Soviet Union without German support.

After World War II started in 1941, Japan saw the breaking of the covenant when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), but finally took the crucial decision to cancel all plans against the USSR and focus on progress for Southwest Asia. Some authors have argued that this decision was greatly influenced by the outcome of Jaljin Goal, having caused him not to join in the attack on the Soviet Union despite being part of the Tripartite Pact. The April 5, 1945 the Soviets unilaterally denounced the Neutrality Pact, notifying that do not renew when it expired on April 13, 1946. Four months after the Soviets invaded Manchuria, just an hour after the Soviet government had declared war on Japan, and based on what was agreed at the Potsdam Conference between the Allied Powers.

Wars of Japan

War of the Pacific (1937-1945)

Military history of the Soviet Union

Military history of Japan

History of Manchuria


Interwar period

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