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Lozhkina Anastasia, The Image of Japan in the Notions of the Soviet Leaders in 1931-1933 Печать E-mail
17.11.2012 г.
Anastasia Lozhkina,
Fundraising Director,
Downside Up Charitable Fund

The image of the "Other" plays a significant role in the national identity formation process. The image of the "Other" is closely connected with national identity; it is its constituent part. The image of a foreign country is an important factor influencing decision-making, especially in foreign policy.

The aim of my research is to examine the specific features of mentality of the Soviet political leaders at the beginning of 1930s, and the influence of leaders' notions on formation of the international policy through the lenses of the image of Japan.

The 1930's was a difficult period for the relationship between Japan and USSR. The Japanese invasion in Manchuria in September 18, 1931 has become a notable manifestation of their intentions to expand, which has transformed political and military situation in the Pacific Region. Since that moment, the attention of the Soviet Leaders has been focused on the Far Eastern borders of USSR where one of the best Army resisted small military units of the Red Army.

The Soviet Leaders' notions of their Far Eastern neighbor are a bit more precise than the Tsarist Government. It was based on the stereotypes given by the Russian-Japanese war and the Japanese incursion into the Russian Far East. Thus, under the threat of attack on the Eastern borders, Soviet Leaders needed more reliable information about Japan to elaborate their foreign policy through strategic decision-making.

Since the Japanese aggression in Manchuria started, the "Father of the People's" chose a cautious policy towards Japan and avoided sharp expressions. He knew that the Soviet Union didn't have sufficient military potential to repel the probable aggression of the Japanese Army. In his letter to M. Kaganovich dated on September, 23 Stalin noted: "Our military intervention is absolutely impossible, our diplomatic intervention is unreasonable at this moment as it can unite the imperialists as we are trying to gain from their quarrel"[1]. In the same letter Stalin described the way he wanted to present the current information on this topic in the press.

On the other hand, Stalin understood that the events on the Far East could be a powerful source of the revealing propaganda against the aggressive policy of capitalist states in general, a reason to invent a myth of a future war. Once the image of Japan was presented to the political elite, another one to the society by Stalin, it was a set of myths and propaganda symbols.

The analysis of published and unknown archival documents proves that Stalin's conclusions were based on the reports of OGPU-NKVD (The State Political Directorate of the Peoples Commissariat for Internal Affaires). They influenced the leader's perceptions, which were making the decisions.

The reports of OGPU of 1931-1933 affirm that the Japanese were preparing themselves actively for a military aggression against the USSR. They were examining the potential enemy as well as its weak points. They were searching for allies, even among the Muslim countries. The General Staff of Japan were planning the attack at the most untenable moment - at the period of harvesting, which was particularly arduous for mobilization.

The Japanese government expected to use the fear of Western countries about "the communist danger" to conquer new territories. The Japanese military advancement might be connected with the world economic crisis involving both Western and Eastern countries. The Japanese Government had chosen the right time for the incursion into China, because Western countries couldn't and didn't want to interfere at that moment. Besides; the conquest of the Pacific Ocean territories that solved a problem with the lack of resources, manly the fuel problem.

However; the importance of diplomatic relations with Western countries often made Japanese hide their real aims. It didn't lead the Soviet Leaders astray though. Stalin wrote: "They suggested us to sign a convention prepared long before" ("to make everybody see that we are in good relations", said Hirota). "We agreed. They proposed us to start the negotiations on fishing (pursuing the same aim). We also agreed on this. But it would be too naive to believe in the sincerity of Japanese capitalists' friendship. All these are a mask in order to dupe us and boast about this friendship in front of Western Empires"[2].

On the other hand, analyzing the situation on the Far East, Stalin thought that Japan was a powerful military and geopolitical rival, having a farsighted strategy to conquer the Far East [3]. He understood that Manchuria was just the first step to "the Great Asian Empire".

Soviet political leaders taking into account the political situation in China and information provided by OGPU, hoped that the Soviet Union would be able to resist when Japan decides to solve the Manchuria problem.

A difficult internal situation, the vulnerable international rating of USSR as well as the absence of political allies and external economic aid, made Soviet Leaders avoid confrontation on the Far East at the beginning of 1930s. Besides; the choice of such a policy was conditioned by the fact that USSR was not experienced enough in waging large-scale military operations. As well as, Soviet Leaders wanted to sign the non-aggression pact with Japan as a high-speed modernization demanded security to accomplish the reconstruction of industrial complex and consolidation of military forces.

The negotiations aiming at concluding non-aggression pact took place in a tense atmosphere. The Soviet Government suggested to Japan at the conclusion of such a pact in December 1931, but Japan declined it.

The incidents concerning the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER) and the intention of USSR to sell it, strained the relations between Japan and USSR, preventing them from concluding the pact. According to archive documents, Stalin paid special attention to the solution of this problem, hoping to remove this as a source of possible conflict with Japan as soon as possible.

The means to exert pressure on the Japanese were found in the policy of rapprochement with Nanking and the USA. Stalin wrote to V. Molotov and L. Kaganovich in June 29, 1932 from Sochi: "If the Japanese really agree to sign a pact, it will probably happen because they want to cause us trouble during our negotiations with China about a pact, that was, for them, on the verge to be concluded. That is why we shouldn't break off our negotiations on the pact with the Chinese, but on the contrary, we should continue them and drag them out to frighten the Japanese and to make them hasten with signing the pact with USSR"[4]. Thus, Stalin understood that, on the one hand, a real threat was coming from the East but, on the other hand, this situation in the Pacific region was favorable to improve USSR international rating.

It is interesting that due to the growing threat coming from the East, the party leadership started to learn the history and culture of Japan, thus trying to get closer to understanding its features and mentality. The political elite, which had taken into consideration the mistakes of the tsar's government, namely its underestimating of the Eastern neighbor during the war of 1904-1905, aspired to enlarge its knowledge and vision of the "The Country of the Rising Sun".

As long as the number of armed forces on the Far East increased, the negative notion of Japan became stronger in the mind of the party leadership. This tendency can be retraced trough the correspondence of Stalin with L. Kaganovich dated 1933. But a real signal for the beginning of long-term ideological campaign dedicated to the negative image-making of Japan was a letter of Stalin to V. Molotov and L. Kaganovich in October 1933. "To my mind, it's high time to start a massive well-grounded (but not heavy) preparation to start affecting the social opinion of USSR as well as of the other countries on the issue of Japan and its militarists in general. One needs to put this work on a wide scale in the "Pravda" partly in "Izvestia". We should also use GIZ (the State Publishing House) and other publishers to get pamphlets and books printed. It is necessary to show people not only negative but also positive features of the Japanese way of life and life conditions. It is clear that we should lay stress on negative imperialistic aggressive military features"[5].

It should be emphasized that Stalin had ordered to depict in a negative way only political and economic sides of Japanese life, but not the social and cultural ones. The leader regarded Japan from the point of view of classes and Marxism. The "Father of Peoples" wanted to sow suspicion in the Soviet society towards the Japanese government, but not the Japanese people itself. He understood that the population was not responsible for the state aggressive policy. Japanese workers and peasants were socially close to Soviet people. Such an approach can be interpreted as a will to deserve credit and love of ordinary people enduring the consequences of collectivization and awful starvation. Besides, he wanted to prove himself to be a "defender of masses". Thus, "the image of the enemy" was not a simple one.

Besides, it should be emphasized that the campaign of Japanese image-making was necessary for the political elite to mobilize the human resources they had. In such a way, that the Head of State was forming an image of Japan in the mind of masses, different from their own one.

[1] Stalin i Kaganovich. Perepiska. 1931-1936, Sostaviteli O.V. Khlevniuk, R.U. Davis, L.P. Kosheleva, E.A. Ris, L.A. Rogovaya (Moscow, 2001). p. 116.

[2] Sovetskie lideri. Perepiska. 1928-1941, Sostaviteli A.V. Kvashonkin, L.P.Kosheleva, L.A.Rogovaya, O.V. Khlevniuk (Moscow, 1999), p.162.

[3] Ibid, p.161-163.

[4] Stalin i Kaganovich. Perepiska, p. 184.

[5] Stalin i Kaganovich. Perepiska, p. 396.
Последнее обновление ( 26.12.2012 г. )
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