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ARCHIVED The Siberian Captivity of Japanese Soldiers and the Transnational History of War and Empire

Monday 17 February 2020 / 6:45pm
The Siberian Captivity of Japanese Soldiers and the Transnational History of War and Empire

Monday 17 February 2020

The Swedenborg Society

20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

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Booking Details
Free Lecture – booking recommended

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The Siberian Internment of over 600,000 Japanese Army servicemen (1945-1956) – captured in the Japanese puppet-kingdom of Manchukuo and driven into Soviet camps by the victorious Red Army – has been almost unknown outside Japan. This is surprising, for the internment was a quintessentially transnational occurrence: it started in what was informal Japanese Empire, soon to become a battleground in the Chinese Civil War. The captives were driven from there to camps across the USSR and eventually returned to a new, occupied Japan. Besides geographical and political boundaries, they crossed borders separating eras; thus their experience was like time travel from wartime to postwar Japan.

In this talk I analyze the Siberian Internment as a transnational event, and a unique lens to reconsider the making of postwar Japan. I locate the internment in three broad contexts: 1) the Japanese imperial project in Asia, 2) the multi-directional forced migrations into and detainment in Soviet labour camps, initiated by Stalin during and in the wake of WWII, and 3) the international historical context of the Cold War. Within these settings, the internment provides fresh vistas on Japan’s imperial collapse in East Asia, transition from empire to nation-state, the ideas of citizenship and national identity, and the political and ideological battles over Japan’s future during the first postwar decade.

Sherzod Muminov is Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of East Anglia, where he teaches courses on the histories of Japan, the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and POW and internment camps. Sherzod’s research interests are mainly in modern Japanese history, Japanese-Soviet relations, and the Japanese empire. He has published articles and chapters in English and Japanese, most recently in Cold War History. Sherzod’s monograph, titled Eleven Winters of Discontent: The Siberian Internment and the Making of the New Japan, 1945-1956, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press in 2021.

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Image: Japanese soldiers returning from Siberia in 1946