Soviet–Japanese border conflicts

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For the latter declared war, see Soviet–Japanese War (1945).
Soviet-Japanese Border Wars
Khalkhin Gol Soviet offensive 1939.jpg
Khalkhin Gol, 1939. Soviet BT-7 tanks on the offensive.
Date 1932–1945
Location Manchuria
Result Soviet and Mongolian victory
Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact
 Soviet Union
Mongolia Mongolian People's Republic
 Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov
Soviet Union Vasili Blyukher
Mongolia Khorloogiin Choibalsan
Empire of Japan Kenkichi Ueda
Empire of Japan Yoshijirō Umezu
80,000 men,
756 tanks,
385 armoured vehicles,
779 artillery pieces,
765 aircraft[citation needed]
97,000 men[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
Soviet archival figures:
20,302 dead or missing
18,003 wounded[citation needed]
Mongolia 300+ dead[citation needed]
Japanese estimate:
29,525 dead
8,799 wounded[citation needed]
Soviet estimate:
147,259 dead, wounded, missing, captured[citation needed]

The Soviet–Japanese border conflicts' was a series of combats and skirmishes, without any formal declaration of war, occurred between 1932 and 1945.

Before the Japanese occupation of Outer Manchuria, the Soviet Union had also engaged in a conflict with China in the region.

Small battles[edit]

The Imperial Japanese Army recorded 151 minor incidents on the border of Manchuria between 1932 and 1934. The number of incidents increased to over 150 per year in 1935 and 1936, and the scale of incidents became larger.

In January 1935, the first armed clash, Halhamiao incident (哈爾哈廟事件 Haruhabyō jiken?) occurred on the border between Mongolia and Manchukuo.[1] 12 Mongolian cavalry invaded Manchuria and engaged an 11-man Manchukuo army patrol unit near the Buddhist temple at Halhamiao, which was led by a Japanese military advisor. The Manchukuo Army incurred slight casualties, suffering 6 wounded and 1 dead; the dead soldier was the Japanese officer in charge of the patrol. The Mongols suffered no casualties, and withdrew from the area when two Japanese companies moved towards the disputed area.

Between December 1935 and March 1936, the Orahodoga incident (オラホドガ事件 Orahodoga jiken?)(ja) and the Tauran incident (タウラン事件 Tauran jiken?) (ja) occurred. In these battles, both the Japanese Army and Mongolian Army used a small number of armoured fighting vehicles and military aircraft. The Tauran incident of March 1936 occurred as the result of 100 Mongolian and 6 Soviet troops attacking and occupying the disputed village of Tauran, Mongolia, driving off the small Manchurian garrison in the process. Local Japanese forces counter-attacked, running dozens of bombing sorties on the village, and eventually assaulting it with 400 men and 10 tankettes. The result was a Mongolian rout, with 56 soldiers being killed, including three Soviets, and an unknown number being wounded. Japanese losses amounted to 27 killed and 9 wounded.[2]

In June 1937, the Kanchazu Island incident (乾岔子島事件 Kanchazutou jiken?) (ja) occurred on the Amur River (Soviet–Manchukuo border). Three Soviet gunboats crossed the centre line of the river, unloaded troops, and occupied Kanchazu island. Soldiers from the IJA 1st Division, using two horse-drawn 37mm artillery pieces, proceeded to hastily set up improvised firing sites, and load their guns with both high-explosive and armor-piercing shells. They shelled the Soviets, sinking the lead gunboat, crippling the second, and driving off the third. 37 Soviet soldiers were killed in this incident; the Japanese forces suffered no casualties.[3] The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested and demanded the Soviet soldiers withdraw from the island. The Soviet leadership, apparently shocked by the display and not wanting things to escalate, agreed and evacuated their forces.[4]

Battle of Lake Khasan[edit]

Main article: Battle of Lake Khasan

The Battle of Lake Khasan (July 29, 1938 – August 11, 1938) and also known as the Changkufeng Incident (Chinese: 张鼓峰事件; pinyin: Zhānggǔfēng Shìjiàn, Japanese pronunciation: Chōkohō Jiken) in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion from Manchukuo (by the Japanese) into territory claimed by the Soviet Union. This incursion was founded in the belief of the Japanese side that the Soviet Union misinterpreted the demarcation of the boundary based on the Convention of Peking treaty between Imperial Russia and the former Qing-Dynasty China (and subsequent supplementary agreements on demarcation), and furthermore, that the demarcation markers had been tampered with.

Battle of Khalkhin Gol[edit]

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

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol, sometimes spelled Halhin Gol or Khalkin Gol after the Halha River passing through the battlefield and known in Japan as the Nomonhan Incident (after a nearby village on the border between Mongolia and Manchuria), was the decisive engagement of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese Border War (1939), or Japanese–Soviet War. It should not be confused with the conflict in August 1945 when the Soviet Union declared war in support of the other Allies of World War II and launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact[edit]

As a result of the Japanese defeat at Khalkhin Gol, Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on 13 April 1941 (similar to the German–Soviet non-aggression pact).[5]

Later in 1941, Japan would consider breaking the pact when the German Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), but they made the crucial decision to keep it and to continue to press into Southeast Asia instead. This was said to be largely due to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. The defeat there caused Japan not to join forces with Germany against the Soviet Union, even though Japan and Germany were part of the Tripartite Pact. On April 5, 1945, the Soviet Union unilaterally denounced the neutrality pact, noting that it would not renew the treaty when it expired on April 13, 1946. Four months later, prior to the expiration of the neutrality pact, and between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, completely surprising the Japanese. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria was launched one hour after the declaration of war.

Portrayal in Media[edit]

The fighting early in World War II between Japan and the Soviet Union plays a key part in the Korean film My Way, in which Japanese soldiers (including Koreans in Japanese service) fight and are captured by the Soviets and forced to fight for them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Charles Otterstedt, Kwantung Army and the Nomonhan Incident: Its Impact on National security
  2. ^ Coox, p. 156 - 157
  3. ^ Coox, p. 109
  4. ^ Coox, p. 114
  5. ^ "Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact April 13, 1941: Declaration Regarding Mongolia". Yale Law School. Retrieved 23 December 2014. In conformity with the spirit of the Pact on neutrality concluded on April 13, 1941, between the U.S.S.R. and Japan, the Government of the U.S.S.R. and the Government of Japan, in the interest of insuring peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries, solemnly declare that the U.S.S.R. pledges to respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of Manchoukuo and Japan pledges to respect the territorial integrity and inviolability of the Mongolian People's Republic.