I ended up living in Russia for almost three years, but I may not have enough qualification to discuss the life and other things about Russian life since I was in a prison camp most of the time. However, my role as an officer of financing made me spend time with Russians from morning till night almost every day. I also had opportunities to talk with towns people at the time of shopping from time to time. Therefore, I have a feeling I had enough experience to understand the Russians, but in reality, I may not understand who they are as much.
I lived in Yelabuga for two years. Now it has grown into an industrious city with the population over 50,000, but most of the surroundings of where our gulag was remained the same. It is my impression when I visited the place fifty years later.
The Russians, or perhaps more of the Tatars, were honest and kind over all. Since Tatar women were not good at Russian language, they thought we Japanese were just like them.
Seeing so many different ethnic groups living together, it was understandable that not everyone spoke Russian fluently, but I felt the entire area was facing to be forced to Russian way and there was some discrimination going on due to that circumstance. In the Republic of Tatarstan, the main language for the radio broadcasting was Russian. In contrast, the broadcasting in Tatar language was limited. Tatar language was still used in the entire area however.
I did not see any newspaper written in Tatar language. In elementary schools, I heard they were teaching the Tatar language like a foreign language, but I did not make sure if it was true. When I went to a cemetery, most of the words on the tomb stones were in Tatar language. I could not read it at all, but they write it from right to left, which is similar to the way the Japanese was written. I recall how I discussed such a similarity with a Tatar.
It was interesting for me to realize people in Russian societies were not as nervous like the Japanese in terms of the language use. Since there were many ethnic groups living together, nobody laughed at us even if our Russians were poor.
People in the Tatarstan Republic are considered as ethnically Asians just like the descendants of Hungarian Magyar. If we look up in the encyclopedia, Tatars are the names of all the Turkish residents in the territory of Soviet except for the west Turkestan. There are many Israms in that area. Most of the Tatars live in Europe and Russia, but the descendants of the Turkish who followed the army that accomplished Mongolian conquest of the west became mixed with Bulgarians, Finns and Caucasus.
As a result, the name “Tatars” began to be applied to all of these people that mixed in the area, including Finns, Samoyed and Mongolians. Consequently, all the Northern Turkish residents in Soviet territory began to be called as Tatars for the purpose of the political classification. What I heard when I was there is that all the Tatars have Mongolian spots on the buttox.
The Tatarstan Republic was formed by Tatars who were minority. In radio broadcasting, Tatar language was sometimes used, but Russian language was dominant. In that area, Russian was defined as the first language and Tatar language was the second. School textbooks were mostly written in Tatar language, but the classes were taught in Russian. The heads of each departments of the Republic were Tatars, but the ones just underneath them in political structure were mostly Russians, and they were the ones who actually took care of all the practical matters.
Such a structure is very similar to Manchukuo that Kwantung Army formed. Heads of each department in Manchukuo were Chinese, but all the Japanese who were underneath them actually had the power to take care of everything. For example, in the department of Business and Engineering, Mr. Nobusuke Kishi had a position underneath the head, and his role was almost similar to the minister of Business and Engineering.
Tatars seems to feel close to the Japanese. They are not as tall, have black hair and black eyes. Their skin colors are Asian as well. They are just like Japanese.
There were so many different ethnicities and races in Soviet. It was a multiracial state, but the core was formed by Russians, and they were definitely dominating the country. As a result, they were urging all other races to merge into their rules although they made it look as if they had respects for other ethnic groups to keep their own government and autonomy.
It is not easy for different races and religions to stay harmonious. At this time in the world, acknowledging the movements for independence of each ethnic group is becoming an important movement.
I would like to note that the numbers of total countries was approximately 80 before the war, but it increased to 193 after the war. It is the result of the movements for racial independence. Nobody can tell if it is good or bad. When each ethnic group with independent race, language and even religion possesses an earnest desire to own their own state, no other country can suppress their passion. The more suppression is exercised, the more tragedies will doom to happen.