Maxim O. Vafin – The fight against the theft of socialist property in the territories bordering with China in August 1945


The article analyzes the causes, conditions and features of economic crime, as well as state measures to counter it in the territories bordering with China in the Far East of the USSR, during the Great Patriotic War and the war with Japan. The author places the greatest emphasis on the period of the Soviet-Japanese war of August 8-September 3, 1945, during which new methods of committing economic crimes appeared, which significantly aggravated the criminal situation in the Far East of the USSR. The article emphasizes that an important place in ensuring the security of the economic basis of the country during the two wars was occupied by the apparatus of the BHSS GURKM of the NKVD of the USSR, which effectively counteracted encroachments on socialist property, both on the territory of the entire Soviet Union and on the territories adjacent to Manchukuo. In the final part, the author notes that the BHSS units became a reliable support for the rear of the Soviet troops, who did not allow mass and large-scale theft of socialist property in the Far East, including property intended for supplying the Red Army, which was one of the guarantees of the victory of the Soviet troops over the Kwantung Army in China.

Key words:

The Great Patriotic War, the Soviet-Japanese War, the Soviet Far East, Manchuria, economic crimes, embezzlement, speculation, smuggling, protection of socialist property, the apparatus of the BHSS GURKM of the NKVD of the USSR.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Far East was a special territory, on the one hand it was a deep rear, and on the other a frontline zone. The frontline position of the region was determined by the existing threat of attack from militaristic Japan, which at any moment could move to an open confrontation with the USSR [3, pp. 63-64]. In order to strengthen the defense capability of distant frontiers in 1940 The Far Eastern Front was formed, which required the Soviet leadership to concentrate and maintain a significant grouping of armed forces on the border territories with China (Manchukuo) in order to repel possible aggression from Japan. This circumstance was a significant obstacle that prevented the possibility of using all available forces and resources to repel the German invasion in the west of the country. It is worth agreeing with the position of N.V. Camardina, which emphasizes: “Although military operations were not conducted directly on the territory of the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories, the hardships of wartime also affected this region remote from the center” [4, p. 56].

The difficult geopolitical situation in the Asia-Pacific region caused by Japan’s hegemonic and expansionist policy towards China, the tension between the USSR and Japan, the deployment of the Kwantung Army at the borders of the Soviet Union [8, pp. 235-236], the functioning of foreign intelligence services, as well as anti-Soviet forces in the territories adjacent to Manchukuo, determined the complication of the criminal situation in the Soviet Far East, both throughout the Great Patriotic War and directly during the war with Japan.

The situation of the historically and geographically developed economic situation in the Far East of the USSR was complicated. This was due to the considerable distance from the developed industrial regions of the western part of the country, the dominant position of the extractive industry and small handicraft production. All this led to dependence on the supply of industrial goods and, accordingly, a factor for the growth of their scarcity and prices in the markets. For example, in the territory of Primorsky Krai, in unorganized markets during the Great Patriotic War, there was a significant increase in prices by more than 20 times [6, p. 511].

Ensuring the security of socialist property from criminal encroachments on the territory of the Far East in the period from 1941 to 1945 was carried out by the apparatus for combating theft of socialist property and speculation (BHSS) of the NKVD in the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories. It is worth emphasizing that earlier the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories were united into a single region – the Far Eastern Territory, which were separated into independent administrative-territorial units in 1938. During and after the Great Patriotic War, and then during the war with Japan, the nature of the activities of the BHSS units underwent changes, due to the emergence of new types of crimes of economic and mercenary orientation, which began to spread back in 1941, not typical for the pre-war period. On this occasion, the head of the OBKHSS GURKM of the NKVD of the USSR V.Ya. Gromilov noted: “the nature of embezzlement has completely changed …” [5]. BHSS employees have repeatedly established facts of criminal encroachments on essential foodstuffs, including those stored in hospitals, and food cards. Moreover, there were facts of theft of medicines and food in hospitals. In addition, the BHSS units faced new tasks to combat the theft of socialist property in the ORS (departments of workers’ supply), the number of which has been significantly increased at large and small enterprises since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.

The methods of embezzlement have undergone changes, which have transformed from direct forms mainly to forms of squandering goods. Also, the most common form of embezzlement in the first half of the 1940s was the supply of close relatives, supply according to various notes and lists at food enterprises, canteens and shops [5]. The above crimes were common throughout both the Great Patriotic War and the Soviet-Japanese War.

It should also be noted the specifics of speculative activity characteristic of the Far East, which is not typical for the western part of the country. As the Red Army advanced and liberated the territory of Manchuria from Japanese troops, theft and illegal purchases of various goods in the northeast of China, including captured property left by soldiers of the Kwantung Army, which were subsequently sold at speculative prices by intruders in the markets of the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories, gradually spread [1, l. 205]. There were frequent facts when the robbers sought to appropriate illegally obtained property in the territory of Manchuria personally for the purpose of enrichment, without seeking to sell it in the markets. It is important to emphasize that by August 1945 the criminogenic situation in the Far East was even more aggravated after the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July 7, 1945, which led to a large-scale amnesty in connection with the victory in the Great Patriotic War. Thus, only in the territory of the Khabarovsk Territory, 9,809 people were released from prison in total, of which 2,167 had a criminal record for committing embezzlement, embezzlement and embezzlement of socialist property, as well as for speculation [2, l. 214]. It is natural that some of the persons released from prison were objectively not ready and unable to give up their criminal past. In this regard, there has been an increase in economic crimes in the Far East.

Despite the deterioration of the criminal situation, the conditions of the war with Japan dictated the vital need for the economic security of the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories from criminal encroachments on socialist property. This was caused by the fact that the border territories of the Far East of the USSR acted as the rear positions of the Soviet troops, who were rapidly crowding the Kwantung army. Consequently, it was extremely unacceptable to have interruptions in the supply of the Red Army, which could arise in cases of active criminal activity. But as a result of the professional and decisive actions of the employees of the BHSS apparatus in the period from August to early September 1945, no serious crimes were committed in the supply sector.

An illustrative example of the degree of effectiveness of the fight against economic crime in the Far East during the war with Japan was a case in which a criminal group involved in embezzlement and smuggling activities was identified. So, on August 26, 1945, to the port of the Red Banner Amur Flotilla (hereinafter – KAF), A tugboat X-2 belonging to the plav-KAF arrived from Manchuria in Khabarovsk, on which several tons of captured property were delivered: soybeans, salt, chumiz, stationery, manufactory, etc., illegally mined in the territories recaptured by the Red Army, where Japanese troops were previously stationed.

During the unloading of the steamer in the port, the crew of the tugboat X-2, upon delivery of the cargo, in the person of Captain Kochemasov, mechanic Tropa, etc., stole and transported a large amount of captured property to their place of residence. For example, Kochemasov stole 2 bags of soybeans and one bag of salt, Tropa stole two bags of soybeans and two bags of salt. In addition, Tropa brought with him from Manchuria various manufactories in the size of 45 meters, 23 pieces of bags, 42 pairs of socks and other things.

At the same time, during unloading, a group of workers of the floating facilities of the Krasnoflotets Kazakov and freelancers Postnikov, Vershkov, Petrenko, etc. as part of 8 people, they swam up to the tugboat on a pontoon and, by agreement with the ship’s crew, stole more than 20 bags of soybeans, which they divided among themselves.

The head of the plav funds of the Art. Lieutenant Kovalenko, knew about the committed thefts and instead of preventing them, personally ordered the driver Davidenko to deliver all the stolen property to the places of residence of the attackers.

Despite the organized and relatively well-established mechanism of committing a crime, as a result of successful actions of law enforcement agencies, the activities of the criminal group were revealed. According to the Law of August 7, 1932, nine people were brought to criminal responsibility for the theft of socialist property, four of them were arrested. During the investigation, both public and secret events were held. The most productive results were obtained during searches at the place of residence of each accomplice of the criminal group. So the robbers were seized: 1,200 kg of soybeans, 130 kg of chumiz, 100 kg of salt, 60 m. Japanese-made manufactories, 60 pairs of socks, 30 pcs. Japanese large-format notebooks, etc. [1, l. 206].

It is important to emphasize that the above example was not an isolated case. Thus, during the period from August 9 to September 10, 1945, only in Khabarovsk, Blagoveshchensk, Bikin, as well as the adjacent areas, 35 theft and speculative manifestations of goods and products of Japanese-Manchurian origin on a large scale were revealed [1, l. 205]. During the designated period, 3 boxes and 145 cans of canned goods, 1,200 kg of soybeans, 1,854 kg of rice and other goods and products [1, l. 205] brought from the territory of Manchuria were seized from the attackers. In addition, 85,000 rubles were seized from looters of socialist property and speculators who managed to sell goods of Manchurian origin in the markets.

In parallel with the identification of robbers and speculators, employees of the BHSS services and other units of the NKVD of the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories carried out arrests of contraband trophy property extracted and delivered from the adjacent territories of the Far East of the USSR and Manchukuo. For example, during August 1945, the following contraband goods were seized: 1,841 kg of granulated sugar; 762 bottles of wine; 37,586 packs of cigars; a large number of different technical materials (tin, nails, copper), etc. [1, l. 225 vol.].

Despite the existence of objective difficulties during the war with Japan, as a result of the professional actions of employees of the BHSS apparatus and other police services, proper security of socialist property in the territory of the Far East of the USSR was ensured. The degree of effectiveness in the fight against economic crime was also emphasized by the head of the NKVD in the Khabarovsk Territory, I.I. Dolgikh. The latter sent Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky’s memo, which included three lines telling about the contribution of the Khabarovsk militia to the victory: “For the entire time of the war … the militia liquidated 165 gang groups, property robbers seized and returned to the state property and funds for 10 million rubles. While the war with imperialist Japan was going on, not a single serious crime was committed in the province” [7, p. 207].

Thus, since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War and up to the end of the war with Japan, the nature and methods of criminal encroachments on the economic foundations of the Soviet Union have significantly changed, which naturally determined a significant aggravation of the criminal situation in the country and especially in the Far East. In addition, the martial law of the state caused drastic changes in the functioning of the law enforcement system, including the units of the BCC NKVD of the USSR. However, despite the rather high level of economic crime, the frontline situation, as well as the outbreak of war with Japan, the combination of these factors did not prevent the employees of the BHSS NKVD apparatus of the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories from effectively fighting the robbers of socialist property, speculators and smugglers. As a result, the number of crimes related to encroachments on socialist property in the Far East of the USSR was significantly reduced, which made it possible to form a reliable economic support in the rear of the Soviet troops, which became one of the guarantees of the victory of the Red Army over the Japanese troops in northeast China.

Maxim O. Vafin, postgraduate student of the Far Eastern Home Ministry Law Institute of the Russia.
Khabarovsk, Russian Federation


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Source: Вестник ЦИМО в АТР. № 6. 2021

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