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From the China in WW2 blog, a great resource for this neglected area of WW2 history.
Caucasians in Japanese-looking uniforms like the group in the photo to the left do not belong to the average type of World War Two imagery. In fact, the men in the picture are Russians. The background story is complicated and reflects the way the tumultuous first decades of the 20th century moved people across continents to lands far removed from their countries of birth.
Following Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution and the ensuing civil war, tens of thousands of followers of the losing side ended up beyond the Russian empire’s eastern borders, mostly in Manchuria in what is now northeast China. Manchuria was a natural choice, since it had been the scene of considerable Sino-Russian economic exchange during the preceding decades.
Anti-Bolshevism and in many cases direct Fascism became important ideologies for these Russian emigres, who often were guided by an ambition to “retake” the Russia that had been lost to communism. Armed bands, frequently equipping themselves with Fascist symbols such as the swastika and the black shirt, emerged among the Russians. This provided the basis of a tenuous alliance with the Japanese empire, which was a growing political factor in Manchuria in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Click through to the article to find another photo as well as find out what happened to them in operational service.