In the final days of World War II, the Soviet Union’s Red Army led an offensive against the Empire of Japan that would later be known as one of the most significant campaigns of the War. Three months after the end of the war in Europe the Soviet Union under Stalin joined the American offensive of Japanese territory by invading the province of Manchuria on August 9, 1945. The southern territory was lost in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5 when the Japanese replaced Russian influence. This was a blow to Russian economic ambitions because the latter part of the 19th century was spent constructing the Chinese Eastern Railway and accessing a warm water port. The railway provided a route that saved 350 miles of travel and became a focal point of interest by the Japanese ever since its construction. Russian military was unable to retake the lost territory due to poor trans-Siberian transportation and inadequate technology, both in war and physical capital.
The Invasion and Immediate InterestsEdit
The Soviet Union and the Japanese Empire signed a neutrality pact in 1941 after several skirmishes over the territory. After a successful campaign in the west, Stalin mobilized 80 divisions of troops along the 4,400 kilometer border in anticipation of a Japanese attack. The Allied powers pressured Stalin to join the war in the east to swiftly end the Axis combination. On August 9, 1945 the Soviet Union invaded Japanese Manchuria, but for far more reason than a duty to its capitalist allies.
Constant Soviet defeat in Manchuria raised a lot of resentment for the Japanese empire. The loss of access to railway systems and ports caused rising ambitions to reestablish footholds to maintain the growing world power. The railway in Manchuria provided the Union with a shorter way to its port of Lüshun in the East China Sea from the interior. This access was eliminated after it lost control of the system to Japan following the Russo-Japanese War. This limited transportation, removed access to a warm water port, and resulted in the waste of years of Soviet investment. With the Soviet Union strong and Japan on the eve of defeat, the Red Army now had the capacity to regain all losses it paid in the past.
Further incentives for invasion included the need for the Soviet postwar position to be reinforced and provide strategic positions around neighboring states such as Mongolia. This was particularly important for future interests to spread its left-wing ideology. The spread of communism has been seen as a lesser motive to the invasion of Manchuria; however, after 1937 communists within the area gathered strong popularity. Rural populations in Manchuria were very responsive to communist ideals and the party was able to channel these social and economic reform ambitions into support against the Japanese. In invading Manchuria, the Soviet Union had mass support by the people, making the providence’s liberation an easy and important asset to acquire. In gaining a people responsive to Soviet ideals along the eastern coast the Union would create a larger buffer between itself and the Japanese mainland as well as provide a strategic attack point.
During the final stages of WWII, Soviet interests were more focused on creating a foundation for post-war ambitions than keeping faith to its capitalist allies. Being largely successful, the Soviet Union began its rise as a world power. For this to happen Stalin needed to acquire the resources that he could while coercion was still an option. These unilateral political ambitions worked together to trigger the invasion that brought Manchuria under Soviet control, contributed to the defeat of Japan in WWII, and helped the Soviet Union set up its stage for power.