The issuance of visas to war refugees by Chiune Sugihara as reflected in the documents of Russian archives

Ilya Altman


The article analyses activities of the Japanese Vice-Consul Chiune Sugihara, mainly focusing on his Kaunas period 1939–1940, when in the summer of 1940 he issued Japanese transit visas. Research is based on Russian archival sources: starting from Sugihara’s rejection as a translator in the Embassy of Japan in Moscow, later presenting USSR’s position regarding the transition through its territory via Trans-Siberian railroad. The article explains how decision on the Soviet side was made and what reasons forced Soviets to take such a decision. The role of Intourist, the official state travel agency of the USSR, and the agency’s sources are analysed, which provide several different interpretations of the transit, for example, it is stated in the agency’s documents that less children travelled with Sugihara’s visas than it is usually indicated in historiography. Finally, the issues related to forgeries of Sugihara’s visas and the number of people rescued by the Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania are discussed.


Chiune Sugihara; Refugees; Transit through USSR; Number of issued visas; Intourist; NKVD; Politburo; Josif Stalin; Vladimir Dekanozov

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ISSN 1392-0588 (Print)

ISSN 2335-8769 (Online)