ASIAN HEROES OF THE SOVIET UNION
 

By Carter W. Park

I became fascinated with the Soviet Far East on a business trip a few years ago. Since I have always been interested in military history and the ethnic peoples in this part of the world, I decided to do some research while visiting the various republics there. In Russia, there are over a hundred distinct nationalities! The country is so huge, it comprises one sixth of the world's total landmass, and is divided into 11 time zones. In many of their large cities and small towns, there are monuments to the war dead from the Great Patriotic War. I asked one old veteran (with a translator) why he was sent so far away, to fight the Germans on the Eastern Front. He replied: "When we heard about the war, young patriots from the various republics formed units. Stalin did not trust us and he didn't like the idea of large ethnic military units coming together because he thought we would make trouble for him in our home country. He was very happy to ship us from Irkutsk all the way across the country to Ukraine!". I visited every war museum I could while in Siberia, and always, there were photographs of young men in uniform mounted on the walls, with the inscriptions "Heroes of the Soviet Union." I decided to see if I could compile a listing of all the Asian Heroes. In winter, it is one of the most coldest regions in Russia. I trust that my modest efforts will be of some use to the readers out there. I hope you will share some of your knowledge with the rest of us. In Siberian custom, "When you take, you always give back."
Photo 1.: Monument of War and Labor at Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic in Russia. The tank belonged to a Red Banner regiment.
Photo 2.: Veterans of the Great Patriotic War gather in Irkutsk on Victory Day, 9th of May, 1997.

BURYATS
8 Heroes and 2 Cavaliers of the Orders of Glory
The Buryats are ethnic Mongolians who settled in the Soviet Union.The majority of them are living in Russia in the Republic of Buryatia (formerly the Mongolian Autonomous Socialist Republic).
EVENK
1 Hero of the Soviet Union
There is only one Evenk Hero of the Soviet Union. His name was I. Ubachan who received the title posthumously on 22 February 1944. The Evenks inhabit a large area of Siberia.
KALMYKS
9 Heroes of the Soviet Union
The Kalmyks are of Mongolian origin. They are the only Buddhist group in European Russia, who migrated from the Xinjiang region of China in the early 1600s. They settled in the northern Caucasus. In 1771, Catherine II brought them under Russian rule. A large majority left for their homeland because of Russian oppression. Those who stayed behind became known as Kalmyks, which means "to remain." The Nazis overran the western half of the Kalmuk republic, and took its capital, Elista. Their country was abolished after the Soviets regained control.
KAZAKS
99 Heroes of the Soviet Union
I always believed that the Kazaks were of Asian origin, but in doing research, it is said that they are of Turkic origin. They are an Islamic people. They now have their own homeland, Kazakstan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Kazaks are the second largest Muslim group of Central Asia.
KIRGHIZ
1 Hero of the Soviet Union
The sole Kirghiz Hero was K. Ucenbekov, born in 1921 to a farm family. He joined the Army in 1942 and became a Hero on 31 May 1945. He retired as a major general. These people originated in China and then later moved to southern Siberia. During 1927-28, the Soviets tried to force them onto collective farms. Many responded by leaving for western China. The Kirghiz in Russia consider themselves to be Muslim.
KOREAN
1 Hero of the Soviet Union
Alexander Min was not a Korean national, but a Russian-born Korean! The son of a farmer, he joined the Army in 1941. He belonged to the 132nd Rifle Regiment and fought on the Belorussian Front. Captain Min was killed in action on 9 July 1944 and became a Hero posthumously on 23 March 1945.
YAKUTS
3 Heroes of the Soviet Union
Three Yakuts became Heroes. These people live in the Republic of Yakutia, an area of over a million square miles in northeastern Siberia. The first Soviet atomic bomb was detonated at an inaccessible town in the Yakut area, Olekminsk. They seem to be of Asian origin, but they speak a Turkic language.

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