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Sakhalin Island or Karafuto as it is known in Japan changed hands a number of times during the course of its history. Each change had a far-reaching impact not only on the native peoples but also on the thousands of immigrants who had settled there, either willingly or by force. For over a century, two major powers, the Soviet Union and Japan, endeavored to bring Sakhalin into their own sphere of influence. This long-standing dispute between the two countries came to an abrupt end when the Soviets crossed the 50th parallel and invaded Japanese-controlled Karafuto just days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The ferocity of the Soviet forces resulted in the deaths of 3,700 innocent civilians, some of whom were as young as one year of age.
While the Japanese acts of brutality towards civilians and Allied POWs have been well documented in the West, the actions of the Soviet forces in Karafuto are seldom brought to the forefront of discussion. How many people know that Karafuto was the last victim of the Pacific War?