Small community of ~100 Russian Tatars in Seoul featured in 1942-1944 propaganda articles: a young 19-year-old Tatar girl is praised for filling out immigration forms for her neighbors, a Tatar woman is commended for scolding her friends with red fingernails for wearing ‘British-American’ cosmetics

This is my translation and transcription of four news articles from Keijo Nippo, a propaganda newspaper and mouthpiece of the government of Japan-colonized Korea. These have never been republished or translated before, to the best of my knowledge.

The following articles, spanning the period from 1942 to 1944, are about a very tiny (~100 member) Russian Tatar community which existed in Seoul during World War II. The Russian Tatars were refugees from the Russian Revolution who fled persecution in Russia. Many of the Russian Tatar refugees who arrived in Imperial Japan settled in mainland Japan, most notably in Kobe where the first mosque in Japan was built in 1935 (Kobe Masjid), but a few also settled in places like Japan-colonized Manchuria and Korea. The community in Seoul apparently engaged in trading mostly in clothing and miscellaneous goods in the Honmachi area, which is now the area just south of Myeongdong Cathedral. In 1943, about a block away from present-day Seoul City Hall on Mugyo-ro, they built their own elementary school called the Nugman Academy, where their children could learn the Tatar language and culture, including Islamic doctrine. 

Imperial Japan had a very complicated policy towards Muslims, as shown in this excellent academic article, but to ordinary Koreans who knew nothing about this, it must have seemed very unfair that this small community was given special privileges not given to the Koreans, who made up 97% of the population of Korea but were largely not allowed to teach their children Korean language and culture in schools by the 1942-1944 period.

Sorry if I have butchered some of the transcriptions of the Russian Tatar names, since Japanese kana transcriptions of foreign names confuse l and r, b and v, s and sh, etc. To those readers who are more familiar with Russian Tatar names, please let me know if you can suggest any corrections.

Martiya, the 19-year-old Tatar girl who helped fill out immigration forms for her neighbors, belonged to a local cell of the Korean Federation of National Power (国民総力朝鮮連盟, 국민총력조선연맹), the single ruling party of Japan-colonized Korea. The local neighborhood cells were known as 愛国班 (aikoku-han or aeguk-ban), which roughly translates to ‘patriotic organization’. Members of the cells would report each other for infractions, perhaps for breaking rules like speaking Korean in public. They would organize ‘patriotic’ activities like defacing effigies of Roosevelt and Churchill, and also distribute food rations and other assistance. Similar local cell organizations still exist in countries like Cuba and North Korea.

See also the Russian Tatar family in Busan featured in this 1942 article:


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 28, 1942 

Thanksgiving Dedication to Victorious Japan

Refined Turkic Tatar Daughter

The Central Cultural Association of the Turkic Tatar Nation in Seoul, whose members number more than one hundred and are definitely ethnic Asians despite differences in appearances, are united in their gratitude for living in Japan during the Greater East Asia War. The temporary travel control regulations for foreigners came into effect on December 10 of last year, and all foreigners residing in Seoul were required to submit a notification form in the new format all at once. More than one hundred Tatar city residents prepared to complete the form, but filling out a two-page application form for each person proved to be a difficult task for those who were not literate in Japanese.

The one who took on the task of filling out the forms on behalf of the Tatar residents was Martiya (19), the second daughter of Mr. Waliullah Ibrahim of the Noor Trading Company at 20 Honmachi 3-chōme, Seoul. Knowing the confusion of her compatriots, she said, “Please let me do it. It is the greatest joy to be allowed to live in Victorious Japan as a member of the Asian race, and it is my duty to protect the homefront as one of the Imperial people.” Every night, she would diligently write on behalf of her compatriots, and she has completed nearly three hundred pages of forms without delay.

As a member of local patriotic organization living the ‘neighborhood cell’ spirit, Martiya’s actions were highly praised by Mr. Shimada, chief of foreign affairs at the Honmachi Police Station, who accepted the documents. On February 27th, he recounted the following about Martiya’s actions:

“Martiya is the second daughter of Mr. Waliullah Ibrahim, the vice president of the Tatar Cultural Association. She is a warm and kind girl who graduated from Naniwa High School in Fengtian (present-day Shenyang). She alone worked at home taking care of the paperwork of more than a hundred people from the same ethnic group as their representative when the regulations came into effect and foreigners had to file notifications. Her recognition of the current situation and her initiative in cooperating with the authorities is admirable.” [Photo: Martiya, the subject of this beautiful story]


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) September 9, 1943 

Japanese Language School

Established by Turkic people in Seoul

The Holy War to establish the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere continues with extreme intensity to the south and the north, and all Asians in the Co-prosperity Sphere rose up in the autumn to “stand with Japan”. The Turkic Tatar group living in Seoul was grateful for the Imperial Army’s struggle and wished to establish an educational institution for their own people to become a fully Asian people. On the Day of the Imperial Rescript on September 8th, a new private school, “Nugman Academy,” was established to provide Japanese-style education. There are currently 72 Turkic Tatars in 21 households in Seoul, mainly centered in the Honmachi precinct, who are engaged in the clothing and ready-made goods trade. All of them came to Japan after the Russian Revolution and are spending their days living comfortably in Japan, but they have not been blessed with educational institutions. With the donation of 50,000 yen from Ms. Shamshinoor Nugmanov (45), who lives at 366 Sindang-dong in Seoul, a two-story building was purchased for 39,000 yen at 31 Mugyo-ro in Seoul, and the “Nugman Academy” was established. The founder, Mr. Kabdullah Hakimov (52), who lives at 3-28 Namdaemun Avenue in Seoul, applied for approval from the Seoul Provincial General. The school is to open at the beginning of October, and the first class of 20 boys and girls is to be admitted. The school is to emphasize the Japanese character of the school by teaching the Tatar language, Islamic doctrine, and National Education mainly in Japanese. [Photo: Ms. Shamshinoor Nugmanov]


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 2, 1944

Consoling the Heroes in White with the Tatar Dance

The billion people of the Co-prosperity Sphere stood together in solidarity and vowed to unite as Asian peoples holding each other’s hands. A group of Turkic Tatars living in Seoul could not contain their emotions: “Let us offer our sincere thanks to the heroes of the Imperial Army,” said 12 lovely students of Nugman Elementary School in Mugyo-ro, Central District, whose school had recently opened. They will hold a performance to comfort the heroes in white at the Army Hospital on the occasion of the auspicious occasion of the Anniversary of the Founding of Japan. The 19th performance of the classical “Tatar Dance” by Saniya and three other children will be a flower bouquet of consolation filled with sincerity, and is expected to be applauded by the heroes. [Photo: Tatar Dance]


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) February 20, 1944 

“No Red Fingernails!”, scolded the Turkic woman

On February 11th, during the festival of the Founding of Japan, Erestan Tarpishov and 12 other lovely Turkic Tatar children from Nugman Elementary School in Mugyo-ro, Seoul held a performance to comfort the heroes in white, and they had a thrilling day. One of the ladies who accompanied the children, Salima, saw that many of her friends had painted their fingernails red. The comfort visit ended as Salima asked the young women, “What is the matter with you inappropriately showing red fingernails to the Japanese soldiers? Let’s put a stop to all these British-American cosmetics…” This extraordinary act by Ms. Salima Battersen was brought to the attention of Mr. Masaoka, Director of Gyeonggi Provincial High School, who recently visited the provincial government office and praised her for her Japanese spirit. [Photo: Ms. Salima Battersen]



1942年2月28日 京城日報







1943年9月9日 京城日報




1944年2月2日 京城日報




1944年2月20日 京城日報