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Find for a Spy
"Chatterbox", who knew how to unleash the languages
Bensi - the actor from the dark
"Govorun" - approximately so it is possible to translate into Russian the Japanese word "bensi". In the dictionary it is interpreted more correctly: "a reader-interpreter, entertaining the audience while watching silent films." But why translate something if the film is dumb? Then, that European cinema in old Japan met with the traditions of the past, and the bansi turned out to be a bridge between the two civilizations.
If we recall that along with foreign paintings, domestic Samurai dramas were shown, in which the bansi had to comment on all sorts of details, for example, the hara-kiri ritual, one has to wonder at what knowledge and skill the representative of this rare profession should have. And now the main thing: for several years one of the bansi in Japan was our compatriot: Vasily S. Oschepkov.
He was born in the winter of 1893 in the Sakhalin penal servitude, early became an orphan, and was doomed either to death or to a bleak existence on the outskirts of life, but through the efforts of his guardian he turned out to be in the Orthodox seminary of Archbishop Nicholas of Japan in 1907. It was there that Vasya Oshchepkov mastered Japanese at a level that would then amaze his Japanese friends. No wonder: all classes in the seminary were held in the language of the host country, and the uncompromising, he himself lived among the Japanese for more than half a century and Archbishop Nicholas learned the language from scratch, severely criticized the seminarians even for the fact that they were trying to speak Russian with each other. The seminary certificate issued to Oshchepkov in June 1913 of the year contains good and excellent marks, and among 16 are 11 special subjects, such as “translation of Japanese newspapers” or “reading Japanese letters. At the same time, Vasily was the first Russian and only the fourth European to receive a black belt at the main school of judo, the Kodokan.
Vasily Oschepkov was one of the most enterprising seminarians - a hungry childhood on Sakhalin affected. Unlike his classmates who came from Cossack families, Oschepkov was an orphan and could rely only on himself. Therefore, when, after the 1917 revolution and the occupation of Vladivostok by the Japanese, he realized that his service in the Russian counterintelligence service had come to an end, Vasily took up part-time work: in parallel with the service in the Japanese Military Communications Administration (from which he gave the necessary information to the red underground) he taught Japanese, Judo and even sold shoes. But soon Oschepkov found for himself the ideal application of forces: he bought a film projector, several boxes of films and went to his native Sakhalin to show a movie. The island was occupied by the Japanese, Russian bansi here was enthusiastically received - as a real wondrous thing. The offer from Soviet military intelligence also did not wait, and Oschepkov became "the secret agent of the Intelligence Director of the Staff of the Siberian Military District, Comrade Monk.
And although the list goes on with the films "from the life of wild tribes" and fairy tales, after all, the point with "heroes" was for Oschepkov the main one. His main task was to show movies in Japanese garrisons, where a brilliantly proficient, artistic, dressed as a dandy master of judo invariably aroused the admiration of Japanese officers and generals. It is known, for example, that he was personally favored by the commander of the Japanese squadron in Vladivostok, Admiral Kato, and some data allow us to think that he is not the only one. The Japanese officers were pleased: no one could have expected that in the wild northern Sakhalin would be a man who, for little money, would constantly entertain them by showing European and American paintings, and even with comments on the "divine language."
The case also contains analytical materials on the state of the Sakhalin economy, and the most detailed (so much so that the idea arises that Oschepkov saw personal affairs), the biographies of the commanders of the units and formations stationed on Sakhalin. The work of the bansy was so convenient for covering up the main activity of the scout that the volume of materials transferred to them from Sakhalin periodically put the authorities at a dead end.
Today, after almost a hundred years, I appealed to the acting Russian GRU officers with a request to comment on Vasily Oschepkov's reports without telling them who is the author of the texts. Here is how the modern scouts estimated the work of a bansi almost a hundred years ago: "The materials at our disposal are a fragment of an informational and analytical reference document, which is in essence an analog of the section of the current intelligence report on the military-political situation, the composition and disposition of the forces and assets of the probable enemy in Separately taken region. The document has a typical formalized structure, written in a clear and concise language without unnecessary detail, which is most typical for documents intended for reporting to the leadership of the operational-tactical level of command and above ...
Separately, it should be noted the nature of the presentation of the material, which is distinguished by a high level of military, political and economic literacy, even from the position of today. Taking into account the general level of training of the staff of the Red Army at that time, it can also be assumed that the person who directly executed the document had special information and analytical training and, most likely, was a personnel officer of the military intelligence agencies of the pre-revolutionary period ...
Along with information of a purely military nature (composition, main armament and deployment of units and subunits), the document contains information about the military administrative authorities, the state of key infrastructure elements, including the oil field development sites, the areas of exploration and the results of geological exploration in the north - eastern part of Sakhalin Island. The materials contain links to photos and maps. Considering the presence of a certain regime in the occupied territory and restrictions on movement (this is also mentioned in the text), photographing objects and gathering information to plot the situation on the map should have taken considerable time and effort. ”
In autumn 1924, the head of the movie "Plum-Film" Vasily Oschepkov with the beautiful wife Maria came to the shore of the port of Kobe. The device "Power" turned new detective stories, and new telegrams flew to the Center. As for the movie: "Tokyo. Slivy-film. Oschepkoff. I received the requisite accessories of the apparatus of the inspector of the steamer ... Tsuruga. Kisses. Uncle ", - and not about the movie:" Your letter with the ship "Decembrist" received. The seals are intact, but the bottles are empty: they have emptied ... ". Oschepkov tried his best: he secured the post of representative of the German film company Vesti (ten years later, a new illegal resident of the Razvedopra in Tokyo, Richard Sorge also starts working under the German "roof"), signed an agreement with a Japanese film distributor, and got acquainted with the military aristocracy. With the future Olympic champion in jumping and the hero of the battles for Iwo Jima at 1945, Baron Nishi, Oschepkov went to the races. Another baron, Date, rode around Tokyo in the sparkling car Maria Oschepkov and showered her with flowers. In his spare time Oschepkov liked to sit and chat about this with the Japanese officers at the photo studio opposite the barracks of the 1-th Adzaba Regiment - with bansi it's so nice to talk about pressing problems, boast of new appointments, complain about a speedy departure for the exercises ... Then Vasily went Home and watched from the window behind the life of the 3-th Adzaba Regiment, in front of which KPP rented an apartment. From time to time he traveled to Harbin - there was the largest in Manchuria kinopredpriyatie M. Alekseeva and the leadership of intelligence.
Sad final of the story of the Russian bansi
Vasily Oschepkov never returned to Japan or to the cinema. For many years he taught judo, then became the founder of sambo wrestling, was arrested in 1937, and soon died in prison. Japanese cinema has changed a lot since then, but still, when I watch samurai melodramas and wonderful Japanese comedies, I remember the strange story of the first and last Russian Bansi of Japanese cinema - a man who, while chatting, knew how to listen.