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Find for a Spy

"Chatterbox", who knew how to unleash the languages

Find for a Spy

What if the chatterbox himself is a spy, and is it even possible? It turns out possible. In any case, in the history of the Russian special services there was one intelligence officer who was professionally engaged in "chatter".

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.

Here is how the famous poet and translator from the Japanese language Venedict Mart told about it at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, recalling his travels in the Land of the Rising Sun: “At the very entrance to Japanese cinema, a European finds himself in a completely different atmosphere from ours. First of all, the purchased ticket - a plaque, turns out to be related to ... the visitor's shoes. At the entrance to the auditorium, shoes are presented along with tickets. The auditorium is only allowed in socks or stockings. In cinema, as in theaters, the Japanese usually live in whole families, smoke, eat, drink ... The Japanese audience in the cinema feels at home and sometimes settles in boxes for almost a day. With the deafening blows of the gong, the invariable character of Japanese cinema, completely unknown to our viewer, appears in front of the canvas. This is a film storyteller, a living libretto of a motion picture. The light is extinguished and from somewhere out of the darkness the pathetic speech of the artist-storyteller rushes uncontrollably. In parallel with the course of film action, he figuratively tells its content. The Japanese, who so eagerly absorb everything foreign, at the same time, are extremely careful about everything national, about their antiquity ... ”The hereditary Japanese scholar V. Mart added the last phrase, realizing how close to the traditional type of theater the art of Benshi - an actor from darkness, which brightens up the black-and-white film with new colors and makes it understandable for the Japanese audience accustomed to kabuki or bunraku.

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.

Comrade Monk

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.

So the future Bansi was ready to go. It remained only to acquire practical skills in the language outside the walls of the seminary, for which Vasily Oschepkov, already a non-commissioned officer of military counterintelligence, went first to Harbin and then to Vladivostok, where the Japanese settled in large colonies, some of whom worked for Japanese intelligence. It must be said that Russian teenagers in Tokyo seminary were initially trained for service in intelligence and counterintelligence — that was where qualified specialists were required, who were fluent in the language, had experience of living in the country, had a good knowledge of customs and had been educated for years with Japanese schoolmates. the Japanese eventually occupied important government positions).

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.

Undercover work

Preserved in the archives of Comrade. The monk contains a lot of documents related to the film activity of Oschepkov. For example, there is a telegram to Comrade. A monk in Vladivostok addressed to Leonid (the pseudonym of the recruiter Oschepkov) with the requirement to immediately send movies and a new projector with a generator to Sakhalin, and in the appendix - an explanation written by Monk himself (published for the first time): 15 – 11 branches in the following order: drama - 12 – 7 parts; Komichsk. - 8; Species - 2. Selection of plots should be the following: 2 dramas from the life of investigations ...; 3 - lyrical content (as in the film “Native Souls” performed by Russian artists); 3 - from the life of a patriot, a hero who distinguished himself in the war for the benefit of the fatherland (to be shown in military units) ”.

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."

Active work in the Japanese garrisons allowed the Russian benshi to regularly send reports by courier to the mainland. In the case file, these reports have many pages and are very specific: “In the city of Aleksandrovsk: Two infantry companies - 4th and 3rd, numbering about 400 people with 8 Hotchkiss machine guns without shields and a light type (rifle cutoff) with a stock, with each machine gun 4 numbers of servants. The barracks are located in the city center (photo no. 40). 5 guns of 3 ”caliber, firing range 7 1 / 2½ versts (currently they are in the artillery warehouse without being used). There are no fortifications. No cavalry ... "

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. ”

Alas, the then leaders of Vasily Oschepkov did not appreciate his results so much - there was no education (no education at all), no professional knowledge, no experience. The machine that was being asked for was not given to him, although they seemed to want: “According to route agent Ivanov, the need to supply the resident DD is confirmed. (new pseudonym Oschepkova. - AK) paintings and binoculars "Zeiss" to monitor the Japanese courts. For the benefit of the case, I ask you to appeal on behalf of the Corps to the Primgubo Executive Committee (Gubono's film section) for extradition. ” Gubono did not give out the paintings, but this did not stop Oschepkov at all: not only did he continue his successful Bensi activities, he was also able to successfully "redeploy" to the main Japanese island of Honshu.

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

The film projector Oschepkov stopped at 1926. The Japanese companion summed it up: he stole the device, the films, and was like that. The Center was followed by an order to return the invested money, taken from the workers' peasants to work in Tokyo, at any cost. To do this Oschepkov could not - a foreigner can sue in Japan, but it's pointless. I had to sell the remaining cinema equipment, and then followed the order to return. Attempts to convince the command in the absurdity of the decision were not successful, and soon the history of the first and last Russian bansi in Japan ended. It was a unique resident, about which a new, more educated superiors in the Red Army will say: "... With regard to the removal of Oshchepkov from work: this fact does not climb into any gates ... I am deeply convinced that if proper management had been given in due time , He would have paid a hundred times the cost of it ... This is a type that we hardly ever have to have ever ... I believe that if you gave us Oschepkov now, we would make from him an employee of the kind about which , Maybe we do not allow ourselves to think. "

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. 

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