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Russian Consul Aided Resistance Hero

Posted March. 27, 2006 03:09,   


According to recently uncovered Russian state documents, the Russian consul to Wonsan defended Korea resistance leader Ahn Joong-geun after Ahn sparked the Korean resistance movement against Japan by shooting Ito Hirobumi to death on October 26, 1909. March 26 is the 96th anniversary of Ahn’s death.

Russian diplomat Nicholas Birukov (1861-1916) was the Russian consul to Wonsan at the time. A visiting professor at the history department of Moscow University, Park Jong-hyo, recently found a document relevant to the above matter in the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow. Birukov, who was a military spy disguised as a diplomat, was dispatched to Harbin where he investigated Ahn’s shooting of Ito and sent a report to the General Headquarters of Russian Army on October 31.

The report was contrary to the Russian government’s official position. The Russian government called Ahn a murderer, and immediately after the incident, Russia’s Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin expressed his condolences to the Japanese government, saying, “A great figure who tried to establish peace between Russian and Japan was sacrificed by a brutal plot.”

A great granddaughter of Birukov, Yelena Birukov (photo), said, “My grandfather, of course, worked for his country, Russia. But he developed affection for Koreans while working in Korea for 20 years.” A current Birukov, a journalist, is currently collecting information on consul Birukov’s activities in Korea.

The consul Birukov, who was working in the Far East as an artillery captain, had his first contact with Korea after being appointed as a teacher at a Russian language school King Gojong established in Seoul in 1897. He also was a spy during the Joseon Dynasty when the Great Powers competed against one another.

Birukov even acted as an intermediary to get his 10 Korean students to study in Russia. He died of illness and was buried in Harbin in 1916 where Ahn shot Ito.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com