Infobox Islands
name = Sakhalin

image caption =
Location map|Russia|lat=51|long=143
map_custom = yes
native name = Сахалин
native name link = Russian language
location = Russian Far East, Pacific Ocean
coordinates= 45°50' 54°24' N
archipelago =
total islands = 1
major islands =
area = 78,000 km²
rank = 23rd
highest mount = Lopatin
elevation = 1609 m
country = Russia
country admin divisions title =
country admin divisions =
country largest city = Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
country largest city population = 174,203
population = 673,100
population as of = 2005
density = 8.62/km²
ethnic groups = Russians, Koreans, Nivkhs, Oroks, Evenks and Yakuts.

Sakhalin ( _ru. Сахали́н, IPA2|səxʌˈlʲin; Japanese:nihongo|樺太|karafuto or nihongo|サハリン|"saharin"; Chinese: 庫頁 Kùyè), also Saghalien, is a large elongated island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N. It is part of Russia and is its largest island, administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Sakhalin Ainu, Oroks, and Nivkhs. [ [ "The Indigenous Peoples"] - The Sakhalin Regional Museum —] Most Ainu relocated to Hokkaidō when Japanese were expelled from the island in 1949. [ Reid, Anna. "The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia". New York, New York: Walker & Company. 2003. pp.148-150 ISBN 0802713998]

The European names derived from misinterpretation of a Manchu name "sahaliyan ula angga hada" (peak of the mouth of Amur River). "Sahaliyan" means "black" in Manchu and refers to Amur River ("sahaliyan ula"). Its Japanese name, "Karafuto" ( _ja. 樺太) comes from Ainu Kamuy-Kara-Puto-Ya-Mosir (Kara Puto), which means "God of mouth of water land". The name was restored to the island by the Japanese during their possession of its southern part (1905-1945).


Sakhalin was inhabited in the Neolithic Stone Age. Flint implements, like those found in Siberia, have been found at Dui and Kusunai in great numbers, as well as polished stone hatchets, like European examples, primitive pottery with decorations like those of the Olonets, and stone weights for nets. Afterwards a population to whom bronze was known left traces in earthen walls and kitchen-middens on the Aniva Bay.

Among the indigenous people of Sakhalin are the Ainu on the southern half, the Oroks in the central region, and the Nivkhs on the northern part. [Gall, Timothy L. "Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life". Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Inc. 1998. pp.2-3. ISBN 0787605522] Chinese chronicled the Xianbei [ [ Sakhalin: Encyclopedia II - Sakhalin - History ] ] and Hezhe tribes, who had a way of life based on fishing. The Chinese in the Ming dynasty knew the island as Kuyi (zh-cp|c=苦兀|p=Kǔwù), and later as Kuye (zh-cp|c=庫頁|p=Kùyè). For a short period (1409-1435) Kuye was under the administration of Nurkal Command Post set up by the Ming dynasty and a Ming boundary stone still exists on the island.fact|date=March 2008 According to Wei Yuan's work "Military history of the Qing Dynasty" (zh-cp|c=聖武記|p=Shèngwǔ Jì), the Later Jin sent 400 troops to Sakhalin in 1616, after a newfound interest because of northern Japanese contacts with the area, but later withdrew as it was considered there was no threat from the island.

A Japanese settlement in the southern end of Sakhalin of Ootomari was established in 1679 in a colonialization attempt. Cartographers of the Matsumae clan created a map of the island and called it "Kita-Ezo" (Northern Ezo, Ezo is the old name of Hokkaidō). The 1689 Nerchinsk Treaty between Russia and China, which defined the Stanovoy Mountains as the border, made no explicit mention of the island. Nevertheless Russia started occupying the island, with an army made up of convicts, from the 18th century onwards. The Qing Empire also claimed sovereignty over the island.fact|date=March 2008 However, as the Chinese governments did not have a military presence on the island, people from both Japan and Russia attempted to colonise the island, albeit from different ends.

Sakhalin became known to Europeans from the travels of Ivan Moskvitin and Martin Gerritz de Vries in the 17th century, and still better from those of Jean-François de La Pérouse (1787) and Ivan Krusenstern (1805). Both, however, regarded it as a peninsula, and were unaware of the existence of the Strait of Tartary, which was discovered in 1809 by Mamiya Rinzo.

On the basis of it being an extension of Hokkaidō, geographically and culturally, Japan unilaterally proclaimed sovereignty over the whole island in 1845, as well as the Kuril Islands, as there were competing claims from Russia. However, the Russian navigator Gennady Nevelskoy in 1849 definitively recorded the existence and navigability of this strait and — in defiance of the Qing and Japanese claims; Russian settlers established coal mines, administration facilities, schools, prisons, churches on the island.

In 1855, Russia and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimoda, which declared that both nationals could inhabit the island: Russians in the north, and Japanese in the south, without a clear boundary between. Russia also agreed to dismantle its military base at Ootomari. Following the Opium War, Russia forced China to sign the unequal Treaty of Aigun and Convention of Peking, under which China lost claim to all territories north of Heilongjiang (Amur) and east of Ussuri, including Sakhalin, to Russia. A "katorga" (penal colony) was established by Russia on Sakhalin in 1857, but the southern part of the island was held by the Japanese until the 1875 Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875), when they ceded it to Russia in exchange for the Kuril Islands. After the Russo-Japanese War, Russia and Japan signed the Treaty of Portsmouth of 1905, which resulted in the southern part of the island below 50° N reverting to Japan; the Russians retained the other three-fifths of the area. South Sakhalin was administrated by Japan as Karafuto-chō (樺太庁), with the capital Toyohara, today's Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and had quite a large number of migrants from Japan and Korea.

In August 1945, according to Yalta Conference agreements, the Soviet Union took over the control of Sakhalin. The Soviet attack on South Sakhalin started on 11 August 1945, as part of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation, four days before the Surrender of Japan, after the bombing of Hiroshima. The 56th Rifle Corps consisting of the 79th Rifle Division, the 2nd Rifle Brigade, the 5th Rifle Brigade and the 214 Armored Brigade attacked the Japanese 88th Division. Although the Red Army outnumbered the Japanese by a factor of three, they were unable to advance due to strong Japanese resistance. (Japan had quite a presence here, and developed much infrastructure.) It was not until the 113th Rifle Brigade and the 365th Independent Naval Infantry Rifle Battalion from Sovietskaya Gavan (Советская гавань) landed on Tōro (塔路), a seashore village of western Sakhalin on 16 August, that the Soviets broke the Japanese defence line. Japanese resistance grew weaker after this landing. Actual fighting, mostly petty skirmishes, continued until 21 August. From 22 August to 23 August, most of the remaining Japanese units announced a truce. The Soviets completed the conquest of Sakhalin on 25 August 1945 by occupying the capital, Toyohara. Japanese sources claim that 20,000 civilians were killed during the invasionFact|date=February 2007.

No final peace treaty has been signed and the status of four neighboring islands remains disputed. Japan renounced its claims of sovereignty over southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in the Treaty of San Francisco (1951), but claims that four islands currently administered by Russia were not subject to this renunciation. However, Japan has granted mutual exchange visas for Japanese and Ainu families divided due to Russian occupation. Recently, economic and political cooperation has gradually improved between the two nations in spite of it.

Korean Air Flight 007, a South Korean civilian airliner, flew over Sakhalin and was shot down just west of the island by the Soviet Union on 1 September 1983. For the U.S. electronic intercept and the Soviet military transcripts of the shoot down, see [] . The airplane flew into Soviet airspace illegally and without permission first over Kamchatka peninsula, just before the time set for the test firing of the SS-25, an illegal (according to SALT II agreements) mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It did not respond to repeated attempts to contact it by Soviet authorities who claim they thought it was a spy plane. All 269 passengers and crew died.

On May 28, 1995, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale occurred, killing 2,000 people in the town of Neftegorsk.


Sakhalin is separated from the mainland by the narrow and shallow Mamiya Strait or Strait of Tartary, which often freezes in winter in its narrower part, and from Hokkaidō, (Japan) by the Soya Strait or Strait of La Pérouse. Sakhalin is the largest island of Russia, being 948 km (589 miles) long, and 25 to 170 km (16 to 105 miles) wide, with an area of 78,000 km² (30,100 mi²).

Its orography and geological structure are imperfectly known. One theory is that Sakhalin arose from the Sakhalin island arc.cite book|last=Ivanov|first=Andrey |title=The Physical Geography of Northern Eurasia|editor=Shahgedanova, Maria|publisher=Oxford University Press|location=Google Books|date=March 27, 2003|series=Oxford Regional Environments|volume=3|pages=428–429|chapter=18 The Far East|isbn=978-0198233848 |url=,M1|accessdate=2008-07-16|language=English] Nearly two-thirds of Sakhalin is mountainous. Two parallel ranges of mountains traverse it from north to south, reaching 600–1500 m (2000–5000 ft). The Western Sakhalin Mountains peak in Mount Ichara, 1481 m (4860 ft), while the Eastern Sakhalin Mountains's highest peak is Mount Lopatin 1609 m (5279 ft) is also the island's highest mountain. Tym-Poronaiskaya Valley separates the two ranges. Susuanaisky and Tonino-Anivsky ranges traverse the island in the south, while the swampy Northern-Sakhalin plain occupies most of its north.

Crystalline rocks crop out at several capes; Cretaceous limestones, containing an abundant and specific fauna of gigantic ammonites, occur at Dui on the west coast, and Tertiary conglomerates, sandstones, marls and clays, folded by subsequent upheavals, in many parts of the island. The clays, which contain layers of good coal and an abundant fossil vegetation, show that during the Miocene period Sakhalin formed part of a continent which comprised north Asia, Alaska and Japan, and enjoyed a comparatively warm climate. The Pliocene deposits contain a mollusc fauna more Arctic than that which exists at the present time, indicating probably that the connection between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans was broader than it is now.

Main rivers: the Tym, 400 km (250 miles) long and navigable by rafts and light boats for 80 km (50 miles), flows north and north-east with numerous rapids and shallows, and enters the Sea of Okhotsk. The Poronai River flows south-south-east to the Gulf of Patience or Shichiro Bay, on the south-east coast. Three other small streams enter the wide semicircular Gulf of Aniva or Higashifushimi Bay at the southern extremity of the island.

The northernmost point of Sakhalin is Cape of Elisabeth on Schmidt Peninsula, Cape Crillon is the southernmost point of island.


At the beginning of the 20th century, some 32,000 Russians (of whom over 22,150 were convicts) inhabited Sakhalin along with several thousand native inhabitants. The island's population has grown to 546,695 according to the 2002 census, 83 percent of whom are ethnic Russians and followed by Koreans at about 30,000 (5.5%), Ukrainians and Tatars. The native inhabitants consist of some 2,000 Nivkhs, 750 Oroks, 200 Evenks and some Yakuts. The Nivkhs in the north support themselves by fishing and hunting.

The capital Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a city of about 175,000, has a large Korean minority, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans, who were forcibly brought by the Japanese during World War II to work in the coal mines. Most of the population lives in the southern half of the island, centered mainly around Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and two ports, Kholmsk and Korsakov (population about 40,000 each).

The 400,000 Japanese citizen inhabitants of Sakhalin (including all indigenous Ainu) were deported following the conquest of the southern portion of the island by the Soviet Union in 1945 at the end of World War II.


Owing to the influence of the raw, foggy Sea of Okhotsk, the climate is quite cold, though still considerably less so than inland Siberia. At Dui the average yearly temperature is only 0.5° C (32.9° F) (January -15.9° C [3.4° F] ; July 16.1° C [61° F] ), 1.7° C (35.1° F) at Kusunai and 3.1° C (37.6° F) at Aniva (January, −12.5° C [9.5° F] ; July, 15.7°C [60.3° F] ). At Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky near Dui the annual range is from 27° C (80.6° F) in July to −39° C (−38.2° F) in January, while at Rykovsk in the interior the minimum is −45° C (−49° F). The rainfall averages 570 mm (22.4 in). Thick clouds for the most part shut out the sun; while the cold current from the Sea of Okhotsk, aided by north-east winds, brings immense ice-floes to the east coast in summer.

Flora and fauna

The whole of the island is covered with dense forests, mostly coniferous. The Yezo (or Yeddo) spruce ("Picea jezoensis"), the Sakhalin Fir ("Abies sachalinsis") and the Dahurian larch ("Larix gmelinii") are the chief trees; on the upper parts of the mountains are the Siberian dwarf pine ("Pinus pumila") and the Kurile bamboo ("Sasa kurilensis"). Birches, both Siberian silver birch ("Betula platyphylla") and Erman's birch ("B. ermanii"), poplar, elm, Bird cherry ("Prunus padus"), Japanese yew ("Taxus cuspidata") and several willows are mixed with the conifers; while farther south the maple, rowan and oak, as also the Japanese "Panax ricinifolium", the Amur cork tree ("Phellodendron amurense"), the Spindle ("Euonymus macropterus") and the vine ("Vitis thunbergii") make their appearance. The underwoods abound in berry-bearing plants (e.g. cloudberry, cranberry, crowberry, red whortleberry), Red-berried elder ("Sambucus racemosa"), wild raspberry and Spiraea.

Bears, foxes, otters and sables are numerous, as also the reindeer in the north, and the musk deer, hares, squirrels, rats and mice everywhere. The bird fauna is mostly the common east Siberian, but there are some endemic or near-endemic breeding species, notably the endangered Spotted Greenshank ("Tringa guttifer") and the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler ("Phylloscopus borealoides"). The rivers swarm with fish, especially species of salmon ("Oncorhynchus"). Numerous whales visit the sea coast, including the critically endangered Western Pacific Gray Whale,for which the coast of Sakhalin is the only known feeding ground. Other critically endengered whale species known to occur in this area are North Pacific Right Whale, Bowhead Whale and Beluga Whale.


Transport, especially by sea, is an important segment of the economy. Nearly all the cargo arriving for Sakhalin (and the Kuril Islands) is delivered by cargo boats, or by ferries, in railway wagons, through a sea ferry passage at Vanino-Kholmsk. The ports of Korsakov and Kholmsk are the largest and handle all kinds of goods, while coal and timber shipments often go through other ports. In 1999, a ferry service was opened between the ports of Korsakov and Wakkanai, Japan.

About 30% of all inland transport volume is realized through railways. Sakhalin has railway lines stretching from Nogliki in the north to Korsakov in the south. There is also a departmental narrow-gauge line at Nogliki–Okha, extending km to mi|228. With the existence of a ferry serving Vanino-Kholmsk, Sakhalin has railway connection with the railway network of the rest of Russia. The railways are only now being converted from the Japanese 1067-millimeter (3'-6") gauge to the Russian 1520-millimeter (5') gauge. [ [ "Sakhalin Railways"] - JSC Russian Railways] [ [ "Steam and the Railways of Sakhalin Island"] - International Steam Locomotives] All mainland rolling stock is regauged at Holmsk. The original Japanese D51 steam locomotives were used by the Soviet Railways until 1979.

Sakhalin is connected by regular flights to Moscow, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and other cities of Russia. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Airport has regularly scheduled international flights to Hakodate, Japan and Seoul and Busan, Korea. There are also charter flights to the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Niigata, and Sapporo and the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Dalian, and Harbin. The city was formerly served by Alaska Airlines from Anchorage, Petropavlovsk and Magadan.

The idea of building a fixed link between Sakhalin and the Russian mainland was first mooted in the 1930s. In the 1940s, an abortive attempt was made to link the island via a 10 km long undersea tunnel. [ [ Moscow Times "Railway a Gauge of Sakhalin's Future"] ] The workers supposedly made it almost to the half-way pointFact|date=February 2007 before the project was abandoned under Nikita Khrushchev. In 2000, the Russian government revived the idea, adding a suggestion that a 40 km long bridge could be constructed between Sakhalin and the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, providing Japan with a direct connection to the Euro-Asian railway network. It was claimed that construction work could begin as early as 2001. The idea was received skeptically by the Japanese government and appears to have been shelved, probably permanently, after the cost was estimated at as much as US$50 billion.


Sakhalin is a classic "resource economy" relying on oil and gas exports, coal mining, forestry, and fishing. Limited quantities of rye, wheat, oats, barley and vegetables are grown, although the growing season averages less than 100 days.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and economic liberalization, Sakhalin has experienced an oil with extensive petroleum exploration and mining by most large oil Multinational corporations. The oil and natural gas reserves contain an estimated 14 billion barrels (2.2 km³) of oil and 96 trillion cubic feet (2,700 km³) of gas and are being developed under production-sharing agreement contracts involving international oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell.

In 1996, two large consortiums signed contracts to explore for oil and gas off the northeast coast of the island, Sakhalin-I and Sakhalin-II. The two consortia were estimated to spend a combined $21 billion U.S. dollars on the two projects which almost doubled to $37 billion as of September 2006, triggering Russian governmental opposition. This will include an estimated $1 billion (US) to upgrade the island's infrastructure: roads, bridges, waste management sites, airports, railways, communications systems, and ports. In addition, Sakhalin-III-through-VI are in various early stages of development.

The Sakhalin I project, managed by Exxon Neftgas Limited (ENL), completed a production-sharing agreement (PSA) between the Sakhalin I consortium, the Russian Federation, and the Sakhalin government. Russia is in the process of building a 136 mile (219 km) pipeline across the Tatar Strait from Sakhalin Island to De-Kastri on the Russian mainland. From De-Kastri it will be loaded onto tankers for transport to East Asian markets, namely Japan, South Korea, and China.

The second consortium, Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. (Sakhalin Energy) is managing the Sakhalin II project. They completed the first ever production-sharing agreement (PSA) with the Russian Federation. Sakhalin Energy will build two 800 km pipelines running from the northeast of the island to Prigorodnoye (Prigorodnoe) in Aniva Bay at the southern end. The consortium will also build, at Prigorodnoye, the first ever liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant to be built in Russia. The oil and gas is also bound for East Asian markets.

Sakhalin II has come under fire from environmental groups, namely Sakhalin Environment Watch, for dumping dredging material in Aniva Bay. The groups were also worried about the offshore pipelines interfering with the migration of whales off the island. The consortium has (as of Jan 2006) re-routed the pipeline to avoid the whale migration. After a doubling in the projected cost, the Russian government threatened to halt the project for environmental reasons. [] There have been suggestions that the Russian government is using the environmental issues as a pretext for obtaining a greater share of revenues from the project and/or forcing involvement by the state-controlled Gazprom. The cost overruns (at least partly due to Shell's response to environmental concerns), are reducing the share of profits flowing to the Russian treasury. [] [] [,,542-2368981,00.html] []

In 2000, the oil and gas industry accounted for 57.5% of Sakhalin's industrial output. By 2006, it is expected to account for 80% of the island's industrial output. Sakhalin's economy is growing rapidly thanks to its oil and gas industry. By 2005, the island had become the largest recipient of foreign investment in Russia, followed by Moscow. Unemployment in 2002 was only 2%. However, all of the oil and gas is for export and none is available to the island's population.

As of 18 April 2007 Gazprom have taken a 50% plus one share interest in Sakhalin II by purchasing 50% of Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi's shares.

ister cities

*Gig Harbor, Washington

ee also

*Korean Air Flight 007 The 1983 shootdown of KAL 007 over Sakhalin


Further reading

*C. H. Hawes, "In the Uttermost East" (London, 1903). (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)
*"A Journey to Sakhalin" (1895), by Anton Chekhov, including:
**"Saghalien [or Sakhalin] Island" (1891–1895)
**"Across Siberia"
*"Sakhalin Unplugged" (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 2006) by Ajay Kamalakaran

External links

* [ The Sakhalin Times] - (Weekly English Language newspaper published in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk)
* [ "The Prehistory of Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands] - at the Sakhalin Regional Museum
* [ Map of the Sakhalin Hydrocarbon Region] - at Blackbourn Geoconsulting
* [ TransGlobal Highway - Proposed Sakhalin-Hokkaidō Friendship Tunnel]
* [ Photos of Sakhalin] - at Flickr
* [ Photos of Sakhalin] - at
* [ Sakhalin Autumn Photos] - at
* [ Steam and the Railways of Sakhalin]

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