( , ; Japanese
: or ; or 薩哈林/萨哈林
), 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.
peoples of the island are the Sakhalin Ainu
, and Nivkhs
. Most Ainu relocated to Hokkaidō when Japanese were expelled from the island in
1949. Sakhalin was claimed by both Russia and Japan in the
course of the 19th and 20th centuries, which led to bitter disputes
between the two countries over the control of the
European names derived from misinterpretation of a Manchu name sahaliyan ula angga
hada (peak of the mouth of Amur River). Sahaliyan
Manchu and refers to Amur River (sahaliyan ula
Japanese name, comes from Ainu
Kamuy-Kara-Puto-Ya-Mosir (Kara Puto), which means "God of mouth of
water land". The name was used 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
Sakhalin are the Ainu
on the southern
half, the Oroks in the central region, and the Nivkhs on the
northern part. Chinese chronicled the Xianbei
had a way of life based on fishing.
The Mongol Empire
made some efforts to
subjugate the Guwei (Sakhalin) people from 1280s. By 1308, all
inhabitants of Sakhalin had surrendered to the Mongols
. They paid tributes to the Great Khans until the end of their regime in China (1368).The Chinese in the Ming dynasty knew the island as Kuyi ( ), and later as Kuye (
). There is some evidence that the Ming eunuch admiral Yishiha
reached Sakhalin in 1413 during one of his expeditions to the lower
Amur, and granted
Ming titles to a local chieftain. If that was the case,
the island would at least nominally be included under the
administration of the Nurgal Command
Post, which was set up by Yishiha near today's village of
Tyr on the
Russian mainland in 1411, and operated until the mid-1430s.
A Ming boundary stone still exists on the island.
to Wei Yuan's work Military history of
the Qing Dynasty ( ), 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
Nevertheless Russia started occupying the island,
with an army made up of convicts from the 18th century onwards.
Empire also claimed sovereignty over the island.
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 Adam Johann von 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. Alarmed by the visits
of European powers, Japan proclaimed
its sovereignty over the whole island in 1807.
basis of it being an extension of Hokkaidō, geographically and
culturally, Japan again 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
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, and churches on the
island. Japan proclaimed
its sovereignty over Sakhalin (which they called Karafuto) yet again in 1865 and the government
built a stele announcing this at the northern extremity of the
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.
the Opium War, Russia forced China to sign
the Treaty of Aigun ( 1858 ) and
Convention of Peking ( 1860 ),
under which China lost claim to all territories north of Heilongjiang (Amur) and east of
Ussuri, including Sakhalin, to Russia.
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
, when they ceded it to Russia in exchange for the Kuril Islands.
After the Russo-Japanese War
Russia and Japan signed the Treaty
of 1905, which resulted in the southern part of
the island below 50° N reverting to Japan; Russia retained the
other three-fifths of the area. South Sakhalin was administrated by Japan as
, with the capital Toyohara, today's Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and had a large number of migrants from Japan and
1945, according to Yalta Conference agreements, the Soviet Union took over the control of Sakhalin.
Soviet Union attack on South Sakhalin was part of the Manchurian Strategic
and started on 11 August 1945, four days
before the Surrender of Japan
after the bombings 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 a strong presence here, and developed much
not until the 113th Rifle Brigade and the 365th Independent Naval
Infantry Rifle Battalion from Sovetskaya Gavan landed at , a seashore village of western Sakhalin
on 16 August, that the Soviets broke the Japanese defence
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
Out of some 448,000 Japanese residents of South Sakhalin that lived
there in 1944, a significant number were evacuated to Japan
the last days of the war, but the remaining 300,000 or so stayed
behind for several more years. While the predominant majority of
Sakhalin Japanese were eventually evacuated to Japan in 1946–1950,
tens of thousands of Sakhalin
(and a number of their Japanese spouses) remained in
the Soviet Union.
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. Japan has granted
mutual exchange visas for Japanese and Ainu families divided by the
change in status. Recently, economic and political cooperation has
gradually improved between the two nations despite
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 who claimed it was a spy plane.
All 269 passengers and crew died, including a U.S. Congressman,
28, 1995, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale occurred, killing
2,000 people in the town of Neftegorsk.
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
Strait or Strait of La Pérouse.
Sakhalin is the largest island in Russia,
being 948 km
(589 miles) long, and wide,
with an area of .
Its orography and geological structure are imperfectly known. One
theory is that Sakhalin arose from the Sakhalin island arc
. 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
, , while the Eastern
Sakhalin Mountains's highest peak, Mount
, 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
, 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.
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.
rivers: the Tym, long and
navigable by rafts and light boats for , 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.
other small streams enter the wide semicircular Gulf of Aniva or Higashifushimi Bay at the southern extremity of
The northernmost point of Sakhalin is Cape of Elisabeth
on Schmidt Peninsula
, while Cape Crillon
is the southernmost point of the
At the beginning of the 20th century, some 32,000 Russians (of whom
over 22,000 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
and followed by Korean
at about 30,000 (5.5%), Ukrainians
native inhabitants consist of some 2,000 Nivkhs
and 750 Oroks
. The Nivkhs
in the north support themselves by fishing and hunting.
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
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.
Demographics for 2008
- Births: 6,416
- Deaths: 7,572
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
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
the Dahurian larch
) are the chief trees; on the upper parts of the
mountains are the Siberian dwarf
) and the Kurile bamboo
, both Siberian silver birch
) and Erman's birch
, Bird cherry
), Japanese yew
) and several willows are mixed with the conifers;
while farther south the maple
, as also the Japanese
, the Amur
), the Spindle
) make their
appearance. The underwoods abound in berry-bearing plants (e.g.
whortleberry), Red-berried elder
), wild raspberry
as are reindeer
in the north, and musk
deer, hares, squirrels, rats and mice everywhere. The bird
fauna is mostly the common east Siberian, but
there are some endemic
near-endemic breeding species, notably the endangered Spotted Greenshank
) and the Sakhalin
). The rivers
swarm with fish, especially species of salmon
). Numerous whales visit the sea coast,
including the critically
Western Pacific Gray
, for which the coast of Sakhalin is the only known
feeding ground. Other critically endangered whale species known to
occur in this area are the North Pacific Right Whale
and the 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.
a ferry service was opened between the ports of Korsakov and
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.
also a departmental narrow-gauge line at Nogliki–Okha, extending .
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 gauge to the Russian gauge. All
mainland rolling stock is regauged at Holmsk. The original Japanese
D51 steam locomotives
by the Soviet Railways until 1979.
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.
island was formerly served by Alaska
Airlines from Anchorage, Petropavlovsk and Magadan.
The idea of building a fixed link
Sakhalin and the Russian mainland was first mooted in the 1930s.
1940s, an abortive attempt was made to link the island via a
10 km long undersea tunnel.
workers supposedly made it almost to the half-way point before the
project was abandoned under Nikita
. 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.
November 2008, Russian president Dmitry
Medvedev announced government support for the construction of
Tunnel, along with the required re-gauging of the island's
railways to Russian standard gauge, at an estimated cost of 300–330
Sakhalin is a classic "resource economy
" relying on
coal mining, forestry
, and fishing
. Limited quantities of rye
are grown, although the growing season
averages less than 100
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and economic
liberalization, Sakhalin has experienced an oil boom
with extensive petroleum exploration and
mining by most large oil multinational corporations
oil and natural gas reserves contain an estimated 14 billion barrel
(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
In 1996, two large consortiums signed contracts to explore for oil
and gas off the northeast coast of the island, Sakhalin-I
. The two consortia were estimated to
spend a combined $21 billion U.S.
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
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
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.    
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%.
As of 18 April 2007 Gazprom have taken a 50% plus one share
interest in Sakhalin II by purchasing 50% of Shell, Mitsui and
- 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