Neha Patil (Editor)

Sakhalin Oblast

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Country  Russia
Economic region  Far Eastern
Administrative center  Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
Area  87,100 km²
Federal district  Far Eastern
Established  October 20, 1932
Area rank  37th
Team  PSK Sakhalin
Sakhalin Oblast russiatrekorgimagesphotosakhalinoblastviewjpg
Colleges and Universities  Sakhalin State University, Eurasian Open Institute
Points of interest  Gorny vozdukh, Sakhalin Regional Museum, Park of Culture and Rest, Sakhalin Regional Art Muse, Sakhalin Zoological and Bota
Destinations  Yuzhno‑Sakhalinsk, Korsakov, Kholmsk, Poronaysk, Nogliki

Sakhalin Oblast (Russian: Сахали́нская о́бласть, Sakhalinskaya oblast; [səxɐˈlʲinskəjə ˈobləsʲtʲ]) is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast) comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in Russia's far east. The oblast has an area of 87,100 square kilometers (33,600 sq mi). Its administrative center and the largest city is Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Population: 497,973 (2010 Census). Besides people from other parts of the former Soviet Union and the Korean Peninsula, the oblast is home to Nivkhs and Ainu, with the latter having lost their language in Sakhalin recently. Sakhalin is rich in natural gas and oil, and is Russia's second wealthiest federal subject.


Map of Sakhalin Oblast, Russia


Population: 497,973 (2010 Census); 546,695 (2002 Census); 709,629 (1989 Census).

Vital statistics for 2012
  • Births: 6 316 (12.8 per 1000)
  • Deaths: 6 841 (13.8 per 1000)
  • Total fertility rate:
    2009 - 1.59 | 2010 - 1.56 | 2011 - 1.57 | 2012 - 1.71 | 2013 - 1.81 | 2014 - 1.96 | 2015 - 2.02 | 2016 - 2.16(e)

    Ethnic groups: 409,786 ethnic Russians are the largest group, followed by 24,993 Koreans (see Sakhalin Koreans), 12,136 Ukrainians and a whole host of smaller groups, including 219 Japanese (0.05%) most of whom have been stranded there ever since the Soviet Union gained control of southern Sakhalin in 1945. The ethnic composition of the oblast in 2010 was as follows:

  • Russians: 86.5%
  • Koreans: 5.3%
  • Ukrainians: 2.6%
  • Tatars: 1%
  • Belarusians: 0.6%
  • 24,035 people were registered from administrative databases, and could not declare an ethnicity. It is estimated that the proportion of ethnicities in this group is the same as that of the declared group.
  • Religion

    According to a 2012 official survey 21.6% of the population of Sakhalin Oblast adheres to the Russian Orthodox Church, 4% are unaffiliated generic Christians, 2% adheres to other Orthodox churches or is an Orthodox believer without belonging to any church, 1% of the population adheres to the Slavic native faith (Rodnovery) or to local Siberian native faiths, 1% adheres to forms of Protestantism. In addition, 37% of the population declares to be "spiritual but not religious", 15% is atheist, and 18.4% follows other religions or did not give an answer to the question.


    The indigenous people of Sakhalin are the Nivkhs, Oroki, and Ainu minorities.

    The first Europeans to explore the waters around Sakhalin Island were Ivan Moskvitin and Martin Gerritz de Vries in the mid-1600s, Jean-François de La Pérouse in 1787 and Adam Johann von Krusenstern in 1805. Early maps of Sakhalin reflect the uncertainty of the age as to whether or not the land mass was attached to the Asian continent. The fact that it is not connected was conclusively established by Mamiya Rinzō, who explored and mapped Sakhalin in 1809 and definitively recorded by Russian navigator Gennady Nevelskoy in 1849.

    Japanese settlement on Sakhalin dates to at least the Edo period. Ōtomari was supposedly established in 1679, and cartographers of the Matsumae domain mapped the island, and named it “Kita-Ezo”. During the Ming and Qing dynasties China considered the island part of its empire, and included the Sakhalin peoples in its "system for subjugated peoples". At no time though was any attempt ever made to establish an Imperial military presence on the island. Japan, concerned about Russian expansion in northeast Asia, unilaterally proclaimed sovereignty over the whole island in 1845. Russian settlers ignored this claim (and the similar claim of China) however, and beginning in the 1850s, established coal mines, administration facilities, schools, prisons and churches on the island. The Xiazhes were killed or forced to move to the Asian mainland.

    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 Second Opium War, Russia forced the Qing to sign the Treaty of Aigun and Convention of Peking, under which China lost all territories north of Heilongjiang (Amur) and east of Ussuri, including Sakhalin, to Russia. A Czarist penal colony was established 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 passing 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, now known as Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

    After the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war northern Sakhalin ultimately became governed by the Russian SFSR as a part of Far Eastern Oblast (1922-1926), Far Eastern Krai (1926-1938) and Khabarovsk Krai (included Russian-administered territories of Sakhalin in 1938-1947). Sakhalin Oblast was established on 20 October 1932 as a part of Far Eastern Krai, and became part of Khabarovsk Krai upon the latter foundation in 1938.

    In August 1945, the Soviet Union took over the control of entire Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. The Soviet attack on South Sakhalin started on August 11, 1945, about a month before the Surrender of Japan in World War II. The 56th Rifle Corps consisting of the 79th Rifle Division, the 2nd Rifle Brigade, the 5th Rifle Brigade and the 214th Tank Brigade attacked the Japanese 88th Division. Although the Red Army outnumbered the Japanese by three times, they could not advance due to strong Japanese resistance. It was not until the 113th Rifle Brigade and the 365th Independent Naval Infantry Rifle Battalion from Sovietskaya Gavan (Советская Гавань) landed on Tōrō (塔路), a seashore village of western Sakhalin on August 16 that the Soviets broke the Japanese defense line. Japanese resistance grew weaker after this landing. Actual fighting continued until August 21. However, this was relatively limited in scope. From August 22 to August 23, most of the remaining Japanese units announced truce. The Soviets completed the conquest of Sakhalin on August 25, 1945 by occupying the capital of Sakhalin, then known as Toyohara. Japanese sources claim that 20,000 civilians were killed during the invasion.


    Soviet-conquered areas of South Sakhalin and Kuril Islands were declared a South Sakhalin Oblast by the Soviet authorities in a decree issued on 2 February 1946. Almost a year later, on January 2, 1947 the South Sakhalin Oblast was disbanded and included into Sakhalin Oblast, forming present-day boundary of the latter. On the same day Sakhalin Oblast was excluded from Khabarovsk Krai. The Japanese who had been living there before mostly repatriated to Japan, but at least one-third of Koreans were refused repatriation; stuck on the island, they and their descendants became known as the Sakhalin Koreans.

    The status of the southern Kuril Islands remains disputed. The issue remains a major strain on Japanese-Russian relations. Even now, no official peace treaty has been signed between the two nations.

    Japan renounced its claims of sovereignty over southern Sakhalin in the Treaty of San Francisco (1952), having already abolished Karafuto Prefecture as a legal entity on June 1, 1949. However, that treaty did not explicitly approve Russian sovereignty over southern Sakhalin. From Japan's official position, Sakhalin's attribution has not yet been determined, and it is marked as No Man's Land on Japanese maps. Nevertheless, Japan currently has a Consulate-General in Sakhalin's capital city.

    On September 1, 1983, the Soviets downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007, carrying 269 occupants, including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald, west of Sakhalin Island near the smaller Moneron Island.

    The 7.0 Mw Neftegorsk earthquake shook the former settlement of Neftegorsk with a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). Total damage was $64.1–300 million, with 1,989 deaths and 750 injured. The settlement was not rebuilt.


    As of the 2002 census, 333 residents of the oblast still identified themselves as ethnic Japanese. Data on Ainu population is not available; "Ainu" may have been either included in the "Other" category or the Ainus may have identified themselves as "Japanese" during the census.

    Most of the 888 Japanese people living in Russia (2010 Census) are of mixed Japanese-Ainu ancestry, although they do not acknowledge it (full Japanese ancestry gives them the right of visa-free entry to Japan).

    Post-war population

    According to the first post World War II Soviet Census in 1959, the population of the oblast numbered 649,405. That figure dropped slightly to 615,652 in 1970 before rising to 661,778 in 1979 and peaking at 710,242 in 1989. Throughout this time period, the Russian population increased slightly in percentage from 77.7% in 1959 to 81.6% in 1989. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the population of the oblast has declined sharply. Compared with the Soviet 1989 Census, the population of the Oblast according to the Russian 2002 Census had declined by 163,547 or 23.0%, to 546,695. The 2010 population of 497,973 recorded in 2010 is the lowest on record since the oblast was created, although the decline was less (8.9%) than during the 1990s.

    Oil, gas, and coal

    Several Russian, French, South Korean, British, Canadian and American oil and gas companies have been either drilling or prospecting for oil and gas on the island since the mid-1990s. Coal and some manganese had been mined there by the Soviet authorities since the 1920s.

    Law and government

    The governor Alexander Vadimovich Khoroshavin was appointed on August 9, 2007.


    Due to restrictions, the entire Sakhalin Oblast and its internal and territorial waters except for Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk are considered to be border zone which means that the freedom of movement for foreigners is dramatically restricted and any movement outside of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk requires registration to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Border Guard. Scuba diving and recreation on the seacoast is permitted only in places defined by the Border Guard.

    Sister relations

  • Hokkaidō, Japan
  • References

    Sakhalin Oblast Wikipedia