Sakhalin Oblast
Сахалинская область
Coat of arms of Sakhalin Oblast
Coordinates: 50°33′N 142°36′E / 50.550°N 142.600°E / 50.550; 142.600
Federal districtFar Eastern[1]
Economic regionFar Eastern[2]
Administrative centerYuzhno-Sakhalinsk
 • BodyOblast Duma
 • GovernorValery Limarenko[3]
 • Total87,101 km2 (33,630 sq mi)
 • Rank37th
 • Total466,609
 • Estimate 
 • Rank75th
 • Density5.4/km2 (14/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Rural
Time zoneUTC+11 (MSK+8 Edit this on Wikidata[7])
ISO 3166 codeRU-SAK
License plates65
OKTMO ID64000000
Official languagesRussian[8]

Sakhalin Oblast (Russian: Сахали́нская о́бласть, tr. Sakhalínskaya óblast', IPA: [səxɐˈlʲinskəjə ˈobləsʲtʲ]) is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast) comprising the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in the Russian Far East. The oblast has an area of 87,100 square kilometers (33,600 sq mi). Its administrative center and largest city is Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. As of the 2021 Census, the oblast has a population of roughly 500,000.[10]

The vast majority of the oblast's residents are ethnic Russians, with a small minority of Sakhalin Koreans. Sakhalin Oblast is rich in natural gas and oil, and is Russia's fourth wealthiest federal subject and wealthiest oblast.[11] It borders by sea Khabarovsk Krai to the west and Kamchatka Krai to the north, along with Hokkaido, Japan to the south.


See also: Sakhalin § History

The etymology of Sakhalin can be traced back to the Manchu hydronym Sahaliyan Ula (Manchu: ᠰᠠᡥᠠᠯᡳᠶᠠᠨ
) for "Black River" (i.e. the Amur River). Sakhalin shares this etymology with the Chinese province of Heilongjiang (Chinese for "black dragon river (Chinese: 黑龙江, Hēilóngjiāng)").

The indigenous people of Sakhalin are the Nivkhs, Oroks, 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 the 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.

Aleksandrovskaya Prison in Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky in 1903

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 Ōtomari. 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, 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 administered by Japan as Karafuto-chō (樺太庁), with the capital Toyohara, now known as Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Anton Chekhov museum in Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky. It is the house where he stayed in Sakhalin during 1890

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 the 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.

Shakhtyorsk narrow gauge railway 750 mm (2 ft 5+12 in), Central Processing Plant in Shakhtyorsk
This Japanese D51 steam locomotive stands outside present day Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Railway Station Sakhalin Island, Russia


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.[12] 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.[13] 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 Karafuto Prefecture was abolished by Japan as a legal entity on June 1, 1949.

The Treaty of San Francisco (1952) provides, that Japan renounces "all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of September 5, 1905". However, the status of the southern Kuril Islands remains disputed, as Japan doesn't consider them to be a part of the Kuril Islands (calling them "Northern Territories" instead) and, thus, claims sovereignty over them as "unaffected" by the 1952 renunciation. The issue remains a major strain on Japanese-Russian relations. Even now, no official peace treaty has been signed between the two nations.[14]

In addition, because the treaty did not explicitly specify cession of the renounced areas to the Soviet Union, Japan officially considers South Sakhalin and northern Kuril Islands to be a territories of undetermined ownership and these areas are marked as No Man's Land with white color on Japanese maps, although Japan currently has a Consulate-General in Sakhalin's capital city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, located on the renounced territory.[15]

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.

In 1995 the 7.0 MwNeftegorsk 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. On 24 April 1996 Sakhalin Oblast, alongside Rostov Oblast, signed a power-sharing agreement with the federal government, granting it autonomy.[16] This agreement would be abolished on 4 March 2002.[17]


Main article: Ainu in Russia

As of the 2002 census, 333 residents of the oblast still identified themselves as ethnic Japanese.[citation needed]

Most of the 888 Japanese people living in Russia (2010 Census) are also of mixed Japanese-Ainu ancestry, although they do not acknowledge it (full Japanese ancestry gives them the right of visa-free entry to Japan).[18]

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.[19] Coal and some manganese had been mined there by the Soviet authorities since the 1920s.


The building of the Sakhalin Oblast Government House, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia

The governor Alexander Khoroshavin was appointed on August 9, 2007.[citation needed] He was succeeded by Oleg Kozhemyako on March 25, 2015, in 2018 he was replaced by Valery Limarenko.

Administrative divisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of Sakhalin Oblast


Due to restrictions, the entire Sakhalin Oblast and its internal and territorial waters except for Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk are considered to be a 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.[20]


Population: 466,609 (2021 Census);[21] 497,973 (2010 Census);[22] 546,695 (2002 Census);[23] 709,629 (1989 Census).[24]

Historical population
Source: Census data

Vital statistics for 2022:[25][26]

Total fertility rate (2022):[27]
1.81 children per woman

Life expectancy (2021):[28]
Total — 68.42 years (male — 63.72, female — 73.41)

Ethnic groups:[10] 394,794 ethnic Russians are the largest group, followed by 16,060 Koreans (see Sakhalin Koreans), 3,634 Ukrainians and a host of less numerous ethnic groups, including 93 Japanese and Ainu (0.02%), who were native to the region and opposed the Soviet acquisition of the territory following World War II. The ethnic composition of the oblast in 2021 by percentages was as follows:


Religion in Sakhalin Oblast as of 2012 (Sreda Arena Atlas)[30][31]
Russian Orthodoxy
Other Orthodox
Other Christians
Rodnovery and other native faiths
Spiritual but not religious
Atheism and irreligion
Other and undeclared

According to a 2012 survey[30] 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.[30]


  1. ^ Президент Российской Федерации. Указ №849 от 13 мая 2000 г. «О полномочном представителе Президента Российской Федерации в федеральном округе». Вступил в силу 13 мая 2000 г. Опубликован: "Собрание законодательства РФ", No. 20, ст. 2112, 15 мая 2000 г. (President of the Russian Federation. Decree #849 of May 13, 2000 On the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in a Federal District. Effective as of May 13, 2000.).
  2. ^ Госстандарт Российской Федерации. №ОК 024-95 27 декабря 1995 г. «Общероссийский классификатор экономических регионов. 2. Экономические районы», в ред. Изменения №5/2001 ОКЭР. (Gosstandart of the Russian Federation. #OK 024-95 December 27, 1995 Russian Classification of Economic Regions. 2. Economic Regions, as amended by the Amendment #5/2001 OKER. ).
  3. ^ Щербина стала исполняющим обязанности врио главы Сахалинской области
  4. ^ "Сведения о наличии и распределении земель в Российской Федерации на 01.01.2019 (в разрезе субъектов Российской Федерации)". Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography. Archived from the original on February 9, 2022. Retrieved August 29, 2023.
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  8. ^ Official throughout the Russian Federation according to Article 68.1 of the Constitution of Russia.
  9. ^ Постановление ВЦИК от 20.10.1932 "О реорганизации системы административно-территориального деления Дальневосточного края" Archived September 10, 2017, at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
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  11. ^ "Валовой региональный продукт".
  12. ^ Указ Президиума ВС СССР от 02.02.1946 "Об образовании Южно-Сахалинской области в составе Хабаровского края РСФСР" (in Russian)
  13. ^ Указ Президиума Верховного Совета СССР от 2 января 1947 года "О ликвидации Южно-Сахалинской области и включении ее территории в состав Сахалинской области" (in Russian)
  14. ^ Hindell, Juliet (April 18, 1998). "Russia and Japan's island row". BBC News. Retrieved January 18, 2009.
  15. ^ Mine, Yoshiki (August 23, 2015). "北方領土問題は「千島20島」の帰属問題である 択捉・国後・歯舞・色丹だけの問題ではない". Toyo Keizai Online. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
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  24. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 г. Численность наличного населения союзных и автономных республик, автономных областей и округов, краёв, областей, районов, городских поселений и сёл-райцентров [All Union Population Census of 1989: Present Population of Union and Autonomous Republics, Autonomous Oblasts and Okrugs, Krais, Oblasts, Districts, Urban Settlements, and Villages Serving as District Administrative Centers]. Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года [All-Union Population Census of 1989] (in Russian). Институт демографии Национального исследовательского университета: Высшая школа экономики [Institute of Demography at the National Research University: Higher School of Economics]. 1989 – via Demoscope Weekly.
  25. ^ "Information on the number of registered births, deaths, marriages and divorces for January to December 2022". ROSSTAT. Archived from the original on March 2, 2023. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
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  27. ^ Суммарный коэффициент рождаемости [Total fertility rate]. Russian Federal State Statistics Service (in Russian). Archived from the original (XLSX) on August 10, 2023. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  28. ^ "Демографический ежегодник России" [The Demographic Yearbook of Russia] (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service of Russia (Rosstat). Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  29. ^ "Перепись-2010: русских становится больше". December 19, 2011. Archived from the original on January 7, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  30. ^ a b c "Arena: Atlas of Religions and Nationalities in Russia". Sreda, 2012.
  31. ^ 2012 Arena Atlas Religion Maps. "Ogonek", № 34 (5243), 27/08/2012. Retrieved 21/04/2017. Archived.