Be Prepared for Winter
If you head this way in winter time, make sure that you are well prepared clothes-wise. You need a good pair of winter boots with adequate tread to help stay upright; thermals for under your regular clothes; a good winter jacket (goretex or similar is advisable); thick waterproof gloves; decent hat.
Also recommended would be hand cream - the humidity is very low so your skin can dry out very quickly. Blizzards can last several days, and it can then take another 2 or 3 days for the city to get back to normality - roads cleared, pathways open etc. The temparature can drop scarily low - January and February can see teperatures as low as -25 Celcius in the city.
In Soviet times, at the end of the winter, entire communities would get together on a specific Saturday to clean up the town of all the debris and litter that accumulated during the season. This day was called Subbotnik (Subbotta or ñóááîòà is Russian for Saturday).
I have not seen this in the 5 years I have lived here - until today. Many people, old and young, breaking up the last remnants of ice, sweeping away the litter, clearing the pavements. It is still pretty cold and miserable out, but that didn't seem to stop anyone.
Europe in the Far East
Sakhalin is an island located in the far east of Russia, in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Tartar Straits separate it from De Kastri on the Russian mainland, and the Straits of La Peruse are all that stand between us and Hokkaido, Northern Japan.
Up until the Second World War, the southern half of the island was Japanese and the northern half was Russian. During this time, it served as a Russian gulag.
After the war, the island was united under Russian ownership. Today there is still an ongoing dispute between Japan and Russia over ownership of some of the minor Kuril islands that stretch south of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The locals in the city are predominately Caucasian/European with a sizeable minority of Koreans, brought over by the Japanese as slave workers during WWII, and made to stay by the Soviet Russians.
There are also quite a few indiginous tribes of semi nomadic reindeer herders etc. who live to the north of the island. These people are sadly struggling to maintain their traditional way of life, and seem to be suffering significantly as the island rapidly moves into the 21st century.
Yuzhno Sakhalinsk, generally called just Yuzhno, is the administrative capital of the island. It is home to around 200,000 people and is the largest city on the island.
The main industries located here are administrative ones in relation to its regional importance, plus many main offices for the numerous fishing and natural resources companies.
Oil production has long been a feature of Sakhalin industry, but until the arrival of the international oil majors in the 1990's, all production was from onshore sites. Now there is huge investment in the offshore continental shelf to the east and north of the island.
"Winter on Sakhalin"
Winters are pretty tough - blizzards and typhoons can last for days, dumping metres of snow on the island. However, the remarkable perseverance of the people means that they very quickly manage to overcome the obstacles, and life resumes as normal very soon afterwards.
Winters are long, from mid November until April, but with the cold lingering until May and even June at times. However, with the exception of the occassional typhoons that bring the massive dumps of snow, the weather during this period is usually pretty good, with lots of blue skies and light winds at most.
The immediate after effects of the typhoons show just how capable the locals are - whereas a couple of centimetres of snow would bring my home city of Aberdeen to a halt, a few hours after a dump of several feet and people are back out and about, roads are being cleared and things are returning to normal.
"Lenin Square in Winter"
Not a lot to say about this - I just like the picture
"The Orthodox Cathedral"
Late March 2006 and I saw some catkins on a tree - it cheered me up, even though all around was still snow and ice. Now winter is finally letting go a little, but this brings a new problem...
The city ordinance does not extend to a drainage system so when all the snow and ice melts, it doesn't really go anywhere, but pools in these giant puddles, or course along the roads in these mini torrents that make life for the already embattled pedestrian even more difficult.
"Winter is Leaving"
Another nice picture, I think.
"Summer in the City"
Long, hot, dusty days - very welcome after so many cold winter days!
Summers can be quiet here, as many people spend their summers en mass in the hills, woods, or on the coast, hunting, fishing and relaxing.
Many people have dachas, little country cottages where they grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables.
"Summer Outside the City"
Velikano Bay is hard to find, but well worth the effort - stunning scenery and relatively few people, unlike the crowded, dirty beaches of Okhotsk or Aniva.
Velikano Bay means, if my pidgeon Russian is correct, Great Bay, and certainly the wonderful natural arch makes it very imposing and special.
"Beach at Velikano"
There are so many great views of Velikano - words cannot describe them in nearly enough detail...
"Reaping the Late Summer Harvest"
The seas around Sakhalin are wonderfully fertile, with literally millions of Salmon trying to get upstream to spawn. As easy as (forgive me...) shooting fish in a barrel, the locals make full use of the opportunities to stock up on the roe - the meat is apparently not so palateable this late in the fish's life.