Sakhalin is a unique territory and the only Russian region located on islands (including Sakhalin Island, the Kuril Islands, and about 56 nearby islands). Sakhalin is situated between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, along the eastern coastline of Russian Federation and to the north of the Japanese Hokkaido Island. It is famous for its fauna and flora, mineral sources and healing mud, volcanoes and waterfalls, archaeological monuments and nature reserves. Currently, of course, it is more known for its oil exploration, and most foreign oil companies are presented on the island.
The capital of Sakhalin territory is Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a city with a population of about 180,000 people. Most of the population live in the southern part of the island, including Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and two ports – Kholmsk and Korsakov (population 50,000 each). There is also a large Korean expat community, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans, who were forcibly brought onto the island by the Japanese during World War II to work in the coalmines.
Sakhalin was inhabited back in the Neolithic Stone Age. Flint implements, like those found in Siberia, have been found there as well as polished stone hatchets and primitive pottery with decorations.
In the 17th century, Sakhalin was explored by Russians and subsequently colonized by Russia and Japan in the 18th and 19th century. It was under joint Russo-Japanese control (formalized by the Treaty of Shimoda, 1855) until it passed entirely to Russia in 1875, when Japan obtained the Kuril Islands in return. Later, Sakhalin became a czarist place of exile.
In 1905, Russia retained the portion of Sakhalin north of latitude 50° by the Treaty of Portsmouth. The Japanese territory was named Karafuto, and this name was sometimes applied to the whole island. Both countries colonized extensively and reduced the native population to a minority.
After World War II, the Japanese holdings were transferred to the USSR and nearly all the Japanese population was repatriated. In 1951, Japan renounced all claims to Sakhalin. Ownership of the island was transferred to the Soviet Union and its capital was renamed Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk ("Southern Sakhalin"), which was assigned city status earlier in 1946. Before that, it was a small Russian settlement called Vladimirovka, founded by convicts in 1882. In 1905 it was renamed Toyohara being the capital of Japanese Karafuto Prefecture.
With a view to attract foreign investment, the island's parliament declared the island a free trade zone in 1990, and Sakhalin residents began trading with the Japanese. The beginning of the 21st century brought the development of offshore oil and gas fields and a consequent economic boom.
The main Sakhalin attraction is its wild nature with unique and fascinating landscapes: the largest lake in Sakhalin – Tunaicha lake; he highest point in the middle Sakhalin unique by its caves and fossils – Vaida mountain; Moneron and Tulenii (Seal) islands with preservations of unique flora and fauna; highest waterfall in Russia – Waterfall Ilya Muromets, which is 141 meter high; and Mineral springs and healing mud.
Besides, Sakhalin has cultural attractions as well: the Railway connecting Kholmsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk built by Japanese in the beginning of 20th century; Sakhalin Lore Museum founded in 1896; Sakhalin Regional Art Museum and Chekhov Museum opened in 1896.