Time Table of Sakhalin Island

1 A.D.
Sengai-kyo (ancient Chinese geography book) says that the northern limit of Japan is located at Amur River.
Nihon-shyoki (ancient Japanese history book) says that there was a fierce battle between Japanese army led by Admiral Abe-no-hirafu with 200 battle ships and Tsungus at the mouth of a big river (Amur River?) located on the north of Japan.
According to the Japanese narrative book, Konjaku Monogatari, after a lost battle, Japanese Samurai, Abe-no-yoritoki and his clan, fled to the north of Japan with a big ship. They discovered a huge river (Amur River?) and went up it during one month. Feared when they met one thousand cavalrymen (Mongols?) crossing over the river on a raft by attaching together their horses, they returned back to Japan.
Japanese Buddhist monk, Nichiji-shyounin went to Sakhalin in order to evangelize the island.
Kaitou-shyokoku-ki (ancient Korean geography book describing her eastern countries such as Japan and Maritime Territory) says that the northern frontier of Japan is in the north of Amur River.
A boss of Sakhalin Ainu met Lord Matsumae who was controlling the northern frontier of Japan and accepted to become his vassal.
Matsumae sent Murakami-kamonzaemon to explore the island. Next year, another explorer, Koudou-shouemon, reached the village of Shikka, located about 49th parallel.
The central government of Tokyo asked each lord to send him a map of their own lands in order to make up the complete map of Japan. Lord Matsumae sent a map including the whole Sakhalin, Kuril Islands and Kamchatka peninsula. This map, called Shoho-okuni-ezu is the oldest existing map that draws this part of the world.
Matsumae established the town of Ootomari (Kushunkotan in Ainu, actual Korsakov), located on the southern shore of Sakhalin, in order to control the commerce with aborigines (Ainu and Nivkh). It became the biggest Japanese treading post in Sakhalin with more than one hundred houses. Each summer, aborigines living in north Sakhalin came there to do a business with Japanese.
Russian frigate Junona directed by Chvostoff attacked Ootomari, the largest Japanese trading post of Sakhalin and burned warehouses after looting them. They brought then Japanese merchants to Kamchatka as prisoners. Next year, they attacked Etorofu Island (Iturup in Russian) in the southern Kuril chain then Rutaka on the west of Ootomari.
The central government sent Mamiya Rinzo to Sakhalin in order to explore the northern part of Sakhalin, unknown for Japanese until then.
Russia put her flag at the northern limit of Sakhalin and declared it as her territory. Then, she established a military base at Ootomari near Japanese treading post, despite of the protestation of Japanese, to intimidate them.
First negotiation to settle a frontier between the two countries was held in 1855 at Shimoda, a tiny town located at 50km south-west of Tokyo. Japanese chief negotiator was Kawaji Toshiakira and Russian, Evfimii Vasilievich Putiatin. This is Treaty of Shimoda and stipulates the following: Russia takes North Kurils and Japan South Kurils but there was no settlement about Sakhalin i.e. two nationals can live in this island as before, Japanese in the south and Russians in the north, without fixing the frontier. Russia accepted to destroy the military base of Ootomari.
Admiral Muravieff, governor of East Siberia entered in the bay of Tokyo with 7 battle ships and threatened Japanese to accept the Russian belonging of Sakhalin, but it was refused.
By taking advantage of Taiping rebellion in China, Russia took the Maritime Territory, where actual Vladivostok is, by threatening Chinese to declare a war, if they didn't give it up. This is Treaty of Pekin (1860). From then the Russian pressure to Japan increased: they argued that because Nivkh, inhabitants of North Sakhalin, had obeyed the Chinese government, Sakhalin should be Russian too.
The central government sent Okamoto Kanpo to the northern limit of Sakhalin and put a stele declaring the whole island as Japanese possession.
Japan had to accept the convention of Saint Petersburg that stipulates that Sakhalin is a condominium between two countries. As soon as Sakhalin became a condominium, Russian threat increased in force. They sent Cossack's troops that set fire to Japanese settlements and tried to provoke diplomatic incidents.
Very ill equipped and unable to respond to the Russian military power, Japanese had to give up very rich Sakhalin Island in exchange of icy and uninhabitable North Kurils that had belonged to them before. This is Treaty of Saint Petersburg.
After the Russo-Japanese war, Japanese recovered partially the sovereignty of Sakhalin but should give up North Sakhalin that they occupied during the war. The island was divided into two sectors and the frontier between two countries was settled at 50th parallel. This is Treaty of Portsmouth.
During the occupation of the southern Siberia by the Allied Powers, several hundred Japanese (350 workers and 370 soldiers) were slaughtered in the prison of Nikolayevsk upon Amur, the town located in South Siberia near Sakhalin, by Bolsheviks. In reprisal, Japan occupied North Sakhalin and this provoked in turn a protestation of Americans and Soviets. Finally in January 1925, the two countries signed a treaty and the Japanese army withdrew from North Sakhalin in exchange of a right of petroleum's concession. The Soviet government expressed a sincere regret to the massacre of Nikolayevsk.
On August 8 1945, denouncing the pact of neutrality between two countries, valid until spring 1946, Russia entered the war against Japan. The Red Army crossed the 50th parallel, frontier between 2 countries in Sakhalin, and went down to the south. On August 15, Japan accepted the declaration of Potsdam to end the war. Feared that the cease-fire line becomes the definitive frontier (they advanced only 100 km in Sakhalin and even worse no Russian in Kuril islands), they continued to bombard Japanese towns and military positions, and even prepared to invade Hokkaido. During this period, several thousand civilians were killed by Russians. The worst case was the attack, by Russian submarines, of the 3 Japanese ships transporting refugees from Sakhalin and made 1700 victims. Finally they stopped to fight, on August 22. Then, 600,000 Japanese, mostly soldiers from Sakhalin and Manchuria have been brought to Siberia's labor camps and 60,000 among them have never returned to the homeland.
Conference of San Francisco that should settle the definitive frontier between two countries was boycotted by the Russian delegation. They refused to sign the final document, because it didn't say clearly that south Sakhalin and Kurils should become Russian territories. So the frontier between 2 countries remains undefined until now.
Soviet war planes brought down a Boeing of Korean Air Lines and killed 240 passengers aboard above South Sakhalin. It is a totally illegal action for the international law because that land don't yet officially belong to Russia.
A huge earthquake rocked North Sakhalin and destroyed completely the town of Neftegorsk. Boris Yeltsin refused an immediate Japanese rescue, fearing that the territorial dispute should appear again before the international scene. Total victims rose to 1800 people.

Back to the home page

Last update: July 17, 2020