The colonization of the island also started from two sides in the first years of the 19th century. Russia and Japan competed for almost a hundred and fifty years for the control of Sakhalin. The northern part went under Russian and the southern under Japanese rule, and although Japan resigned about it in the 1875 St. Petersburg Treaty, in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 they regained it and organized it into the new province of Karafuto. At the end of World War II, the Soviets occupied it, who in 1949 resettled the half million strong Japanese population to Japan – all those whom they had not deported earlier to labor camps in North Sakhalin and Siberia. They expelled together with the Japanese also the Ainu natives oppressed by the latter, while the Korean forced laborers, imported during the war, could stay: this is how South Sakhalin became the Soviet Union’s largest ethnic Korean territory.
The following one hundred and twenty photos are from the first “Russian” period of the island, from between 1894 and 1905, at least they are spreading with this indication on the Russian web. Nothing more is known about them: neither their maker, nor their purpose or place of custody. Many of them figure in the great 1903 monograph of the island, Vlas Dorosevich’s Sakhalin (Katorga), but a number of others do not, and their quality is generally better than of those in the book. It is possible that, similarly to the photos by Dmitry Ermakov, they were made by local photographers during special expeditions, to be later sold in their studio where they were also bought for book illustrations. The images represent the natives as well as the new settlements and the big road and railroad buildings, bridges and mines, together with the Russian forced laborers working there. If you know more about them, please write us.