SAKHALIN, or Saghalien, a large elongated island in the North Pacific, lying between 45° 57, and 54° 24, N., off the coast of the Russian Maritime Province in East Siberia, divided between the Russian and Japanese empires. Its proper Ainu name, Karafuto or Karaftu, has been restored to the island by the Japanese since 1905. Sakhalin is separated from the mainland by the narrow and shallow Strait of Tartary or Mamiya Strait, which often freezes in winter in its narrower part, and from Yezo (Japan) by the Strait of La Pérouse. The island is 600 m. long, and 16 to 105 broad, with an area of 24,560 sq. m.
Its orography and geological structure are imperfectly known. Two, or perhaps three, parallel ranges of mountains traverse it from north to south, reaching 2000 to 5000 ft. (Mt. Ichara, 4860 ft.) high, with two or more wide depressions, not exceeding 600 ft. above the sea. Crystalline rocks crop out at several capes; Cretaceous limestones, containing an abundant and specific fauna of gigantic ammonites, occur at Dui on the west coast, and Tertiary conglomerates, sandstones, marls and clays, folded by subsequent upheavals, in many parts of the island. The clays, which contain layers of good coal and an abundant fossil vegetation, show that during the Miocene period Sakhalin formed part of a continent which comprised north Asia, Alaska and Japan, and enjoyed a comparatively warm climate. The Pliocene deposits contain a mollusc fauna more arctic than that which exists at the present time, indicating probably that the connexion between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans was broader than it is now. Only two rivers are worthy of mention. The Tym, 250 m. long and navigable by rafts and light boats for 50 m., Hows north and north-east with numerous rapids and shallows, and enters the Sea of Okhotsk. The Poronai flows south-south-east to the Gulf of Patience or Shichiro Bay, on the south-east coast. Three other small streams enter the wide semicircular Gulf of Aniva. or Higashifushimi Bay at the southern extremity of the island.
Owing to the influence of the raw, foggy Sea of Okhotsk, the climate is very cold. At Dui the average yearly temperature is only 33.0° Fahr. (January 3.4°; July 61.0°), 35.0° at Kusunai and 37.6° at Aniva (January, 9.5°; July, 60.2°). At Alexandrovsk near Dui the annual range is from 81 in July to -38° in January, while at Rykovsk in the interior the minimum is -49° Fahr. The rainfall averages 22% in. Thick clouds for the most part shut out the sun; while the cold current from the Sea of Okhotsk, aided by north-east winds, brings immense ice-floes to the east coast in summer. The whole of the island is covered with dense forests, mostly coniferous. The Ayan spruce (Abies ayanensis), the Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalensis) and the Daurian larch are the chief trees; on the upper parts of the mountains are the Siberian rampant cedar (Cembra pumila) and the Kurilian bamboo (Arundinaria kurileuse). Birch, both European and Kamchatkan (Betula alba and B. Ermani), elder, poplar, elm, wild cherry (Prunus padus), Taxus baccata and several willows are mixed with the conifers; while farther south the maple, mountain ash and oak, as also the Japanese Panax ricinifolium, the Amur cork (Philodendron amurense), the spindle tree (Euonymus macropterus) and the vine (Vitis thunbergii) make their appearance. The under woods abound in berry-bearing plants (e.g. cloudberry, cranberry, crowberry, red whortleberfy), berried elder (Sambucus racemosa), wild raspberry and Spiraea. Bears, foxes, otters and sables are numerous, as also the reindeer in the north, and the musk deer, hares, squirrels, rats and mice everywhere. The avi-fauna is the common Siberian, and the rivers swarm with fish, especially species of salmon (Oncorhynchus). Numerous whales visit the sea-coast. Sea-lions, seals and dolphins are a source of profit.
Sakhalin was inhabited in the Neolithic Stone Age. Flint implements, exactly like those of Siberia and Russia, have been found at Dui and Kusunai in great numbers, as well as polished stone hatchets, like the European ones, primitive pottery with decorations like those of Olonets and stone weights for nets. Afterwards a population to whom bronze was known left traces in earthen walls and kitchen-middens on the Bay of Aniva. The native inhabitants consist of some 2000 Gilyaks, 1300 Ainus, with 750 Orochons, 200 Tunguses and Some Yakuts. The Gilyaks in the north support themselves by fishing and hunting. The Ainus inhabit the south part of the island. There are also 32,000 Russians, of whom over 22,150 are convicts. A little coal is mined and some rye, wheat, oats, barley and vegetables are grown, although the period during which vegetation can grow averages less than 100 days. Fishing is actively prosecuted, especially by the japanese in the south.
History.—Sakhalin, which was under Chinese dominion until the 19th century, became known to Europeans from the travels of Martin Gerritz de Vries in the 17th century, and still better from those of La Pérouse (1787) and Krusenstern (1805). Both, however, regarded it as a peninsula, and were unaware of the existence of the Strait of Tartary, which was discovered in 1809 by a Japanese, Mamiya Rinzo. The Russian navigator Nevelskoi in 1849 definitively established the existence and navigability of this strait. The Russians made their first permanent settlement on Sakhalin in 1857; but the southern part of the island was held by the Japanese until 1875, when they ceded it to Russia. By the treaty of Portsmouth (U.S.A.) of 1905 the southern part of the island below 50° N . was re-ceded to Japan, the Russians retaining the other three-fifths of the area.