by Yoshikazu NAKAMURA

Sakhalin Island (Karafuto in Japanese) hangs down like a long belt in the Sea of Okhotsk. In the west it is separated from the continent by the narrow Tatar Strait, while in the south one of the pinnacles of the island resembling a pair of a crab's claws is separated from Hokkaido by the La Perouse Strait. Because of its strategic geographical position, the political situation of the island has been quite complicated.

1) From the beginning both Japan and Russia have claimed the right of possession to the island. When the two countries concluded their first treaty of friendship in 1855, they were unable to come to an agreement about a boundary line on Sakhalin and were obliged to accept the mixed residence of the subjects of both countries. It was only in accordance with a subsequent treaty of 1875 that the whole island was incorporated into the Russian Empire in exchange for all the Kuril Islands being placed under the jurisdiction of Japan.

Anton Chekhov, the famous Russian writer, came to Sakhalin in 1890. At that time, the island appeared to him to be a huge prison. But not only deportees and prison officers went across the Tatar Strait. Chekhov mentions in his scrupulous reportage "Sakhalin Island " that an administrative office in Eastern Siberia sent about twenty families of free settlers from the Amur basin to Southern Sakhalin in 1868.

2) These people founded a village in Chibisan'on the coast of the Aniva bay, half-way between Korsakov fort and Murav'ev fort. Unfortunately, however, harsh natural conditions and a poor supply of provisions from the authorities prevented them from flourishing and in 1886 they apparently left to go back to the Ussuri basin of the Primor Krai on the mainland. Chekhov heard that there still remained in Chibisan' a few izbas -- typical Russian cabins, a chapel and a house which served as a school for children. But the writer had no time to pay a visit to Chibisan'. It is not clear, whether the settlers were Old Believers or not.

Perhaps, it was after Chekhov's trip to Sakhalin that a group of Old Believers came to Korsakov. V. F. Lobanov writes that there lived in the village of Korsakov more than 107 people of the same faith and that they were distinguished by their prosperity, quoting a book published at the beginning of the twentieth century.

3) As a result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 -1905, the southern half of Sakhalin Island was ceded to Japan. During the time of disorder after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Japanese army occupied Northern Sakhalin from 1920 to 1925. However, when World War II ended in 1945, the whole island was again returned to the Russians, to whom it belongs today.

We have found some fragmentary materials concerning a few families who lived in Southern Sakhalin during the time of the Japanese rule.

In 1927 the Karafuto Government (Japanese administration of Sakhalin) published a mimeographed pamphlet titled "Circumstances of Foreign Residents in Southern Sakhalin". According to this report, as of the end of September, 1927, there lived in the region 73 families consisting of 191 men and women, of which 62 were Russian families, 9 Polish and 2 German.

4) Among the Russians, some families bore the common family name of Efimov. Judging from other sources to be mentioned later, they were assuredly Old Believers. In the "Circumstances of Foreign Residents..." these families are described under a special heading as follows:

5) Grigorii Efimov, who was exiled here in 1899 on a charge of murder, lived in Arakul', Nagahama Village. Having made a good fortune from agriculture and stockbreeding, he passed away in June, 1925. Each of his children, five sons and two daughters, has established a household or married a man of property.
a) Eldest son -- Pjotr Grigorievich Efimov. Died of heart failure in April, 1927. Left three sons and two daughters. Vasilii, 14, was the eldest son.
b) Second son -- Kirill Grigorievich Efimov. Age 41. In unregistered marriage with a Japanese woman. Lives in Tobuchi, Nagahama Village. Has two sons and two daughters.
c) Third son --Yakov Grigorievich Efimov. Age 36. Living in Korsakov Town, engaged in agriculture and stockbreeding. Keeps a livery stable. Married. Has one daughter.
d) Fourth son -- Mikita Grigorievich Efimov. Age 33. Married. Established a household in Arakul', Nagahama Village. Has a son and three daughters.
e) Fifth son -- Ivan Grigorievich Efimov. Age 33. Married. Established a household in Arakul', Nagahama Village. Engaged in agriculture and stockbreeding.
f) Eldest daughter -- Ustinia Grigorievna. Age 37. Married to Dmitrii Mikhailovich Pylaev who is engaged in agriculture and stockbreeding in Kochobetsu, Nagahama Village.
g) Second daughter -- Nastasia. Age 26. Married to Sidor Vlasovich Kozhin who is engaged in agriculture and stockbreeding, and keeps a livery stable in Arakul', Nagahama Village.

The village which the Japanese called Nagahama was situated on the coast of the Aniva Bay to the east of Korsakov. It contained several sections -- Nagahama (now Ozerskii), Arakul', Tobuchi (Murav'ev) and Kochobetsu. This village can probably be identifed with Chekhov's Chibisan', because a river and one of the three lakes in this village still retain the name. In the Circumctances of Foreign Residents..." the birthplace of all the Efimov brothers is stated as Dorzhunovskii Village, Starorusskii County, Novgorod Province in Russia.

Undoubtedly, the author of the report was mistaken. How Grigorii Efimov could have been banished from Western Russia together with all his children and perhaps wife, only the youngest daughter being born in Sakhalin?

In 1996 a book entitled "Russians in Karafuto " was published in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the center of Sakhalin Province. The author was a young journalist, Sergii Fedorchuk. The book contains some ten interviews with the Russians who were born and brought up on this island during the time of the Japanese rule. The first person whom Fedorchuk succeeded in contacting was Trofim Vasilievich, a great grandson of Grigorii Efimov. Trofim told the interviewer that Grigorii had been exiled to Sakhalin in 1884 (he seems not to have named the charge), and had come to Arakul' to settle down in 1897.

6) We can surmise that after serving out his sentence Grigorii Efimov moved to Chibisan' in the southern part of the island, the soil of which was suited to agriculture and stockbreeding. It goes without saying that all his children were born in Sakhalin.

It is interesting to note that Grigorii's two sons, Yakov and Ivan, and also his sons-in- law are enumerated as the wealthiest people among the foreigners of Southern Sakhalin in the "Circumstances" -- the official report of the authorities. But we can hardly believe the rumors quoted in the "Circumstances" that these men frequented the gay quarters of Korsakov.

7) Before the publication of the "Circumstances", the fourth son, Mikita Grigorievich's courtship had been the talk of Hakodate, a Japanese town in Hokkaido.

8) The bride was a Russian girl named Nastasia who had been known to the townfolk by her shortened name of Nastya or Nas-chan. She was from an Old Believer family of Samara. The family -- she and her parents -- grew vegetables in the surburbs of Hakodate and was reputed to have accumulated a great deal of money. Local newspapers of the town often reported that Nastya's family unlike most Russians in Hakodate did not belong to the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, it was also reported that they refused to deposit money in any bank, because they considered it a sin to receive interest. In the autumn of 1918 Mikita came to Hakodate accompanied by his father Grigorii. The latter was introduced in the newspapers as the head of a village in Sakhalin.

Mikita narrowly succeeded when he asked for Nastya's hand. The young man had shaved his beard before coming to Hakodate. Nastya did not seem to care, but it was a matter of great importance for her parents. Among the Old Believers in Sakhalin married men never shaved, while adolescent men used to shave their beards. It seems that Nastya's family belonged to a different sect of the Old Belief. At last the bride's side conceded. In the spring of the following year Mikita returned to Sakhalin with his bride and her parents.

During the 1930's we have no information about the Old Believers in Sakhalin.

In the summer of 1940 a Japanese journalist, Sakuo Matsuno, visited the Russian colony of Arakul' and contributed interesting articles to two monthly magazines.

9) His host was Vasilii Petrovich Efimov, i.e. the eldest son of the late Pjotr Grigorievich. Vasilii told Matsuno that Arakul' had been inhabited for the first time in the days of his grandfather Grigorii and that those first settlers had numbered about twenty households. When Matsuno met Vasilii, there were in Arakul' only seven families with a total of fifty people. To the embarrassment of the Japanese police loyal to the mikado, Matsuno writes, the Russians had a firm conviction that Arakul' was the land that God had given them. Administratively, it was part of Nagahama Village, but the Russian settlement was located more than two kilometers away, to the east of Nagahama itself, the center of the village. (Nagahama was the name of a whole village and there was in the village a section called Nagahama.) The Russians lived in izbas, and each house was surrounded with a wooden fence so as to protect it from the intrusion of cattle. Their main occupation was stockbreeding: about a hundred beef cattle were being raised on a pasture of about 400 acres. The pasture was owned by the state, and the Russians paid a certain rent to the Karafuto Government. Vasilii himself possessed 25 cattle and 50 foxes. (Foxbreeding for gathering fur was very popular during the 1930's in Sakhalin.) Since he had studied in a Japanese primary school (though he did not finish), and his wife Tatiana was brought up in Hokkaido, they spoke Japanese very fluently.

In Arakul', Matsuno observed, adult men grew beards and wore rubashkas - - Russian shirts. Women covered their heads with a platok -- a kind of scarf. They never drank water pumped up from a well. We have to surmise that they used to drink running water from a river, or water drawn up from a well by hand. They neither drank wine, nor smoked. When they went out of Arakul' on any errand, they always brought with them home-made food.

There was no church in Arakul'. On every feast day all the villagers gathered to pray at their elder's house. Some ancient prayer books, four or five hundred years old according to Vasilii, were preserved by the elder with great care and reverence.

The Russians of Arakul' did not send their children to the nearby Japanese school. They feared, Matsuno was told, that the younger generation would lose the habit of reading the Bible in Russian, if they got used to using the Japanese language. Instead, two or three years earlier, they had invited from Manchuria a young educated Russian woman to open a private school for their children. The school seems not to have lasted long. In any case Matsuno did not see the teacher. We have to note, however, that these Russians did not live completely isolated from the outer world.

Matsuno paid a visit to Arakul' only once. It is unfortunate that he did not think of asking with which sect of the Old Believers they were related.

Although Matsuno did not know, the author of "Russians in Karafuto" clearly shows that in addition to the Efimovs there lived in Arakul' two more families of Old Believers: the Panyagins and the Zazhigalkins. Probably they arrived in Arakul' after the publication of the "Circumstances". According to a statement made by Pjotr Zazhigalkin in later years at the office of the KGB, his father Evstafi had married before 1917, and lived in Kamchatka. The couple had five children when they lived there, Pjotr being the eldest. In 1925 Evstafii received permission to leave the country under the pretext of an illness and came with his family from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii to Hakodate, Japan. In Hakodate and other Japanese towns he made a living by selling home- made bread. Two more children were born to him in Japan. At that time bread was not popular in Japan, and it was difficult for him to maintain a large family. In 1932 Evstafii heard about the Old Believers in Southern Sakhalin and at once decided to join them. He bought a horse and a cow and began farm work. He soon became the nastoyatel' (elder) among the Old Believers of Arakul', perhaps because he knew the most about religious services. Feodor, Pjotr's son, remembers that all the villagers of Arakul' gathered in his grandfather's house on every feast day.

10) Evstafii's eldest daughter Agafia married Leontii Petrovich, one of Grigorii Efimov's grand-sons. The two families were united by the ties of kinship.

Klavdia, the youngest daughter of Evstafii Zazhigalkin, was born while her family was living in Japan. Her mother taught her from her early childhood how to read the Cyrillic alphabet. The most important precepts for her were " Don't kill, don't steal, don't tell a lie. Respect your parents, and you will be happy and live long." At home the Zazhigalkins never made use of sugar, nor ate potatoes.

In the spring of 1953 Evstafii and Klavdia were granted Soviet citizenship. At the end of the 1960's Evstafii moved to an unnamed village of Old Believers in Khabarovsk Province.

It is confirmed that Evstafii's elder children, i.e. Anufrii, Feodosia and Praskovia emigrated in the first half of the 1940's from Sakhalin to Manchuria, presumably to Romanovka.

11) The first half of the 1940's was an era of tremendous political change throughout the world. Although there were no serious battles in Sakhalin during World War II, the Old Believers there could not avoid the kaleidoscopic changes of the time.

Before and during the second World War all the Japanese who had a chance to visit Romanovka, a village of Old Believers in Manchuria, were surprised to find there a few Russian inhabitants who spoke Japanese freely.

12) Romanovka was founded in 1936 by a group of Old Believers from the Primor Krai who had escaped the oppression and the compulsory collectivization of the Soviet Government. They belonged to the sect of chasovennye.

13) Owing to their inherent diligence, in an astonishingly short time they succeeded in establishing Romanovka as one of the most prosperous settlements in Manchuria. At that time, militarist Japan was planning to send to the territory of Manchukou, her puppet, a million colonists. In the eyes of the Japanese, Romanovka seemed to be a model settlement. Those who had a good command of Japanese were the Old Believers who had come from Southern Sakhalin.

A Japanese painter, Masamu Yanase, invited by the South Manchuria Railway Company to Manchuria and brought to Romanovka, jotted down in his notebook that the Old Believers from Southern Sakhalin had received financial aid, so that they might emigrate to Manchuria. He did not write who was provided the funds. In Japan, the fur trade was outlawed in 1940, so the Karafuto Government might have helped the fur traders of Southern Sakhalin to leave. In that case, the Russians must have been obliged in exchange for the aid to deliver their property, including the cattle and foxes, to the Karafuto Government. It may be more likely, however, that the villagers of Romanovka invited their comrades from Southern Sakhalin, and donated the aid themselves.

According to the records of various Japanese witnesses, three families had arrived at Romanovka by the end of 1942. The next year four more families followed in their wake.

Young girls from Sakhalin had no difficulty in finding spouses among the youth of Romanovka. For example, Nina, one of the girls, became the wife of Sazon Bodunov, the young head of Romanovka, and had a baby in 1943. Nina's mot her was called Nastasia. She was possibly Grigorii's youngest daughter. (Nastya who consented to marry beardless Mikita Grigorievich Efimov in Hakodate did not migrate to Manchuria, but remained in Sakhalin.)

Nastasia, Nina's mother, confided her secret discontent to a Japanese visitor.

14) Unlike the girls, who had no trouble in finding husbands, she said, boys from Sakhalin were generally quite unpopular with girls of Romanovka, and no lad had been lucky enough to find a bride. Nastasia's opinion was that the youth of the Primor Krai had been brought up as hunters from their boyhood. The boys used to catch Siberian tigers alive and sell them to zoos throughout the world. In fact the profession constituted the biggest source of earnings for the villagers. (A live tiger was worth five times as much as a dead one.) On the other hand, the youth brought up within the Japanese territory had no experience in hunting ferocious animals and were looked down upon as good-for-nothing weaklings.

We do not know whether the disappointment of the Old Believers from Sakhalin was eventually alleviated. In any case, Romanovka was destined to go out of existence along with the capitulation of the Japanese army and the fall of Manchukou. At present most of the former inhabitants of Old Believer villages in Manchuria, including Romanovka, have settled down in Oregon and Alaska, USA, and Alberta, Canada. They are called kharbintsy after the biggest town in Northern Manchuria. It is well known that a few women among the kharbintsy spoke Japanese. These must have been Nastasia's daughters or her relatives.

I shall not dwell upon the Old Believers who lived in Manchuria and Hokkaido, Japan, because I have made reports about them at the earlier conferences held respectively in Russia and Poland.

15) Russian Old Believers lived side by side with Japanese people in Japan and Manchuria for only a short time in the first half of the twentieth century. All the records and documents written in Japanese without exception indicate that they had common characteristic features -- unwearying industry in their everyday work, devotion to the faith transmitted from their forefathers, great respect for the time-honored prayer books and a traditional way of living.

What is most surprising for us is that there existed among the Old Believers, wherever they lived, an extremely extensive network of mutual assistance. It was invisible to outsiders and it was obstructed by no national boundaries. By what means of communication this network was preserved still remains a puzzle.

Not all the Old Believers of Sakhalin went abroad to Manchuria. As is well known, the destiny that in Manchuria waited for the emigrants from Sakhalin was not enviable. But those who remained in Sakhalin were hardly more fortunate.

Fedorchuk lays great emphasis in his book "Russians in Karafuto" on a harsh fate that came upon the men of Arakul'. During the two years from 1947 to 1949, Grigorii Efimov's three sons and a grand-son were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment from five to ten years on the charge of spying for the Japanese. Among the Zazhigalkins, Pjotr, Evstafii's eldest son, fell a victim of the Soviet regime. He was arrested in 1947 and spent ten years in jail.

After the end of World War II Manchuria was integrated into China and in the second half of the 1950's Russian residents were allowed to leave the country either for the Soviet Union or for other countries, for example, Australia and countries of South America. On the other hand, Southern Sakhalin again became part of Russia, or more exactly, of the Soviet Union. The Russians who lived there had no choice but to stay on the island.


(1) As far as we know, the most fundamental and reliable works on the political situation in Sakhalin are: John J. Stephan, "Sakhalin: A History". Oxford UP,1971, and Tosiyuki Akizuki, "Russo-Japanese Relations and Sakhalin -- a Territorial Issue in the Last Years of Bakufu and the First Years of Meiji'. (in Jap.), Tokyo, 1994.

(2) A. P. Chekhov, "Complete Works of A. P. Chekhov in 30 Vol." -- "Literary Works". Vol. 14-15, Moscow, 1978, pp. 212-214.

(3) Valerii F. Lobanov, "Staroobryadchestvo na Dal'nem Vostoke", "Ocherki istorii rodnogo kraya". Khabarovsk, 1993, p.128. The book quoted by him is "Dal'nii Vostok. Amurskaya oblast' i ostrov Sakhalin". Moscow, 1909.

Printed with permission from the author, Yoshikazu Nakamura

Paul J. Wigowsky and Yoshikazu Nakamura
Yoshikazu Nakamura writes his name in Japanese

Paul, Yoshikazu, and Richard A. Morris (Scholars, writers on Russian Old Believers)

At Paul J. Wigowsky's house with his wife (Elsa) and daughter (Susie)

Links to other sites on the Web:

Novel: Freedom For an Old Believer, by Paul J.Wigowsky