Karafuto Prefecture

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Karafuto leads here. For other uses, see Karafuto (disambiguation)
Karafuto Prefecture
External territory, later prefecture, of the Empire of Japan
Flag of Russia.svg
1905–1945 Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg
Flag of Russian SFSR.svg
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Emblem of Karafuto Prefecture.svg
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Karafuto Karafuto.png
Location of Karafuto
Green: Karafuto Prefecture within Japan in 1942
Light green: Other constituents of Imperial Japan
Capital Toyohara
   Japanese invasion 7–31 July 1905
   Prefecture status1907
  Upgraded to "inner land"1943
   Soviet invasion 11–25 August 1945
  December 1941406,557 
Today part ofFlag of Russia.svg  Russia

Karafuto Prefecture, commonly called South Sakhalin , was the name of the Japanese territory on southern Sakhalin island from 1905 to 1945.

Sakhalin large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean

Sakhalin is Russia's largest island, lying in the North Pacific Ocean between 45°50' and 54°24' N. It is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. Sakhalin, which is about one third the size of Honshu, is just off the east coast of Russia, and just north of Japan. The island's population was 497,973 as of the 2010 census, made up of mostly ethnic Russians and a smaller Korean community. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Ainu, Oroks and Nivkhs.


Through the Treaty of Portsmouth, the portion of the island south of 50°N became a colony of Japan in 1905. In 1907 the prefecture of Karafuto was established, with its capital at Ōtomari (now Korsakov) in 1905 and later Toyohara (now Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) in 1907. In 1945, with the defeat of Japan in World War II, Karafuto was occupied by Soviet troops and its Japanese administration ceased to function. Karafuto Prefecture was formally abolished as a legal entity on June 1, 1949. Since 1951, the southern part of Sakhalin has been a part of Sakhalin Oblast in Russia.

Treaty of Portsmouth peace treaty

The Treaty of Portsmouth formally ended the 1904–05 Russo-Japanese War. It was signed on September 5, 1905 after negotiations lasting from August 6 to August 30, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, United States. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in the negotiations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

50th parallel north circle of latitude

The 50th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 50 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Japan Constitutional monarchy in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.


The Japanese name Karafuto comes from Ainu kamuy kar put ya mosir, which means "the island a god has created on the estuary (of Amur River)". It was formerly known as Kita Ezo, meaning Northern Ezo (Ezo was the former name for Hokkaido). When the Japanese administered the prefecture, Karafuto usually meant Southern Sakhalin only. For convenience, the northern part of the island was sometimes called Sagaren.

Ainu language languages spoken by Ainu ethnic groups in Hokkaido, Kuril and Sakhalin

Ainu is a language spoken by members of the Ainu people on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Amur River river in Russia and China

The Amur River or Heilong Jiang is the world's tenth longest river, forming the border between the Russian Far East and Northeastern China. The largest fish species in the Amur is the kaluga, attaining a length as great as 5.6 metres (18 ft). The river basin is home to a variety of large predatory fish such as northern snakehead, Amur pike, taimen, Amur catfish, predatory carp and yellowcheek, as well as the northernmost populations of the Amur softshell turtle and Indian lotus.

Ezo is a Japanese name which historically referred to the lands to the north of the Japanese island of Honshu. It included the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido which changed its name from Ezo to Hokkaido in 1869, and sometimes included Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.

In Russian, the entire island was named Sakhalin or Saghalien. It is from Manchu sahaliyan ula angga hada, meaning "peak of the mouth of Amur River". The southern part was simply called Yuzhny Sakhalin ("South Sakhalin"). In Korean, the name is Sahallin or Hwataedo, with the latter name in use during Korea under Japanese rule.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Manchu is a critically endangered Tungusic language spoken in Manchuria; it was the native language of the Manchus and one of the official languages of the Qing dynasty (1636–1911) of China and in Inner Asia. Most Manchus now speak Mandarin Chinese. According to data from UNESCO, there are 10 native speakers of Manchu out of a total of nearly 10 million ethnic Manchus. Now, several thousand can speak Manchu as a second language through governmental primary education or free classes for adults in classrooms or online.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate; however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language form the Koreanic language family. The proposal that Koreanic in turn belongs to the largely discredited Altaic language family is no longer supported by academic research. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax.


Japanese settlement on Sakhalin dates to at least the Edo period. Ōtomari was established in 1679, and cartographers of the Matsumae domain mapped the island, and named it "Kita-Ezo". Japanese cartographer and explorer Mamiya Rinzō established that Sakhalin was an island through his discovery of what is now named Mamiya Strait (Strait of Tartary) in 1809. Japan unilaterally proclaimed sovereignty over the whole island in 1845.

Japanese people ethnic group native to Japan

Japanese people are a nation and an ethnic group that is native to Japan and makes up 98.5% of the total population of the country. Worldwide, approximately 129 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 125 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live outside Japan are referred to as nikkeijin(日系人), the Japanese diaspora. The term ethnic Japanese is often used to refer to Japanese people, specifically Yamato people. Japanese are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world.

Edo period period of Japanese history

The Edo period or Tokugawa period (徳川時代) is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyō. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, "no more wars", and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo.

Mamiya Rinzō Japanese explorer

Mamiya Rinzō was a Japanese explorer of the late Edo period.

The 1855 Treaty of Shimoda acknowledged that both Russia and Japan had joint rights of occupation to Sakhalin, without setting a definite territorial demarcation. As the island became settled in the 1860s and 1870s, this ambiguity led to increasing friction between settlers. Attempts by the Tokugawa shogunate to purchase the entire island from the Russian Empire failed, and the new Meiji government was unable to negotiate a partition of the island into separate territories. In the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875), Japan agreed to give up its claims on Sakhalin in exchange for undisputed ownership of the Kuril Islands.

Treaty of Shimoda

The Treaty of Shimoda of February 7, 1855, was the first treaty between the Russian Empire, and the Empire of Japan, then under the administration of the Tokugawa shogunate. Following shortly after the Convention of Kanagawa signed between Japan and the United States, it effectively meant the end of Japan’s 220-year-old policy of national seclusion (sakoku), by opening the ports of Nagasaki, Shimoda and Hakodate to Russian vessels and established the position of Russian consuls in Japan and defined the borders between Japan and Russia.

Tokugawa shogunate Last feudal Japanese military government which existed between 1600 and 1868

The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa Bakufu (徳川幕府) and the Edo Bakufu (江戸幕府), was the last feudal Japanese military government, which existed between 1603 and 1867. The head of government was the shōgun, and each was a member of the Tokugawa clan. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle and the years of the shogunate became known as the Edo period. This time is also called the Tokugawa period or pre-modern.

Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1875) 1875 treaty between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire

The Treaty of Saint Petersburg between the Empire of Japan and Empire of Russia was signed on 7 May 1875, and its ratifications exchanged at Tokyo on 22 August 1875.

Japan invaded Sakhalin in the final stages of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, but per the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth was allowed to retain only the southern portion of the island below the 50° N parallel. Russia retained the northern portion, although the Japanese were awarded favorable commercial rights, including fishing and mineral extraction rights in the north. In 1907, Karafuto Prefecture was officially established, with the capital at Ōtomari. In 1908, the capital was relocated to Toyohara.

In 1920, Karafuto was officially designated an external territory of Japan, and its administration and development came under the aegis of the Ministry of Colonial Affairs. Following the Nikolaevsk Incident in 1920, Japan briefly seized the northern half of Sakhalin, and occupied it until the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1925; however, Japan continued to maintain petroleum and coal concessions in northern Sakhalin until 1944. In 1943, the status of Karafuto was upgraded to that of an "inner land", making it an integral part of the Empire of Japan.

As Japan was extending its influence over East Asia and the Pacific through the establishment of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Imperial Japanese Army as part of its offensive contingency plans to invade the Soviet Union if it either became involved in the Pacific War or collapsed due to the ongoing German invasion, proposed the annexation of the remaining northern half of Sakhalin to Japan. [1]

Karafuto Prefectural Office. Karafuto Prefectural Office.JPG
Karafuto Prefectural Office.
Karafuto map.png

Soviet invasion

In August 1945, after repudiating the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union invaded Karafuto. The Soviet attack started on August 11, 1945, three weeks before the surrender of Japan. The Soviet 56th Rifle Corps, part of the 16th Army, consisting of the 79th Rifle Division, the 2nd Rifle Brigade, the 5th Rifle Brigade and the 214 Armored Brigade, [2] attacked the Japanese 88th Infantry Division. Although the Soviet Red Army outnumbered the Japanese by three to one, they advanced only slowly due to strong Japanese resistance. It was not until the 113th Rifle Brigade and the 365th Independent Naval Infantry Rifle Battalion from Sovetskaya Gavan landed on Tōro, a seashore village of western Karafuto on August 16 that the Soviets broke the Japanese defense line. Japanese resistance grew weaker after this landing. Actual fighting continued until August 21. Between August 22 and August 23, most remaining Japanese units agreed to a ceasefire. The Soviets completed the conquest of Karafuto on August 25, 1945, by occupying the capital of Toyohara.


Border between Karafuto and Soviet Sakhalin. Border Security of the 50th parallel of north.JPG
Border between Karafuto and Soviet Sakhalin.

There were over 400,000 people living in Karafuto when the Soviet offensive began in early August 1945.[ citation needed ] Most were of Japanese or Korean extraction, though there was also a small White Russian community as well as some Ainu indigenous tribes. By the time of the ceasefire approximately 100,000 civilians had managed to escape to Hokkaidō.[ citation needed ] The military government established by the Soviet Army banned the local press, confiscated cars and radio sets and imposed a curfew.[ citation needed ] Local managers and bureaucrats were made to aid Russian authorities in the process of reconstruction, before being deported to labor camps, either on North Sakhalin or in Siberia.[ citation needed ] In schools, courses in Marxism–Leninism were introduced, and Japanese children were obliged to sing songs in praise of Stalin.[ citation needed ]

Step by step Karafuto lost its Japanese identity.[ citation needed ] Sakhalin Oblast was created in February 1946, and by March all towns, villages and streets were renamed with Russian names.[ citation needed ] More and more colonists began to arrive from mainland Russia, with whom the Japanese were obliged to share the limited stock of housing.[ citation needed ] In October 1946 the Soviets began to repatriate all remaining Japanese.[ citation needed ] By 1950 most had been sent, willing or not, to Hokkaidō, though they had to leave all of their possessions behind, including any currency they had, Russian or Japanese.[ citation needed ] Today some keep alive the memory of their former home in the meetings of the Karafuto Renmei, an association for former Karafuto residents.[ citation needed ]

In 1945, with the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Japanese administration in Karafuto ceased to function.[ citation needed ] The Japanese government formally abolished Karafuto Prefecture as a legal entity on June 1, 1949.[ citation needed ] In 1951, at the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan was coerced and renounced its rights to Sakhalin, but did not formally acknowledge Soviet sovereignty over it. [3] Since that time, no final peace treaty has been signed between Japan and Russia, and the status of the neighboring Kuril Islands remains disputed.

(For subsequent history, see Sakhalin Oblast.)



This Japanese D51 steam locomotive stands outside the present day Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Railway Station, Sakhalin Island, Russia. They were used by the Soviet Railways until 1979. Japanese SL D51-22.jpg
This Japanese D51 steam locomotive stands outside the present day Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Railway Station, Sakhalin Island, Russia. They were used by the Soviet Railways until 1979.

The pre-war economy of Karafuto was based on fishing, forestry and agriculture, together with extraction of coal and petroleum. In terms of industry, the paper industry and the charcoal production industry was well developed. Karafuto suffered from a labor shortage through most of its history, and tax incentives were provided to encourage immigration. [4] During World War II, a large number of Koreans were also forcibly relocated to Karafuto.

An extensive railway network was constructed in Karafuto to support the extraction of natural resources. The Karafuto Railway Bureau(樺太鉄道局,Karafuto Tetsudōkyoku) maintained 682.6 kilometers of track in four main lines and an additional 58.2 kilometers of track.


Karafuto was administered from the central government in Tokyo as the Karafuto Agency(樺太庁,Karafuto-chō) under the Colonization Bureau(拓務局,Takumukyoku) of the Home Ministry. The Colonization Bureau became the Ministry of Colonial Affairs (拓務省,Takumushō) in 1923 at which time Karafuto was officially designated an overseas territory of the Empire of Japan.

When the Ministry of Colonial Affairs was absorbed into the new Ministry of Greater East Asia in 1942, the administration of Karafuto was separated, and Karafuto became an integral part of the Japanese archipelago.

Directors of the Karafuto Agency

Kiichirō Kumagai July 28, 1905March 31, 1907
Kusunose Yukihiko April 1, 1907April 24, 1908
Takejirō Tokonami April 24, 1908June 12, 1908
Sadatarō Hiraoka June 12, 1908June 5, 1914
Bunji Okada June 5, 1914October 9, 1916
Akira Masaya October 13, 1916April 17, 1919
Kinjirō Nagai April 17, 1919June 11, 1924
Akira Masaya (second term)June 11, 1924August 5, 1926
Katsuzō Toyota August 5, 1926July 27, 1927
Kōji Kita July 27, 1927July 9, 1929
Shinobu Agata July 9, 1929December 17, 1931
Masao Kishimoto December 17, 1931July 5, 1932
Takeshi Imamura July 5, 1932May 7, 1938
Munei Toshikazu May 7, 1938April 9, 1940
Masayoshi Ogawa April 9, 1940July 1, 1943
Toshio Ōtsu July 1, 1943November 11, 1947

Major cities

Karafuto Prefecture with 4 subprefectures, namely Toyohara, Maoka, Esutoru and Shikuka. Toyohara City was also a part of Toyohara Subprefecture. Subprefectures of Karafuto Prefecture.png
Karafuto Prefecture with 4 subprefectures, namely Toyohara, Maoka, Esutoru and Shikuka. Toyohara City was also a part of Toyohara Subprefecture.

As of 1945, Karafuto was divided into four subprefectures, which in turn were subdivided into 11 districts, in turn divided into 41 municipalities (one city, 13 towns, and 27 villages)

Karafuto's largest city was Toyohara. Other major cities included Esutoru in the north central and Maoka in the south central region.

The list below are the towns and the city of the prefecture. These in italics are the corresponding current Russian names.

Esutoru Subprefecture (恵須取支庁)

Maoka Subprefecture (真岡支庁)

Shikuka Subprefecture (敷香支庁)

Toyohara Subprefecture (豊原支庁)

See also


  1. Krebs, Gerhard (1997). "31. Japan and the German-Soviet War". In Wegner, Bernd. From peace to war: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the world, 1939–1941. Berghahn Books. p. 551. ISBN   1-57181-882-0.
  2. 16th Army, 2nd Far Eastern Front, Soviet Far East Command, 09.08,45 [ permanent dead link ]
  3. Sevela, Marie. "Sakhalin: The Japanese Under Soviet rule". History Today, Vol. 48, 1998.
  4. Steven Ivings: Recruitment and coercion in Japan’s far north: Evidence from colonial Karafuto’s forestry and construction industries, 1910–37, in: Labor History, Vol. 57 (2016), No. 2, pp. 215-234.

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