Amur River is third longest river in Russia, the 10th longest in the world and the most important waterway in the Russian Far East. Originating in the high plateaus of Mongolia and Siberia, it is 2,824 kilometers (1756 miles) long (starting from the confluence of the Shilka and the Argun) or the 4,166 kilometers (2,744 miles) long is you include the Argun River, the longer if its two feeder rivers. The Amur River flows along and defines and fairly large part of the Russian-Chinese border. It empties into the Sea of Okhotsk, a branch of the Pacific Ocean, where its mouth is over 16 kilometers (ten miles) wide. The Amur’s drainage basin, which includes parts of Mongolia, Siberia and China, is approximately 1,844,000 square kilometers (712,000 square miles), an area six times the size of Italy. [Source: Simon Winchester, National Geographic, February 2000]
The Amur River forms many oxbow lakes, channels, and backwater areas. Taiga, birch forests and wetlands flank long stretches of the river. One hundred species of fish live in its waters, including massive kaluga sturgeon, which can reach over six and half meters (20 feet) in length, weigh more than a ton, live to be 100 and produce 400 pound of valuable caviar. Salmon are the most important fish. Each year the salmon run lasts for almost three months. The waters also carry 25 million tons of silt to the North Pacific every year. Although the Amur is primarily a slow, lazy river it is not utilized commercially since it is so remotely located.
The tributaries of the Amur are fed mostly by monsoon rains. Consequently its water levels rise dramatically during the summers and drop during the dry winter. From May to November, when the river is free of ice, the Amur is navigable it entire length. During the winter, the Amur freezes over for as long as six months. The ice is up to two meters (six feet) deep. Vehicles are driven on the river and floating docks are pulled up from the shores. The remainder of the year it is used by variety of boats, including barges, ferries and gunboats, which are the primary means of transportation.
The Amur Basin in located within three countries: Russia, China, and Mongolia. In Mongolia it is called the Khara-Muren which means “Black River”; in China it is called Heilong Jiang (Hēilóng Jiāng) — “Black Dragon”. The Russian part of the basin consists of two unequal parts: 1) Siberian, with the respective parts of the Shilka and Argun river basins; and 2) the Far-East, where the major part of the Amur valley is located. It includes the left bank of the upper and middle Amur and the whole lower Amur with tributary basins.
According to Russian navigational directions, the Amur is divided into three parts: 1) the Upper Amur: before the city of Blagoveschensk; 2) the Middle Amur: from Blagoveschensk to Khabarovsk; 3) the Lower Amur: after Khabarovsk. There are only three bridges across the Amur. No dams have been built. In recent years fishermen have been complaining about pollution which comes from both Chinese and Russian sources.
RUSSIAN FAR EAST AND ITS PEOPLE factsanddetails.com; KOREANS IN RUSSIA AND THE THE FORMER SOVIET UNION factsanddetails.com
Route of the Amur River
The Amur River flows in Russia and along the Russian-Chinese border. It is 2,824 kilometers long — starting from the confluence of the Shilka and the Argun — and flows into the Sea of Okhotsk. The Shilka is a river in Zabaykalsky Krai, south-eastern Russia. It is 560 kilometers (350 miles long and originates at a confluence of the Onon and Ingoda rivers. The river is navigable for its entire length.
The Argun or Ergune is a 1,621 kilometers (1,007 miles) and forms part of the eastern China–Russia border, together with the Amur River. Its upper reaches are known as Hailar River The Argun marks the border (established by the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689) between Russia and China for about 944 kilometers (587 miles), until it meets the Amur River. The section of the Amur that defines the border between northern China and southeast Russia is 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) long. The region was the site of a battle between the Manchu-Chinese and Cossack-Russians in 1689. The current borders are the result of the Treaty if Aigun, signed in 1858, which the Chinese regarded as only temporary.
The Amur formally begins near the forest town of Skovorodino, where the Argun and Shilka Rivers join to form the Amur proper. The eastern end of the Bezumny (Mad) Island is considered its source. Other major tributaries include the Zeya, the Bureya and the Amgun rivers to the north and the Sunagri and Ussuri to the south.
The final 1045 kilometers (650 miles) of the river flows completely through Russia. From Khabarovsk, the Amur heads north for 650 kilometers (400 miles), passing through remote forests, swamps, muddy coastal flatlands and empties into the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific Ocean, by way of a large gulf by of the drab city of Nokolayevsk. Boat captains hate navigating the final section because the water is shallow and the navigable channels change all the time.
Amur River Fish
More than 100 species of fish live in the Amur’s waters, including massive kaluga sturgeon, which can reach over six and half meters (20 feet) in length, weigh more than a ton, live to be 100 and produce 400 pound of valuable caviar. Salmon are the most important commercial fish. Each year the salmon run lasts for almost three months.
The inhabitants of the Amur include valuable species of fish that swim upstream during the spawning period — the Siberian salmon and the hunchback salmon. Less valuable species include crucians, European carp, silver carp, predatory carp, Amur catfish, Amur pike, and grass carp.
The Amur is among richest rivers in terms of fish species. Aby one count there are at least 123 species of fish from 23 families inhabiting the Amul. The majority are of the Gobioninae subfamily of Cypriniformes, followed in number by Salmonidae. Several of the species are endemic. Pseudaspius and Mesocottus are monotypic genera found only in the Amur and some nearby coastal rivers. Few other rivers in the world have more than 100 species of fish,.
Four species of the Acipenseridae family can be found: the kaluga, Amur sturgeon, Sakhalin sturgeon and sterlet. The Kaluga and Amur sturgeon are endemic. The sterlet was introduced from the Ob river in the 1950s. Large predatory fish include the 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.
People on the Amur River
About 8½ million people live on the Amur’s length. Those that live on the Chinese side are noticeable more prosperous than those on the Russian side. Ferries are the primarily means of transportation across the river in the summer. Buses cross the ice in the winter.
Not as many people cross the river as you would think because Russians and Chinese remain so suspicious of one another. Those that cross are primarily Russian and Chinese traders carrying Russian-bound plastic bags filled with blocks of tea, T-shirts, sandals, whiskey and even Chinese-made vodka.
The Nania, Ulchi and Evenki are the main ethnic groups that have traditionally lived along the Amur river. Some villages still have shaman and do the old dances but many of the traditions are being lost and young people are more interested in the modern world than the old world. There are about 30,000 Evenks in Evenk, National Area, Yakutia, Taimyr, Buryatia and Sakhalin.
The Ulchi people live along the Amur River in Krabarovsk Territory. There are about 2,500 of them. They have traded in their traditional fishing boats for boats with outboard motor. The Ulchi, Nanai and Evenki wore fish skin clothes or clothes with fish skin parts. Some Amur River people wore coats of embroidered salmon skin. See Separate Article HEZHEN: THE FISHSKIN CLOTHES PEOPLE factsanddetails.com
The Nanai live in the Khabarovsk Territory and Promotye Territory of the lower Amur basin in the Russian Far East. Formally known to Russians as the Goldi people, they are related to the Evenki in Russia and the Hezhen in China and have traditionally shared the Amur region with the Ulchi and Evenki. They speak an Altaic language related to Turkish and Mongolian. Nanai means “local, indigenous person."
The Nanai have inhabited the Amur region since Neolithic times. On the banks of the Amur River archeologist have discovered 6,000 year old depictions of tigers carved the Goldi people. Their culture has been influenced by the ancient Tungus, Turkish and Mongolian tribes. They shared their territory with the Chinese Manchus and were not incorporated into Russia until the 1850s. After that many became Orthodox Christians and adopted Russian fishing methods and houses. Under, the Soviets, some were settled on fishing collectives. Others migrated to the cities and became involved in modern life.
The Nivkhs are an ethnic groups that live along the lower Amur River and on Sakhalin Island. Also known as the Gilak, Gilyak, Giriya and Nibuhi, they are the earliest inhabitants of Sakhalin Island and were described by Anton Chekhov in his book The Island. The speak a language related to the languages of the Ket, Yukagir, Chukchi and Koryak and have traditionally been seal hunters and fishermen who lived wooden or subterranean houses or spent time in temporary shelters made from fish skin while pursuing game and fish,
There are about 5,000 Nivkhs. About half live on the lower Amur River . The other half live on Sakhalin Island. They have traditionally hunted sea lions and seals with harpoons and clubs in the spring and fished much of the year, with a particular emphasis on catching Siberian and humpback salmon. The did some hunting and trapping and gathering of plants and kept dogs but were not involved in reindeer herding.
See Separate Article PEOPLE OF THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST factsanddetails.com
Amur River Bridges and Boats
There are only three bridges across the Amur. No dams have been built.The first permanent bridge across the Amur, the 2,590-meter (8,500-foot) -long Khabarovsk Bridge was completed in 1916, allowing the trains on the Transsiberian Railway to cross the river year-round without using ferries or rail tracks on top of the river ice. In 1941 a railway tunnel was added as well. Later, a combined road and rail bridge over the Amur at Komsomolsk-on-Amur (1975, 1400 meters long) and the road and rail Khabarovsk Bridge (1999; 3890 meters long) were constructed. These bridges are all in Russia.
The Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge, first proposed in 2007, will connect Tongjiang in China with Nizhneleninskoye, a village in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia. The Chinese portion of the bridge was finished in July 2016. In December 2016, work began on the Russian portion of the bridge. The bridge is expected to open in 2020.
A 19-9-kilometer road-bridge is being built between Blagoveshchensk in Russia and Heihe in China. The project will include a 1.28-kilometer railroad bridge over the Amur River. The international highway will connect Jilin-Heilongjiang expressway in China to a highway in Blagoveshchensk, Russia. A 6.5-kilometer section of the highway is being built in China, starting in Changfatun, Heihe city. The remaining 13.4-kilometer is being constructed in Russia from Canikulgan village, Blagoveshchensk. The total cost of the project is US$358 million, of which China is paying US$81.7 million. The river bridge will be a low-pylon cable-stayed bridge (called the Amur Bridge in Russia). Construction started in 2016. [Source: .roadtraffic-technology]
Cruises of the Amur River used to be offered in “Amur Star,” a 265-foot-long European-style river boat with four decks, two bars, nightly entertainment, and space for 78 passengers . A typical meal includes soup, salad, bread, king crab, scallops and German beer. But this boat not to be going anymore. But maybe a new cruise has opened up.
Its too bad the “Amur Star” cruised ended. Stops included Komsomolsk, a small city carved out of the wilderness in 1932 by young Communist "volunteers," and small villages and towns occupied by rugged indigenous people related to Mongolians and Eskimos. Most of the stops didn't have much in the way of tourist sights other than small cultural museum, folk dance shows and modest handicraft markets. The cruise was usually combined with a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Daily summer hydrofoil or ferry service may be operating between Khaborovsk, Komsolmolsk and Nikolaevsk. There are also pleasure cruises lasting a few hours on the Amur River in Khaborovsk. According to Lonely Planet: “(at times rollicking) party boats. Cruises on the Moskva-81 depart every two hours from 12.30pm to 12.30am, provided enough customers show up.”
Khabarovsk Bridge is a road and rail bridge that crosses the Amur River from Imeni Telmana in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast to Khabarovsk in Khabarovsk Krai. The 2,590-meter (8,500 foot) bridge was originally built in 1916 as a single-track structure that carried the Trans-Siberian Railway line across the Amur River. For decades this was longest bridge in Russia and the Soviet Union.
The original Khabarovsk Bridge was designed by professor Laurus Dmitrievich Proskuryakov. His project, as well as the Eiffel Tower, received a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1908. Construction began in 2013 and was supposed to take only 26 months to compete. However, a year after construction started, World War I broke out. In fall 1914, a merchant ship carrying the last two spans was sunk in the Indian Ocean by German warship, delaying the completion of the bridge by more
In 1920, two of the bridge's eighteen metal spans were detonated by the guerrilla units retreating from Khabarovsk and egged on by the Japanese military during the Russian Civil War. As a result, the Trans-Siberian railway was severed by for five years. Reconstruction began shortly after the establishment of Soviet rule in the Far East in 1992. A new spans were assembled in Vladivostok from damaged parts of the spans that had fallen into the river and part of bridge meant for a tributary of the Volga River. The bridge was re-opened in 1925.
In 1999, a new bridge was opened right next to the old one, carrying automobile and rail traffic on two levels. It is 3,890 m long. The original spans of the old bridge were dismantled in the 21st century, though its supports were preserved. One of the spans of the old bridge was saved, restored and set on the banks of the Amur in the Museum of Khabarovsk Bridge, which is located nearby. The reconstructed Khabarovsk Bridge is depicted on the 5,000 Russian ruble banknote.
Museum of the Amur Bridge History (near the Khabarovsk Bridge) covers the history of the construction and reconstruction of bridges, tunnels, railways and highways in the Russian Far East. The Khabarovsk Bridge is an important object in the economy, logistics and history of the region. The main exhibit is a dismantled section of the old bridge. There is rolling stock from late 19th and early 20th centuries. Entrance to the museum is free but is only open to the public only on Saturdays. On other days, except Sundays and Mondays, the exhibition is open on request.
Amur River Tunnel
The Amur River Tunnel is a 7,198- meter-long railroad tunnel for the Trans-Siberian Railroad under the Amur River built between 1937 and 1932 to provide an alternate route for the Khabarovsk Bridge. Depth of tunnel below the water level is 7.4 meters. It is the only underwater tunnel in the Russian Railroad System.
During the 1930s, the construction of a second track for the Trans-Siberian Railroad east of Irkutsk was undertaken. The need to build this tunnel was caused by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and the loss of the Chinese Eastern Railway. Accordingly, the bridge at Krasnoyarsk was vulnerable to Japanese air raids. In 1936, it was decided that it was of utmost strategic importance to build a less-vulnerable tunnel or Trans-Siberian Railroad.
About 900 experts, thousands of local citizens and 5500 prisons (under the name “Construction No. 4" quarried limestone and helped in the construction. The Magnitogorsk plant on the Ural River supplied the iron tubing to line the tunnel. In 1941, after the outbreak of the war, Joseph Stalin set a time limit on completing the building of the railway. In July 1941, the first train with builders on it ran through the tunnel. Regular traffic started on October 1942. The tunnel played an important role in carrying supplies for the Russian invasion of Manchuria against Japan at the end of the war. After the fighting in the Far East was over in August 1945, the secret tunnel facility was closed. But later with the growth in freight traffic and the need to increase the capacity of the Trans-Siberian Railroad , the tunnel was electrified and opened to freight trains and passenger trains in the 1960s
Until 2008 both the tunnerl and the bridge were used by Trans-Siberian freight and apssenger trains. In 2009, reconstruction of Amur bridge so it could carry two-way traffic was finished. After the tunnel was reconstructed. Now there are three tracks: two on the bridge, and one in the tunnel.
Russian Far East
The Russian Far East is a region in eastern Russia that includes the territories that run along the Pacific coast and the Amur River, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sakhalin island and the Kuril Islands. It is a cold, inhospitable and sparsely populated area with stunning scenery, rich fisheries, virgin forest, remote towns, Siberian tigers and Aumur leopards. Sometimes the Russian Far East is regarded as part of Siberia.
Rachel Dickinson wrote in The Atlantic: Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District is huge — 2.4 million square miles, roughly twice the size of India — and takes up one-third of the country, but only 6.7 million people populate that vast space. (The district’s biggest city is Vladivostok — best known for being the last stop on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and home to the Russian Pacific fleet.) Provideniya was once a thriving military town with a population as high as 10,000; today the population is about 2,000. Most of the ethnic Russians have left, ceding the city to the region’s indigenous people. Now the government is struggling to stem the tide of people leaving the desolate Far East. [Source: Rachel Dickinson, The Atlantic, July/August 2009]
The entire Russian Pacific coastline extends for almost 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles). The formal dividing line between Siberia and the Far East are the borders of the Khabarovsk territory and Magadan region, which extends between 160 kilometers (100 miles) to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) inland from the Russia's east coast. Siberia, the Russian Far East and Kamchatka were largely covered by glaciers during the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago. In the Soviet era, the Far East had its share of gulags and labor camps, Maksim Gorky called it " land of chains and ice." Since the break up of the Soviet Union, its people have largely been forgotten. The whole region would probably be forgotten if it weren't so rich in resources.
The Far East only has 6.7 million people and its population is falling. There used to be around 8 million people there. Eighty percent of the people live in the cities but have a strong ties to the land: hunting, fishing or picking berries and mushrooms whenever they get the chance. Some places only exist because the government subsidizes them, providing the people with shipped-in food and cheap energy for heat. In the early 2000s, the government has decided it has spent too much supporting these people and told them they have to move. In some places the people refused to move and the government cut off their water and heat and they still stayed. In recent years thing have stabilized somewhat as more money has flowed in from oil, natural gas, minerals, fishing and timber.
What the Russian Far East lacks in historical sites, old cities and museums — compared to the European parts of Russia and even Siberia — it makes up for with a wide variety of beautiful scenery and adventures. The Amur Rive boast sturgeons the size of whales. In the Primorskiy territory you can find rocky islands, steep cliffs, Siberian tigers and Amur leopards. There are isolated beaches on rivers and the see. If you like taiga, there lots of that along with wild mountains and many places to go hiking, fishing, hunting and camping. On Kamchatka there are dozens of very active 's volcanoes. Further north are some of the best places in the world to see walruses, polar bears and whales. Khabarovsk and Vladivostok are two major cities that define the eastern end of the Trans-Siberian Railway and have plenty of urban activities.
The Far Eastern Federal District is the largest of the eight federal districts of Russia but the least populated. The 11 federal subjects are:
1) Amur Oblast: 361,900 square kilometers, 830,103 people, capital: Blagoveshchensk
2) Republic of Buryatia: 351,300 square kilometers,, 971,021 people, capital: Ulan-Ude
3) Jewish Autonomous Oblast: 36,300 square kilometers, 176,558 people, capital: Birobidzhan
4) Zabaykalsky Krai: 431,900 square kilometers, 1,107,107 people, capital: Chita
5) Kamchatka Krai: 464,300 square kilometers, 322,079 people, capital: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
6) Magadan Oblast: 462,500 square kilometers, 156,996 people, capital: Magadan
7) Primorsky Krai: 164,700 square kilometers, 1,956,497 people, capital: Vladivostok
8) Sakha Republic: 3,083,500 square kilometers, 958,528, people capital: Yakutsk
9) Sakhalin Oblast: 87,100 square kilometers, 497,973 people, capital: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
10) Khabarovsk Krai: 787,600 square kilometers, 1,343,869 people, capital: Khabarovsk
11) Chukotka Autonomous Okrug: 721,500 square kilometers, 50,526 people, capital: Anadyr
Traveling in the Far East is troublesome. There are few roads, and they are in poor conditions. Many places can’t be reached by road anyway. Rivers are frozen much of the year. Helicopters can cost as much as US$500 an hour to rent. Corruption is rampant and it seems like everyone wants a cut. Even if paperwork is in order customs officials, police an other authorities demand, sometimes, huge outrageous "fees."
Economics of the Far East
The Far East is rich in gold, diamonds, oil, natural gas, minerals, timber and fish. It accounts for more than 60 percent of Russia's total sea harvest and fishing is the region’s leading industry, providing jobs for more than 150,000 people. People in the Far East should be rich from the wealth generated from fishing, timber and minerals but that is not necessarily the case. In the case of timber, in the early 2000s, local communities were supposed to get 30 percent of the profits but in reality Moscow took 80 percent and local officials took the rest.
In the early 2000s, gas and oil companies could not pay their workers and utility companies couldn’t pay the oil and gas companies and as a result electricity was only on for a few hours a day. Workers were among the last to receive their wages, factories were cannibalized of scrap metal and parts, students studied in sub-freezing classrooms, and people died at early ages. Those that could afford it moved away.
Many foreign companies were equally frustrated. The U.S. wood product giant Weyerhaueser, Korea's Hyundai conglomerate and Australian mining companies arrived in east Russia with high hopes but after some time there either packed up and left or scaled down their staff down to a skeletal crew.
Amur Oblast located on the banks of the Amur and Zeya Rivers in the Russian Far East. It is a traditionally been a trade and gold mining center and is crossed by both the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal–Amur Mainline railways. The part of the Amur river in the oblast is primarily the section that flows along the Chinese-Russian border. The section that flows through Russia only is mainly in Khaborovsk Krai There are places where you can enter China without a visa. Website: Tourism Portal of the Amur Region: www.amurvisit.ru
Amur Oblast covers 363,700 quare kilometers (140,400 square miles), is home to about 830,000 people and has a population density of 2.3 people per square kilometer. About two thirds of the population live in urban areas. Blagoveshchensk is the capital and largest city, with about 214,000 people. As you move from west to east the climate changes from sharply continental to monsoon.
The Amur region is known mainly as place where Chinese come to but cheap Russian goods and Russians cross the river to go on shopping tours in China. It doesn’t long to get out of the cities in nature, where roads and rivers pass through steppe, hills and taiga forest. Among the places of interest Amur Oblast are the Vostochny cosmodrome, where rockets are launched; the Amur. Zeya, Norsk and Khingan nature reserves, home to endangered animals and industrial enterprises that include one of the world's largest gas processing plants.
Getting There: By Air The fight from Moscow to Blagoveshchensk takes 7 hours 30 minutes. Flights are operate four times a week. The peak season is the spring and in December, at which time ticket prices increases to 27,000 rubles one way. In the “ low “ season, it is possible to get a one-way a ticket for 12,000 rubles. By Train: The Trans-Siberian Railway stops in Blagoveshchensk. The train from Moscow to Blagoveshchensk takes six days. The cost of a reserved seat ticket is 8300 rubles, and for a more comfortable berth in a compartment the price is 16,400 rubles.
History of Amur Oblast
The development of the territories of the modern Amur region was not easy. The first Russian pioneers and Cossacks fought against soldiers and desperate resistance fighters of the Chinese Manchu Qing Empire. The border conflict lasted 50 years and ended with the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689, according to which the upper reaches of the Amur river were divided into Russian and Qing parts. The lands to the East remained undivided in in part because the area was still largely unexplored and both sides had no idea who lived there.
Russia gained a hold on the region thanks to pioneers, sailors, Cossacks, gold miners, businessmen and adventurers. In 1849, the Russian navy organized an Amur expedition. Military posts and settlements were set up, strengthening Russia’s claims on the region. Naval officer Gennady Nevelskoy arrived at the mouth of the Amur river, in what was was Qing territory and founded the Nicholas post there. In Moscow, his actions caused discontent, but Emperor Nicholas I said: “Where the Russian flag is raised, it should not go down.”
Blagoveshchensk, the main town in Amur Oblast, was founded in 1856 as the military post Ust-Zeisk by a military unit of about 500 men under the command Cossack cavalry brigade leader N. Hilkovskogo. The first church was established not long afterwards. Among the first places that was readied was the graveyard to bury soldiers and settlers that didn’t survive the harsh winters. The town prospered when gold was discovered in the Amur region. Soviet soldiers based here advanced towards Japan at the close of World War II. The city came to life in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union thanks to trades and entrepreneurs who shuttled between Russia and China, selling a wide variety of goods.Today these traders are honored, near the Amur fair building, with a two-meter bronze statue of a bespectacled man with a suitcase and a trunk.
Magdagachi (on the Trans-Siberian Railway, 470 kilometers northwest of Blagoveshchensk) is urban-type settlement in the Amur region with about 10,000 people, where vehicles were loaded onto and taken off the Trans-Siberian Railway because the 9,000 kilometers or so of road to the west was so bad. The road was improved in the 2010s and not as many vehicles are loaded onto the Trans-Siberian Railway as they were in the past.
On his experience arriving in Magdagachi on the vehicle train, Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “During a long stop in the middle of the night, I emerged into consciousness with a sense of something being different now. I got up, opened the van door, walked to the passageway. As I stepped out onto it, my awareness of space expanded enormously: our vagon was sitting by itself in a vast, irregularly lighted train yard. This must be Magdagachi. In a minute the khozyain joined me, looking a bit rusty from the entertainments of his journey, and confirmed that we had arrived. Suddenly a beam of light swung down on us, backed up by a resounding diesel noise. Behind the light, I could just make out, by shading my eyes, a train engine’s massive form. Out of the brightness, stepping onto the coupling at the engine’s front, the engineer appeared. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“Without preamble the engineer began to yell an abusive stream of complaint or instruction at the khozyain, who yelled even more heatedly at him. Amounts of rubles were shouted back and forth. Then the khozyain went into his stateroom and reëmerged, cursing, with a wad of bills. He handed it to the engineer, who counted it in the engine’s headlight, then put it in his bib. I was told to get out of the way. The engine was then maneuvered around and the vagon coupled to it. In another minute we had been pulled up to the unloading ramp. All the drivers in the vagon woke up, the sealed-shut back doors opened, and the vehicles rolled down the ramp into the Magdagachi night.
“It was one-thirty in the morning when we emerged from the vagon. We knew nothing about Magdagachi except its name. The hard-drinking dentist, father of fourteen-year-old Kira, told Sergei that he could lead us to a fuel station that he thought would be open, so we followed him there. He also said that he knew how to find the road out of Magdagachi; but after he had fuelled up he drove off without waiting for us, and when we tried to make our way by the directions the fuel-station man gave us we soon were meandering on roads and non-roads in Magdagachi. Finally, we got so turned around that we were driving on gravelly nothing zones between unlit buildings, and Sergei pulled over in a weed lot where we spent another few uncomfortable hours attempting to sleep in the van.
“A little after dawn, we awoke and set out again, and with more people available at that hour to ask for directions we did find the road. Driving in our dusty, exhaust-fume, no-shock-absorbers van seemed like carefree travel after the gloomy limbo of the vagon. A leisurely three hundred kilometers or so farther on, we stopped in the early afternoon and camped on the banks of the Zeya River outside the city of Svobodnyi (Free). From the Zeya we took a detour off the main road in order to see the Amur River and the city of Blagoveshchensk.”
Belogorsk (109 kilometers from Blagoveshchens and the Chinese border, kilometer 7873 on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, 1,470 kilometers from Chita, 640 kilometers from Khabarovsk ) is where a branch line of the Trans-Siberian goes to Blagoveshchensk and the Amur River. There isn’t much to see and few foreign tourists stop here. Russian ones do, though, many on their to shopping trips in China.
Belogorsk is one of the oldest settlements of the Amur region. The city is located on the left bank of the lower reaches of the river Tom (Zeya River) 50 kilometers from its mouth. The town is home to about 70,000 people (8 percent of the population of the Amur region).
The first settlement on the site of the town was a village called Alexandrov, founded in 1860 by immigrants from the Perm region. In 1883, near the village of Alexander's on a channel of the river Bochkarevka village was built. The Amur railway (Trans-Siberian Railway) opened in 1913.
Today Belogorsk is an industrial area and railway and transportation hub. From here branch lines go Blagoveshchensk and Baikal-Amur Mainline. Highways connect with cities and settlements in Yakutia, Khabarovsk and Primorsky. Belogorsk lies at Being in the center of a vast agricultural area and food processing is an important industry.
Vostochny Cosmodrome(150 kilometers north of Belogorsk) is a Russian spaceport still partly under construction near the town of Tsiolkovsky. in the Amur Oblast. One the primary purposes of the facility is to reduce Russia's reliance on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The first launch took place in April 2016. As of July 2019, five launch attempts have been made with four successes. Visitors are only allowed on the site unless they are members of an organized group.
Vostochny Cosmodrome means "Eastern Spaceport". The reserved territory of the cosmodrome covers 1,035 square kilometers. Construction began in 2011. The first launch was originally planned for December 2015. However, under a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was postponed to 2016 due to the uncompleted state of a number of cosmodrome facilities,. By 2021, tests for manned spacecraft are scheduled to take place, with manned spacecraft being launched in 2023.
The core of the spaceport’s administrative infrastructure will be located in the closed administrative district of Uglegorsk. The location of new launch facilities and other structures will be determined as the cosmodrome grows according to development program when they are formally approved. The cite fore the facility was chosen both for its remoteness (in part in case there is an accident) and its access to major transport routes such as BAM railway and major power supplies. Some facilities related to Vostochny may be built outside of Amur Oblast.
There are plans to construct ten technical and supporting grounds. The construction will produce a launch pad for a large launch vehicle that can carry a payload of up to 20 tons, which will have two launchers, an airfield, an oxygen and nitrogen plant, a hydrogen plant, a power supply system, 115 kilometers of roads and 125 kilometers of railways, including a 30-kilometer railway line from Ledyanaya station, a satellite city designed to accommodate 35,000 people as well as tourists. According to a 2009 estimate, the construction will cost US$13.5 billion.
Blagoveshchensk (109 kilometers from Belogorsk) is border town on the Amur River with 214,000 people. The capital and largest city in Amur Oblast, it has wide streets, early 20th century brick building, a tsarist-era garrison and log cabins. It is one of the oldest settlements in the Russian Far East, founded in 1856. Many people make their living selling and distributing cheap Chinese consumer goods. Across the river, a distance of about 500 meters, is the booming Chinese town of Heihe. From June to September a ferry plies the river between Blagoveshchensk and Heihe. From November or March people make the crossing on ice road over the frozen Amur River. A new bridge is expected to
Blagoveshchensk is one of the oldest merchant cities of the Far East, and today acts as a link between Siberia, the Russian Far East and China. Places worth checking out include the Amur embankment and the arc de Triomphe. From Blagoveshchensk you can explore the taiga and Northern regions.
Most of the restaurants serve Chinese food and most of the fruit and vegetables are from China. Increasingly Chinese are building houses and farming the surrounding land. Many of city's Russian residents are hired by the Chinese to move goods into Russia. They are called "bricks," a reference to the brick-shaped duffle bags they use to carry goods. There are also many Russian women who work at brothels that cater to Chinese clients.
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: “Blagoveshchenie means “annunciation,” and the name is not too lofty for the city, which I thought the handsomest we’d been through since St. Petersburg. Blagoveshchensk is fortunate for two reasons—its light, and China. Something about the Pacific Ocean, maybe, gives a reddish-gold tint to light that spreads up the river and this far inland. The benign and hopeful sunniness of Blagoveshchensk reminded me somehow of Palo Alto, California. Blagoveshchensk and other Amur River cities could be the Golden East, as California was the Golden West. Or maybe this notion was just my homesick imagination. Still, the sun and blue sky and reddish-gold light as we drove around Blagoveshchensk struck me as imported, not quite Russian.” [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“Second, China: The Chinese industrial city of Heihe is just across the Amur. Our radio had begun picking up Chinese radio stations. On the other side of the pale-brown, slow-moving, dauntingly wide Amur the tops of the tallest buildings of Heihe could be seen. Like other Amur River cities, Heihe and Blagoveshchensk participate in an agreement that locally suspends certain visa and customs regulations for the purposes of encouraging trade. I saw several big buildings under construction in Blagoveshchensk, a rarity in these remote areas, and Chinese laborers working on them. The hard hats the workmen wore were made of wicker. A lot of the smaller structures in the city were new. Some had pagoda-style roofs. No thickets of morkovnik or other weeds grew along the streets, and the usually omnipresent trash, in heaps or promiscuously strewn, seemed to be gone.”
Heihe (across the Amur River from Blagoveshchensk) is a city in north Heilongjiang Province that has come alive since Russians have been allowed to enter China without a visa. The main shopping area is filled with Russian customers. Dumpling restaurants have had to open new branches to accommodate all the customers. Economic growth in Russia in recent years has given Russians money to spend and they like China as the prices there are half those in Russia.
In the 1990s the Heihe government set up a special trade zone on Daheihe Island, about a square kilometer in size, on the Amur River and allowed travel there without a visa. In 2004 the government expanded the trade zone to a 15-square-kilometer area that includes most of Heihe. About a half million Russians visit the city every year. They travel across the Amur by ship in the summer and by bus or hovercraft in the winter.
Many people have become prosperous selling goods. Heihe boast a five-star hotel topped by a revolving restaurant. The embankment has a promenade paved with white stone. There are plans to establish similar trade zones in other border town and encourage trade with Russia. However the Russian government doesn't want too many Chinese good to flow in and has restricted the amount of goods that can come in duty free and is reluctant to simplify customs procedures.
Ivanovka village (33 kilometers from Blagoveshensk) has managed to retain the charm of the old Russian village. Founded 1864 by immigrants from various Russian provinces, it quickly became one of the largest settlements of the Amur region. Among the exhibits in the Ivanovsky District Local History Museum are "The settlement, life and culture of the peasants of the Ivanovo region", "Formation of the Soviet power in the Amur River", "The World War II of 1941-1945. Heroes-Ivanovo " and " The Nature of the Amur region. "
The “Monument in the Blood" is dedicated to residents of Ivanovka who were burnt and shot during an uprising against the Japanese. Revolutionary activity in Ivanovo angered command of Japanese troops. On March 22, 1919 there was a terrible massacre of civilians: 257 people were shot, 36 were burned alive in the peasant barn and more than 1,000 children were orphaned. Another monument is dedicated to the soldiers of Ivanovo who died during World War II.
Ivanovka is famous for its lake of lotuses. During flowering season sometimes many tourists show up to check it out. Villagers that open their houses as homestays often prepare home-cooked meals, share their everyday life, and demonstrate their crafts such as bead work, Ukrainian embroidery and cross stitch. The town’s church, Bogorodichno St. John the Theologian, is one of the oldest in the area.
Heading East from Blagoveshchensk
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““We headed out of Blagoveshchensk in its California evening light and settled back for a few hours of driving in what remained of the day, but the road we were on—a major road, and in fact the only one here that continued cross-country, a road marked in red on the map—suddenly came to an end. It reached the Bureya River and just quit. Reëxamining the map, I noticed that the red of the highway did become a dotted line for a very short span at this spot.
“There was no bridge, no nothing. I had never known a major road to do that before. After a bit of searching, however, we found a ferry landing, albeit sans ferry. The ferryman had apparently taken the ferry to the other side of the Bureya, and no one among the two dozen waiting cars knew when he might return. Sergei backtracked up the road to look for a camping spot, figuring we’d just wait till morning. All we could find were small openings in the thick woods where the weeds grew six feet high. Finally, we plunged the van into an out-of-the-way opening, tramped down some weeds beside it, and pitched our tents. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“At the ferry landing the next morning, there were only a few cars, but still no ferry. Soon more cars and several trucks showed up. Finally the ferry came, loaded a few cars and our van with great slowness, and slowly took us to the other side. A lot of other vehicles were waiting there for the return trip. I could not understand why this one river should be without a bridge; clearly, some of the people in the queue would be there all day. But we seemed to have entered a forgotten zone. As we continued on this alleged cross-country highway, it quit trying altogether and became little more than a swamp lane. On its rare paved stretches you couldn’t get too comfortable, because in another moment you’d have to slow down and negotiate mudholes in lowest gear. “Bad goldfish!” Half a day of this brought us to the border of Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.”
Khingan Nature Reserve
Khingan Nature Reserve (300 kilometers southeast of Blagoveshchensk, 37 kilometers from Arkhara village) is located in the southeastern edge of Amur oblast within the Arkharinskaya lowland and the Maly Khingan range spurs. The main territory is between the Uril and Mutnaya rivers, from the Amur river floodplain to the railroad.
The reserve was established in 1963 the same day as three reserves in Amur: Bolshekhekhtsirsky, Komsomolsky, and Zeya. The main goal was to preserve the steppe and forest-steppe landscapes of the Southern Amur area, as well as the breeding grounds of the Ussuri and white-naped cranes. The reserve territory is classified as wetlands of international significance.
Black carnes and Japanese cranes live in the reserve. It is the only place in the Russian Far East where the raccoon dog can be found. The Komarov Lotus Natural Monumnet is located within the reserve. This beautiful flower blooms from mid-July to mid-August. There is a camp on the shore of Dolgoe lake with a kitchen with everything needed for cooking. Tourists cook food themselves. The camp can accommodate up to 40 people.
Employees of the Khingan Nature Reserve offer guided tours when lotus flowers are in bloom on Dolgoe lake. In the last ten days of July, the Komarov lotus begins flowering. Excursions with rides to Dolgoe Lake are followed with a lecture. A large number of tourists are attracted by the sacred flower, which has existed for over a hundred million years. Mass lotus flowering ends by mid-August.
Burning Mountains in the Amur Region
Burning Mountains (350 kilometers from Blagoveshchensk and 35 kilometers above the village of Novovoskresenovka) is a site on the left bank of the Amur River where the mountains are literally burning. The mountains “burn” because of brown coal, lying at a depth of 10-15 meters. The coal self-ignited about 300 years ago from contact with the air and has been smoldering and burning ever since.
Near the village of Novovoskresenovka, the Amur makes a steep bend, washing the shore and forming a 80-120 meters high cliff. On this site, the left bank is a very blurred and dismembered edge of the Amuro-Zeya plateau with flattened watersheds and box-like valleys, the slopes of which are intersected by ravines. The precipitous ledge in the tract is almost constantly washed by the river, especially intensively in the floods, so the wall of the outcrop is constantly updated.
Strongly watered and loose coals on the day surface are constantly self-igniting. Renovation of the surface of the slope of the cliff and shedding of the burning layer of coals provides escape from under the ash for the fresh layer and, as a consequence, it keeps combusting. Perhaps the natural process of spontaneous combustion of coal is also supported by the flow of natural gas from the earth's interior through cracks in the rocks. Smoke rises in a number of places, and the flame is visible at night.
Jewish Autonomous Oblast
Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO) is region set up for Jews that has practically no Jews in it. It covers 36,000 square kilometers (14,000 square miles), is home to about 160,000 people and has a population density of 4.9 people per square kilometer. About two thirds of the population live in urban areas. The city of Birobidzhan is the capital and largest city, with about 75,000 people.
Despite its name, non-Jewish Russians have always made up the majority of the population of the region. Now there are hardly any Jews left. At its height in the late 1940s, the Jewish population in the region peaked at around 46,000–50,000, around 25 percent of region’s population. According to the 2010 Census, only 1,628 Jews remainined in the JAO (less than 1 percent of the population), while ethnic Russians made up 92.7 percent of the JAO population. On top of this few of the Jews that live in JAO are practicing Jews (Judaism is practiced by only 0.2 percent of the population of the JAO.
The idea for a Jewish region in the Soviet Union dates the 1920s when the unemployment rate among Jews exceeded 30 percent — partially as a result of pogroms but also as a result of Soviet policies that prohibited people from being craftspeople and small businessmen. A Jewish region was seen as a way to create jobs for Jews. The Soviets also wanted to offer an alternative to Zionism, establishing a Jewish homeland in the U.S.S.R. so Jews didn’t feel the need to emigrate to Palestine.
At first the Crimea was chosen as the site of the Jewish region. But later the current sit was selected primarily for military, geo-political and economic reasons. In the spring of 1928, 654 Jews arrived to settle in the area; however, by October 1928, half of them had left because of the severe conditions. In the summer of 1928, torrential rains flooded crops and an outbreak of anthrax killed many the cattle. In the 1930s, a propaganda campaign with Yiddish posters was launched to get Jewish settlers to move there and many did. But after Stalin’s anti-Jewish purges in 1948, the Jewish population began a steady decline. By 1959, on 14, 269 Jews remained.
Birobidzhan (kilometer 8358 on the Trans-Siberian Railroad) is the capital of Jewish Autonomous Region and home to about 75,000 people. Most of Jews that one lived here have left. Taking their place are Russians working in Korean-owned factories who are happy to work in well-heated facilities and be paid on time.
Sights included the Museum of Local Studies, with a room devoted to the Jewish history of the region and the Yiddish Music and Drama Theater, which still hosts concerts by Yiddish folk music groups. A number of signs around town are written in Hebrew. Outside the city is a unique, natural ice cave. Tourist agencies sponsors trip to the foothills of the Maly Khingan Mountain Range.
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““Half a day of this brought us to the border of Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Under Stalin in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, the idea of setting aside this region in the drainage of the Bira and the Bidzhan Rivers for a Jewish homeland attracted support among Jews in the Soviet Union, America, and elsewhere. Here sparsely occupied land extending for two hundred miles along the Trans-Siberian Railway offered the advantages of plenty of room and no unwelcoming nationalities who needed to be removed. On the other hand, Birobidzhan is a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Although many thousands of Jews, including groups from America, did move here, almost all of them left within a few years. Birobidzhan’s Jewish population was four per cent in 1990, and it has gone down since.” [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010)]
The Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge, first proposed in 2007, will connect Tongjiang in China with Nizhneleninskoye, a village in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia. The Chinese portion of the bridge was finished in July 2016. In December 2016, work began on the Russian portion of the bridge. The bridge is expected to open in 2020.
Khabarovsk Krai is the 4th largest state-like entity in Russia. Located in Russian Far East a few hundred kilometers north of Vladivostok, it borders the the Sea of Okhotsk, a branch of the Pacific Ocean. The southern part of the krai lies mostly in the basin of the lower Amur River, with the mouth of the river located at Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, emptying into the Strait of Tartary, which separates Khabarovsk Krai from the island of Sakhalin. The northern part is occupied by a huge mountainous area along the Sea of Okhotsk coastline. Khabarovsk Krai is bordered by Magadan Oblast to the north, Amur Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and the Sakha Republic to the west and Primorsky Krai to the south. China is not far away. Website: Tourism Portal of Khabarovsk Krai: travel.khv.ru
Khabarovsk Krai covers 788,600 square kilometers (304,500 square miles), is home to about 1.34 million people and has a population density of 1.7 people per square kilometer. About 81.5 percent of the population live in urban areas. Khabarovsk City is the capital and largest city, with about 577,000,000 people, almost half the Krai’s population. The population is mostly ethnic Russians, but some indigenous people of the area, including Tungusic peoples (Evenks, Negidals, Ulchis, Nanai, Oroch, Udege) and Amur Nivkhs and Ainu remain in relatively small numbers. There are about 1,700 Udeges, 500 Negidals, 2,500 Ulchi,
Khabarovsk region is both an industrial center and an area of unspoilt nature. Mountains, hills, forests, valley lakes and wild rivers dominate the region. Summer is a good time to go hiking in the mountains, raft down a river or check out sea animal rookeries. Wwinter is ideal for cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, show-shoeing, tracking animals and snowboarding. Khabarovsk’s attractions include the Amur River, the Ussuri taiga, Amur (Siberian) tigers, brown and Himalayan bears, snow sheep and Amur leopards.
The seven-kilometer railway tunnel under the Amur river, is now over 80 years old., delivering the Trans-Siberian railway on its final leg to Vladivostok. Follow the tracks of the famous Nanai hunter and guide for Arseniev Dersu Uzala, made famous in an Oscar-winning Kurozawa film. The Sikachi-Alyan area is known for their petroglyphs. A handful of Nanais still fish skin clothes. The city of Khabarovsk has its share of charming old buildings as well as factories that offer tours. The combination of northern latitudes can produce some pretty nasty — windy and snowy — winters and summers can be hot and humid. Ice can start fort forming as late October and stick around until May.
Getting There: Khabarovsk is a hub, where the Russian Far East meets the rest of the country. Primorye, Sakhalin and Vladivostok in the area. Khabarovsk city can be reached by ferry from China. The Chinese town of Fuyuan is accessible by a three-hour hydrofoil ride on the Amur Khabarovsk is place where tourists coming from Japan and Alaska can pick up the Trans-Siberian Railway. By Air: Khabarovsk is connected with 50 cities in Russia and abroad. The flight time from Moscow to Khabarovsk is around 7 hours 45 minutes. There are also relatively cheap flights Khabarovsk from Japan and South Korea and other Asia cities. There are direct flight between Khabarovsk and Seoul, Pyongyang and several Chinese cities. By Train: On the Trans-Siberian Railway ,it take about 12 hours to reach Vladivostok and five days to reach Moscow.
Khabarovsk(kilometer 8531 on the Trans-Siberian, on the Pacific Ocean along the banks of the Amur) is a city of 577,000 people with European buildings and a strong Asian influence. Located at a wide confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers, it has been called the Paris of the Amur. It features wide boulevards, impressive Orthodox churches and elegant 19th century fur trader houses. It is also where the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was born in 1942.
Khabarovsk City is the capital and largest of Khabarovsk Krai and one the largest cities in the Russian Far East. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, it has been overrun with Chinese and Chinese goods. Ferries across the Amur bring in Chinese traders loaded down with bags full fo cheap consumer goods. The markets are full of Chinese merchants. As of 2003 there were ten Chinese restaurants and two Chinese hotels in the town,. There are also sushi restaurants, Korean take-aways and karaokes and Chinese hotels filled Japanese geologists in search of diamonds and gold and Korean businessmen setting television factories and signing timber concessions. There is also a North Korean consulate and Pyongyang restaurant.
In some ways Khabarovsk is a boom town. In other ways it is a poor, desperate Far eastern town with filthy buildings, street corner campfires in the winter and masses of unemployed people who wish they could leave. Khabarovsk is very cold in the winter. It is located at the same latitude as Paris but the winds that keep the French capital warm have to travel more than 4,000 miles to reach Khabarovsk.
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““Khabarovsk, the city, figures importantly in the movie—when Dersu, whose sight is failing, moves to Arsenyev’s house in the middle of town. Finding the house where Arsenyev lived in Khabarovsk was another of my Siberian goals. Sergei and Volodya completely approved, for a change; they were even bigger fans of Dersu and Arsenyev than I was. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“From far off, Khabarovsk looks nothing like the trim little community of the movie. The city occupies one of the great river junctions in this part of the world: at Khabarovsk, the Amur River, having been the border between Russia and China for about sixteen hundred kilometers, turns left, or northeastward, and crosses Russian territory for the rest of its course until reaching the ocean. Meanwhile, the Ussuri River, joining the Amur from the south, takes over as the Russian-Chinese border. Travellers coming to Khabarovsk from the west cross the Amur on a bridge that goes on and on. Sergei said it was the longest bridge in the country. Up ahead, spread out in a succession of ridges above the confluence, Khabarovsk seemed endlessly large. With its tall sky and sprawling landscape, it could have been a city designed for animals considerably larger than humans—mammoths, maybe, or mid-sized dinosaurs. We soon learned that Arsenyev’s house no longer stands. An exhibit about Arsenyev in the regional museum said that an Intourist hotel had been built on the spot where the house used to be.”
Accommodation: Hotel Willow is located in the historical center, close to Amur Boulevard, the waterfront and museums. The staff is friendly. In the evening, it is better to book a table in advance at a local restaurant. At the Hotel Mound all rooms have excellent views of the Amur river or the Transfiguration Cathedral. The hotel is small, near Ussuriysky Boulevard. Breakfast is served in the room. With the Hotel Parus, everything is nearby: the city center, museums, promenade, Boulevard. Next door is the house of official receptions of the government of the Khabarovsk territory. The Central building of the hotel is located in a 19th century old two-storey mansion with stylish interiors. The average price for a night in Khabarovsk hotel is 4500 rubles .
History of Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is named after the 17th-century explorer Yerofey Khaborov, who was the first Russian to conduct expeditions in the Far East, and was founded in 1858 by Count Muravev, the man behind Russia gaining control of the Amur river and region from the Manchu Chinese. In 1893, the outpost was designated a city and received the name Khabarovsk.
Khabarovsk was founded in a very convenient location at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers. It developed fairly rapidly. Fur, fisheries and the unequal exchange with the natives made some people very rich and attracted people from all over Russia. By the time it became a city it was a thriving trading center.
The railway between Khabarovsk and Vladivostok was opened in 1897. The Trans-Baikal Railway was completed around the same time. The final link in the Trans-Siberian Railway was the railway bridge across the Amur River in Khabarovsk.The bridge was designed by professor Laurus Dmitrievich Proskuryakov. His project, as well as the Eiffel Tower, received a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1908. In 1916, the three-kilometer-long bridge was finished. The magnificent bridge across the Amur River is still the hallmark of Khabarovsk.
At the end of the 19th century about 15,000 people lived in Khabarovsk . Before the arrival of the Trans-Siberian Railway, it was a remote fur-trading post and Cossack garrison. After the railroad, soldiers, lumbermen, workers and their families began trickling in. Khabarovsk. The city is where the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was born and his father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, spent World War II.
Sights in Khabarovsk
Sights in Khabarovsk include a large open-air market, the Museum of Local Studies, with displays on local people and wildlife; the acclaimed Art Museum, which contains artworks made from walrus tusks, fish skin, reindeer pelts, and duck feathers; a Military Museum with several displays devoted to the Russo-Japanese War; and the Geology Museum, with Siberia fossils and moon rocks.
There are a number of old European-style buildings on ulitsa Muravev-Amurskogo. The black stone War Memorial is engraved with the names of 20,000 local people killed in World War II. There is a pleasant waterfront area as well as a a 12-acre arboretum and a large port. Most of the churches that were located here were destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The Church of St. Innocent (an Orthodox church) is one of the three older churches that remain.
Khabarovsk is spread out over a wide area. After a long trip on the Trans-Siberian it is welcome relief of good and comfortable urban surroundings but sometimes it takes along time to walk from place o place. One of the biggest events of the year in Khabarovsk is watching the ice on the Amur break up in late April. Other forms of entertainment include a circus, and a musical comedy theater . Tourist agencies sponsor concerts of classical music and Siberian music.
Amur Cliff was the site of one of the first forts and settlements in Khabarovsk, From here there is commanding view of the Russian-Chinese border and the Amur River. Today there is a museum and cultural center with things like elegant furniture and Art Nouveau, dishes of pre-revolutionary time and an antique grand piano. When the weather is good you can see the skyscrapers of the border Chinese city of Fuyuan.
Sights Near Khabarovsk
Sights Near Khabarovsk include the Fuyuan, a Chinese town accessible by a three-hour hydrofoil ride on the Amur; Sikachi-Alyan (80 kilometers down river from Khabarovsk), a small Nanai fishing town with some 3,000-year-old petroglyphs; Komsomolsk-on-Amur (10 hours away by train, a city of 300,000 carved out of the wilderness in 1932 by young Communist "volunteers;" and Tvalnka, a village on the Amur that is home to about 600 Old Believers.
Nomad Camp Relatives Family Compound (70 kilometers from Khabarovsk on the Khabarovsk - Komsomolsk-on-Amur highway, turn to 63 kilometers) is a family farmstead communities of indigenous peoples "kindred", located in the ancient village of Nanai Sikachi Alyan. Traditional activities carried out at the camp include fishing, fish processing, hunting, gathering, and arts and crafts. Among the programs are purification (ritual fumigation with smoke performed during a Nanai language song), telling of the story about the culture of Amur region country, workshops on cutting fish and preparing talas and tours of Sikachi-Alyan petroglyphs. Tou can also try on Nanai costumes, participate in Nanai games and sample Nanai cuisine.
National Cultural Center of the Village Jary (212 kilometers from Khabarovsk) is a Nanai village with 686 people. Among the attractions are a museum of arts and crafts, the "Ilga Derain" (Singing Patterns) national collective, "the Amtaka" (Berry), Nanai cuisine, sports and , fishing. Visiting the village is included in the guided tour program to the district center, Trinity, where the District Local History Museum is located.
Ethno-Cultural Center "Sun" at Gvasyugi Village (250 kilometers from Khabarovsk) is the only national Udege settlement that welcomes visitors. Located on the right bank of the Khor River, the village has a small open-air ethnographic museum, ethno-cultural center with performances by the"Sugakpay" (Rays of the Sun) national group . In the center you can learn how about the production of national clothes from fish skin as well as national handicrafts, bead weaving, art, patchwork and other techniques used to make national clothing.
Petroglyphs Of Sikachi-Alyan
Sikachi-Alyan(70 kilometers down river from Khabarovsk) is a small Nanai fishing town with some petroglyph that are several thousand years olf. The rock carvings and engravings paintings are located on cliffs and boulders on the banks of the Amur river. They depicts fish, animals, hunting scenes, birds, snakes, boats, holes, pits, concentric circles and shaman masks. The petroglyph area has traditionally been in an area with Nanai camps. Tours of Sikachi-Alyan often also include a visit to a Nanai village with opportunities to make Nanai foods, shoot a traditional bow and try on national costumes
Sikachi-Alyan Petroglyphs were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. They are carved on the surface of large basalt rocks along the right bank of the Amur River near the villages of Sikachi-Alyan and Malyshevo. Approximately 300 drawings were found in total. Fewer than 160 of them still exist.
The drawings were made by using stone tools to make deep grooves and metal tools to make the carvings. The images date Mesolithic, Neolithic, and early Iron Ages as well as the early Middle Ages, with the oldest ones dating back to 1200 B.C. The first people to study the Lower Amur petroglyphs and give them proper scientific descriptions were R. Maak, who explored the Ussuri river valley in 1859 and N. Alftan (1894).
One of the boulders has an image of a horse on its surface. Archeologists say that kind of horse were found near Amur only during the Ice Age, possibly making it is the most ancient petroglyph. There may have been thousands of petroglyphs scattered along the banks of the Amur River. Not all of them are known yet. Many have been probably carried away by Amur floods or mangled or overturned by drifting ice blocks.
Kiinsk Petroglyphs (70 kilometers south of Khabarovsk, nine kilometers from Pereyaslavka) are situated on the bank of the Kiya River in the lower part of a rock massif in the Chyortov Plyos locality. A panoramic view of the Kiya river opens up from the edge of the cliff with the petroglyphs. The Kiinsk petroglyphs are less known than their Sikachi-Alyan counterparts. They were researched and described in 1966 and it is thought that they are is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.
The specialists point to the almost mathematical precision of the lines drawn by ancient artists. The Far-Eastern scientists even conducted an experiment and digitized the Kiinsk petroglyphs into 3D model. The result was astonishing — such elaborate shapes are hard enough to replicate today, which makes it all the more impressive for the Stone Age. The level of technological advancement of the local civilization is comparable to that of ancient Egypt.
It is a shame that some of the glyphs have crumbled. Many have suffered from the hunter's gunfire. Only thirteen of them remain intact today. Most of them depict guises (masks) and birds. There is also an image of an elk and a body of some unspecified animal. Two more images remain unidentified. Getting to the Kiinsk petroglyphs is possible by car, bus or train via Pereyaslavka town-ship. Visiting the petroglyph sites is better done in fall, when the path and glyphs themselves are not concealed by dense high grass.
South from Khabarovsk
Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker: ““The next day, we continued southward, passing villages called Roskosh (Luxury), Zvenevay (Small-Group Town), and Tigorovo (Tigerville), and rivers called Pervaya Sedmaya Reka (First Seventh River) and Vtoraya Sedmaya Reka (Second Seventh River). At noontime, we stopped to buy bread in the small city of Bikin. Like most cities of military importance, Bikin had been closed to foreigners until after the end of Soviet times. With the Chinese border only twenty kilometers away, Bikin formerly was fortified with active military installations all around it, and now their barbed wire dangled and their concrete works had turned ramshackle in predictable post-Soviet style. And yet Bikin still had the cloistered feel of a garrison town. [Source: Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, August 10 and 17, 2009, Frazier is author of “Travels in Siberia” (2010) ]
“Soon after Bikin, we suddenly entered a weird all-watermelon area. Watermelon sellers crowded both sides of the road under big umbrellas in beach-ball colors among wildly painted wooden signs. Sergei pulled over and bought a watermelon for a ruble, but as we went along the heaps of them kept growing until melons were spilling into the road and the sellers were giving them away. A man with teeth like a crazy fence hailed us and in high hilarity thrust two watermelons through the passenger-side window. By the time we emerged at the other end of the watermelon gauntlet, we had a dozen or more in the van. The watermelons were almost spherical, antifreeze green, and slightly smaller than soccer balls. We cut one open and tried it—delicious. This was not a part of the world I had previously thought of as a great place for watermelons.”
The Ussuri River forms the border between Russia and China in southern Khabarovsk. A right tributary of the Amur, it is 897 kilometers long, with a basin area of more than 193,000 square kilometers. The Ussuri River originates in the spurs of the central Sikhote-Alin. Once it descends into it the valley, the river becomes flat and gentle but has a steep rocky coast. In many area there are meandering channels.
Among the tributaries of the Ussuri are: 1) the upper river: Izvilinka, Sokolovka, Matveyevka and Pavlivka. 2) the left tributaries: Arsen'evka, Muling, Naoli River and Songacha River; 3) and the right tributaries: Pavlovka, Zhuravlovka, Big Ussurka, Bikin and Khor.
In Khabarovsk Krai, near the village of Kazakevichevo, Ussuri River flows into the shallow Kazakevichevo channel and after that the confluence of the Ussuri is called the Amur channel. The Amur channel empties into the Amur River in the center of the city of Khabarovsk. The Ussuri is a full-flowing river from May to August. In the summer and when the ice breaks there are frequent floods. Ice on the Ussuri breaks up in April and forms in November. The water is used for water supply. Above Lesozavodsk the river is navigable. Previously it was widely used for timber floating.
The Ussuri River is good for fishing and rich in fish. Gudgeon, crucian carp, common carp, trout, burbot, pike, catfish, flax and grayling are all caught as are Kaluga sturgeon, which can reach a huge size (eight meters recorded in the Amur River). The river is a spawning ground for salmon and chum salmon. In the waters of the Ussuri fish mountain rivers are found near the bottom fish. Mountain fish comes to the Ussuri in the spring to spawn.
Siberian Tigers in Khabarovskii Krai
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: "Khabarovskii Krai covers 78 million hectares (192 million acres). Tigers now live on 3.3 million hectares (8.1 million acres) of which only two million hectares (4.9 million acres) is typical tiger habitat. Prime habitat is Korean pine, broadleaf deciduous forests, Korean pine and spruce forests, and Korean pine and broad leaf deciduous forests that cover portions of Bikinskii, Vyazemskii, Imeni Lazo and Nanaiskii Raions. Lone tigers are encountered in Komsomolskii, Sovgavanskii, and Vaninskoi Raions. That’s the full extent of the tiger’s home in Khabarovskii Krai. In truth, the latter three Raions are no longer the tiger’s primary habitat, just its outer range. The same can be said for Khabarovskii Raion, where there is very little habitat that is suitable for tigers. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
The sighting "of two tigers in the Khekhtsir was a big sensation, as it marked the tiger’s first appearance here since 1937. But in reality, it is already too late for tigers to return to the Khekhtsir for good. The creeping of the suburbs from the large city has brought too many people here, and conflict with the tigers is inevitable.~~
"Tigers are no longer encountered on the left bank of the Amur River. The last tiger tracks on the Minor Khingan were spotted in 1975. And the situation in the Sikhote-Alin is not much better. The foothills and the lower areas of the mountains are slowly, but irreversibly, being transformed by humans, and higher up there is nowhere to spend the winter. The snow pack is heavier and there is less prey. A heavy snow pack will shrink tiger habitat dramatically and will crowd the animals into the areas with less snow. But these areas overlap with heavily populated foothills. The result is panic! And how is there panic! There what panic there is! Tiger tracks seem to be everywhere! Although, in reality, there no more tracks than there used to be.~~
" In 1996, there were between 64 and 71 tigers in Khabarovskii Krai. Is that a lot or a few? We believe, given the situation at hand, that this question is a little out of place. People might say that there are “a lot” of tigers only because they happen to think there is insufficient game for the hunters. But then the real solution is to reduce the amount of poaching of tiger prey, not the number of tigers. There is also a need to reduce the number of wolves, brown bear, lynx and wolverines, since in the foreseeable future, these animals are not endangered. As for the tiger, in the 1980’s it might have made sense to hold the numbers to between 40 and 50, but it is definitely too late to do that now. At least twelve adults were lost annually in the early 1990s and still today we are losing no fewer than eight to ten annually. All this when the total population is around fifty.~~
Siberian Tiger Prey and Other Animals in Khabarovskii Krai
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: "Tiger habitat in Khabarovskii Krai has 4,800 wild boar, 10,800 deer, 7,300 roe deer, 8,500 elk and 13,600 musk deer. In addition, bears, badgers, raccoon dogs, hares and other forest animals are also becoming the tiger’s prey. We know very little about the tiger’s summer feeding habits, but there are reasons to suggest that it preys on not just large mammals. The tsar of animals supplements its diet, as it can, with small things from the forest and has even been know to go after frogs. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
"Side by side with the tiger are 740-780 brown bears and 1,800-2,000 Himalayan bears, around 100 wolves and approximately 130-140 lynxes and wolverines. To a certain extent, these animals also “live at the expense” of the ungulate populations. For example, wolves annually kill from six to ten percent of the musk deer, 5.5-11 percent of the wild boar, 2.5-10.7 percent of the red Manchurian deer and 2.5-6 percent of the roe deer and elk. A tiger is a large animal, and to say the least, it has a hearty appetite. It takes from 20-30 percent of the wild boar, 8.5-12.0 percent of the red Manchurian deer, 3.5-5.1 percent of the musk deer and 1.5-2.0 percent of the roe deer and elk.In absolute terms, this means that every year a tiger will do in 1,000 wild boar and red Manchurian deer, around 200 elk, a few more than 500 roe deer and 300 musk deer.~~
"If the ungulates were to suddenly stop reproducing, then the abundant predators and hunters would completely empty the taiga in 2-3 years. But nature looks after things. Could it really be that she didn’t sense our economic crisis, or the collapse of the state hunting industry, or the inability of protection agencies to maintain order? As estimates show, for the majority of species, the balance between use and reproduction is either just hanging on or is declining. As a result, there is a slow but steady decline in the number of wild ungulates, the main prey for predators.~~
"The picture, to be blunt, is pretty sad. And this information is grist for the opponents of tiger conservation. But don’t rush out and grab yourself a club. Kill off the tigers, and wolves will immediately fill the tiger’s niche. Wolves, provided there is prey, will multiply very quickly; a typical birth might produce five to seven cubs is typical. Wolf packs currently hang on the edge of the habitat of a tiger that is being mercilessly wiped out. Thus persists the ageless conflict between cat and dog.~~
"Wolves have gotten smart enough to figure out when a tiger has retreated to the edge of its habitat so that the wolf may safely cut across the territory without risk. Hunters often find ripped-up red Manchurian deer and elk on the ice along rivers. A wolf is much more frightening a predator than is the tiger. People in the taiga have fought with them since time immemorial. And not only have humans been unable to wipe them out, but attempts to limit their numbers have also been ineffective. It has been calculated that if more than 27 percent of their spring population survives, wolf numbers will increase because the young from litters cover losses.~~
Tatar Strait separates Khabarovsk Krai from Sakhalin Island, Ferries run daily between Vanino (Khabarovsk Krai) and Kholmsk (Sakhalin region). The travel time is from 13 to 18 hours. According to Lonely Planet: “It can be murder trying to buy a ticket in the summer months. Although sailings are supposed to take place daily, in reality there is no set schedule.”
Toki Island (in the Tatar Strait) contains a huge, noisy rookery of larga seals. These animals are most numerous in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. The roaring male seals are particularly loud. Steller's sea lions and walruses, which breed here, are also are found on the island. Toki Island is specially protected natural object of local importance. In a two kilometer zone around the island fishing, boating and other economic activities are prohibited. Since 2007, Toki Island has been a private nature reserve. The seals are very shy and don’t like humans. In order to get a good view of them one has to sneak up on the rookery on land, hiding behind thick grass.
Amur Rock Pillars (on the Amur River 400 kilometers from Khabarovsk and 15 kilometers from Nizhnetambovskoye village) are granite columns of various shapes, ranging from 12 to 70 meters high located on a 886-meter-high hill. Also known Amurskie Stolby, the pillars can be seen from the Amur River but are seen up close after a hike. Some have names like “Church,” “Walls,” “Bowl,” and “Crown”. The silhouette of Shaman-Kamen (“Shaman Stone”) stands out sharply against the background of the riverside sceneries viewed by the passengers of the few ships that pass along the Amur river. The pillars tower above their surroundings like a skyscraper.
According to a Nanaian legend, the daughter of a local shaman, a girl named Adzi (the name of the hill near the Shaman-Kamen), fell in love with a hunter. Her father did not approve of the match so the girl and the hunter eloped. The shaman turned into a bear and chased after the fugitives. The shaman and the hunter started to fight to the death, but the girl, who did not want to see either of them die, stopped time with the help of good spirits. As a result, the shaman, the girl, and the hunter with a dog have remained frozen in time as rocky sculptures ever since. The rock formations at Amurskie Stolby have their own legends.
Komsomolsk-on-Amur (400 kilometers north of Khabarovsk, 10 hours by train) is a city of 250,000 carved out of the wilderness in the early 1930s by young Communist "volunteers;" The results of their work is a nice city with wide avenues and an embankment on the Amur River. Among the sights in the city are a monument to the first builders, the City Museum of Local Lore and the Gagarin aviation plant, where Sukhoi fighters are designed and made. A museum linked with the plant has to lot to say about the formation of aviation in Russia and the far East — in Russian. Tours of the aircraft factory and museum generally have to be organized in advance and are given by appointment. Foreign tourists can only go on such tour organized through tour companies.
Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the second largest city in Khabarovsk Krai and and the fourth largest in the Russian Far East. Located on the left bank of the Amur River, it is 6068 kilometers from Moscow as the crow flies and is a transportation hub and river port on the Baikal-Amur railway and important highways in the Russian Far East. The city is also the largest industrial center in the Far East, with shipbuilding, defense and aircraft factories, refineries and smelters. There are oil and gas pipelines from Sakhalin and technical and pedagogical universities.
Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the center of industrial agglomeration, which includes the satellite town of Amursk, as well as more than a dozen settlements in urban and rural types and high-tech engineering industries, iron and steel, petrochemicals, A distinctive feature of the industry is a high proportion of defense industries.
Amursk (328 kilometers north of Khabarovsk, 70 kilometers south of Komsomolsk-on-Amur) was founded in 1958 as the site for the Komsomolsk pulp and paper factory and is located in the northeast Sredneamurskaya lowland, in the bayou of the Amur River. The city stretches for 14 kilometers and is divided into two almost equal parts. In 1983 a furniture factory was established in the city. Sights include: 1) Botanical Garden, the only one in the Khabarovsk Territory, founded in 1988, with 1,500 species of plants; . Excursion flow of 15,000 visitors a year; 2) Amur local history museum, founded in 1972; 3) Bolonsky the central manor of reserve; 4) the Youth cinema; 5) Palace of Culture; 6) Krokhalev Island, a protected island in the river; and 7) "Amur city arboretum"
The Shantar Islands(remote part of northern Khabarovsk Krai) are a group of fifteen islands located off the northwestern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk east of Uda Gulf and north of Academy Bay. Most of the islands have rugged cliffs, but they are of moderate height; the highest point in the island group is 720 meters. The name of the island group is Nivkh language word for"to be white". The islands are currently uninhabited.
The Shantar Islands are difficult to get to and a 10-day tour there costs a minimum of 150,000 rubles. Places of interest includes: coastal rocks composed of pink, green, red and white jasper and marble; rocks overgrown with coniferous pine forests; whales swimming between the ice floes; large brown bears dominating the landscape; waterfalls cascading down from from the mountains; rivers teeming with fish; and shoals of fish, seals and killer whales. It is a place where you can experience all four seasons in a single day. Almost 8 months the year the islands are covered with ice. In some place, August is the only month the ice melts enough to allow exploring around. Huge icebergs float by in July. The snows begin in October.
Foggy weather alternates with infrequent but strong storms. The islands have countless capes, cliffs, and ice ramparts resembling the silhouettes of birds, animals, and people, as well as unique rivers and lakes. The largest among them is Bolshoe Lake, which is fed by the Oleny river.
At some point in time, the Shantar Islands were inhabited by people, but now there is nobody except for the meteorological station employees. The rivers and lakes are full of fish, and bears walk along the banks. The colonial nesting places of birds produce a lot of noise. Whales, killer whales, and a huge number of seals swim in the sea.
The Shantar archipelago is situated far from any settlement: Chumikan is 100 kilomaters to the west; the dying settlement of Tugur is 100 kilomaters to the south, and Nikolayevsk-on-Amur is 400 kilometers to the north. The remoteness of the islands helps to ensure the preservation of wildlife and the natural environment.
The islands are breeding grounds for sooty guillemot, tufted puffin, horned puffin, cormorants, and various types of seagulls. Over 200 species of birds, including 30 species listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, are found on the islands. The islands also have rookeries of sea lion, bearded seal, bay seal, and ringed seal. There are 35 species of fish: rainbow trout, brown trout, chum salmon, and smelt. Since 1997 the archipelago has been a federal nature reserve, with a total area is 5,150 square kilometers, including 2,731 square kilometers in the Sea of Okhotsk.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020