Japanese plan of the first Russian settlement on Sakhalin Island

A recent addition to the Military Collection is an original manuscript plan of Fort Muravyovsky (now the town of Korsakov in Southern Sakhalin). This was the first Russian trading post on Sakhalin Island. It was founded by a Russian navigator and explorer, Gennady Nevelskoy in 1853 and erected on the site of the Ainu village in southern Sakhalin on the shore of the Salmon Inlet of the Aniva Bay.

Dating from around 1859, this plan (54 x 75 cm) is drawn in black ink on rice paper, hand colored in yellow, red, black, and grey. There is extensive text in Japanese on the right and left margins as well as captions above most of the objects, detailing the location of the fort, the story of its foundation, features of the buildings and the amount of weapons. There is also a note that the Russians trade with the “Santan jin” people (Tungus-speaking tribes from the Far East mainland) who travel to Karafuto (Sakhalin).

According to the dealer’s note, the plan states that it was copied in Ansei 6 (October 1859) from the original sheet drawn in Kaei 6 (September 1853), i.e. shortly after the construction of the fort. It depicts a rectangular fort with two watch towers (each with a guard on top, one is mounted with a flag), tall fence and several buildings, including the commander’s house and the barracks. The inner yard houses two cannons and piles of coal; two small buildings outside the fort walls are the trade house and Russian banya (steam bath house, a fire is seen above the small chimney). The plan has an extensive explanatory text on the left and right margins.

The Wikipedia entry for Sakhalin states that this large island situated in the North Pacific was claimed by both Russia and Japan over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. These disputes often involved military conflict and divisions of the island between the two powers. In 1875, Japan ceded its claims to Russia in exchange for the northern Kuril Islands. Following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, the island was divided, with the south going to Japan. Russia has held all of the island since seizing the Japanese portion—as well as all the Kuril Islands—in the final days of World War II in 1945.

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