History of projects to connect Sakhalin with mainland Russia

History of projects to connect Sakhalin with mainland Russia

On April 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin during video meetings with the head of the Sakhalin region Valery Limarenko again raised the topic of building a bridge to Sakhalin. Ideas to connect the island with the mainland appeared 130 years ago. The history of the transition projects to the largest island of Russia is in the Kommersant material.

In the Russian Empire

The first proposals to connect Sakhalin with the mainland appeared in the 19th century, when it became part of the Russian Empire. The idea was first expressed by Far Eastern researcher Gennady Nevelskoy, who was the first to discover that Sakhalin is an island. The narrowest strait between the mainland and the island was later named after him, the minimum width of which reaches 7.5 km.

In 1891, the zemstvo chief of the 8th section of the Starobelsky district of the Kharkov province, Vladimir Butkov, submitted a memorandum to the Governor-General of the Amur Region, Andrei Korf, in which he proposed building a dam in the Nevelskoy Strait, using the labor of Sakhalin convicts for this. Butkov believed that the dam would improve the climate, and this, in turn, would have a positive impact on life on the east coast economically, militarily and demographically.

“Then the warm evaporations of the Sea of ​​Japan, brought by the eastern winds prevailing in summer, would not produce such deadly cold fogs on the shores of the Ussuri region, which would result in clearer and sunny days in the summer months, the earth would warm up more and all the conditions for life and agricultural activity on the coast would have changed significantly for the better, which would have greatly contributed to the settlement of this region, which is so necessary for us, especially in naval terms.”

Butkov's project was considered "eccentric" and economically unprofitable, and it did not receive serious consideration. Almost a quarter of a century later, long-distance navigator N. M. Ostashevsky developed a plan that included the construction of a dam between Sakhalin and the mainland - with locks for the passage of ships and the construction of a large port at Cape Lazarev. The then Governor-General of the Amur Region, Nikolai Gondatti, also rejected the project.


In the 1930s, with the development of oil fields on Sakhalin, the construction of railways began. The first engineering surveys were carried out near the Nevelskoy Strait. They showed the difficulty of building a bridge or tunnel in this area - the territory is an area with increased seismicity.

In 1945, the USSR gained full control over Sakhalin following the Second World War, and four years later Joseph Stalin proposed building a railway tunnel to the island. In 1950, a secret decree of the USSR Council of Ministers was signed on the construction of a tunnel under Cape Nevelskoy and a reserve sea ferry. Construction was entrusted to the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs - parolely released Gulag prisoners and civilian specialists were used as labor. The work progressed quickly; by 1953, more than 20 thousand people were involved in it.

It was planned to complete the construction by the end of 1953, and to begin operating the tunnel by 1955. It was assumed that its length would be 12.9 km, and the freight turnover of the new railway would be about 4 million tons per year.

On March 5, 1953, Joseph Stalin, who personally supervised the construction, died, after which work on the entire project was quickly closed - according to the draft resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers of March 21, construction ceased to be “caused by the urgent needs of the national economy.” From the memoirs of engineer and master of basic works Yuri Koshelev:

“Yesterday they were still working, but today they said: “That’s it, no more.” We never started digging the tunnel. Although everything was available for this work... Many argue that the amnesty that followed Stalin’s funeral put an end to the tunnel - there was practically no one to continue the construction. It is not true. Of our eight thousand early released, no more than two hundred left. And the remaining eight months waited for the order to resume construction.”

Plans to complete the construction of the tunnel existed in the 1960–1970s during the design of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), but they were also not implemented. Since 1973, Sakhalin has been connected to the mainland by the Vanino-Kholmsk ferry crossing.

In Russian federation

Proposals of varying degrees of utopianism for the construction of a tunnel or bridge to Sakhalin began to arise again after the collapse of the USSR. For example, in 1998, the head of the foreign trade cargo transportation department, Anatoly Baritko offered connect Ireland with Japan by rail through Russia, building a tunnel under the Nevelskoy Strait with the involvement of foreign funds.

In 1999, during a trip to the Far East, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Railways of the Russian Federation Nikolai Aksenenko announced about plans to build a tunnel under the Nevelskoy Strait to improve the economic and social situation on the island. The cost of construction was then estimated at $7–10 billion, the duration was from five to ten years. In 2001, Mr. Aksenenko reportedthat the priority option was to build a bridge rather than a tunnel. Governor of the Khabarovsk Territory Viktor Ishaev stated about the inexpediency of the project: for it to pay off, it is necessary to transport at least 10 million tons of cargo per year along the new route, and the entire BAM, according to the governor’s calculations, transports only 2 million tons.

The government at first approved the idea of ​​building a bridge. According to then Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (recognized as a foreign agent), it could become “the first large-scale national economic project since the times of the USSR.” However, later the project was suggested rework: The Ministry of Railways failed to prove to the cabinet the need for colossal expenditures on railways. In 2002, Mr. Aksenenko resigned. The first thing the new Minister of Railways decided to refuseis the construction of a bridge to Sakhalin.

In 2008, the transition to Sakhalin was included in the Strategy for the Development of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation until 2030. The decision to create a railway crossing at the federal level expected in 2012, then the minimum cost of the project was estimated at 400 billion rubles.

On a direct line in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin statedthat “plans for a bridge to Sakhalin are being revived.” In October of the same year, the media reportedthat the contract for the construction of the bridge was awarded to the Stroygazmontazh company of Arkady Rotenberg. As a result, the bridge hit in the investment program of JSC Russian Railways: 1 billion rubles were allocated for design work for 2018. In 2018, JSC Russian Railways estimated the project at 540.3 billion rubles. plus more than 90 billion rubles. for the modernization of railways on Sakhalin. The assessment of the bridge itself per kilometer was 3.5 times higher than that of the Crimean bridge. In October 2018, the Russian Railways company abandoned the idea of ​​building a transport crossing to Sakhalin at its own expense; the construction of a bridge was not mentioned in the target scenario of the updated investment program for 2018–2025.

In 2019, the Governor of Sakhalin Valery Limarenko toldthat the bridge to the island can be built by 2030–2035, and the creation of the crossing will require 252.8 billion rubles. In 2020, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Marat Khusnullin reportedthat there is “not enough money for construction yet.” A year later, Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev stated: “The bridge to Sakhalin - yes, this project is being worked on. Quite an interesting project, but capital-intensive.”

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