Sakhalin: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is the capital and by far the largest city on the island. Located in the valley beneath a low mountain range, it’s fairly compact and built like a grid (by the Japanese who were here until 1945 and it was known as Toyohara). There is a road to the top of the mountain from where you get a fantastic panorama of the town below with the blue dimes of the brand new cathedral shining bright. But Cathedral is kind of where all the shining stops as the city certainly feels rather depressing and time-warped in Soviet realities. Lenin stares gloomily over the drab Khrushchev-era residential buildings and street names like Communism and Lenin and Marx still exist. The only remaining building from the Japanese is now a historical museum – the rest was destroyed intentionally. One of the outer streets (where the Cathedral is) also has a New Victory Museum and Park.