Lamara Avalishvili

Я научный работник, лектор в области биофизики. Увлекаюсь этнографическим туризмом! Моя творческая биография напечатана в конце книги, электронную форму которой я высылаю.

Essay «Four episopes from the life of the Georgian soldier»


In December 1925 was signed an agreement between the USSR and Japan about transfer to concession the northern part of Sakhalin Island (in Japanese Karafuto that on the language of the Ainu, the ancient inhabitants of the island, is meaning “land of the god of the river mouth”). According to the agreement the Union was conveyed the oil and coal deposits of North Sakhalin to the Japanese into operation for 45 years. As payment for concession, the Japanese pledged to pay to the Soviet government a certain portion of  the gross income and rental fee. Japanese side was given the right to import labor from their country. Japanese entrepreneurs have created a joint stock company. Also was organized the Soviet commercial concern “Sakhalin oil”, whom concessionaires have rendered the substantial assistance in the organization of production and establishment of household sector. At the same time in the south of Sakhalin Island there was a completely different situation. The Japanese were solving the problems of infrastructure and in social sphere as on its own territory, according to the documents of the treaty of Portsmouth between Russia and Japan.
In the North Sakhalin gradually were deployed work on production of oil, coal, of lumbering, furs in the forests of Sakhalin, of fishing in the waters adjacent to the island.
The Union announced the recruitment of young professionals and workers of different specialties for sending on the concession works. In the difficult time of devastation, when in many regions is reigned unemployment, the conditions of employment clearly were profitable. The payment of labor of the workers by Japanese goods, as well as by Soviet pure gold currency, was attracted many people from the mainland. On the island Sakhalin were pulled manpower from all over the Union, including representatives from the Caucasus. In Moscow was organized the assembly point and delivery was accomplished by trains on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok.
OverDrive It was early spring. The train sped through the vast snowy wilderness, we were falling asleep and were waking up under the monotonous sound of wheels. We were four young men in the compartment of train. Having faced at the gathering place, we immediately found a common language, though we came from different republics of the Union. I was the native Tbilisian, buddy, which was located above my couchette, was Bakunian, but two young guys, which were sitting opposite me, turned out one an Armenian from Rostov-on-Don, and another Tatar from Kazan. We have had rather vague ideas about our future activities on the island, but we were all in anticipation to earn so-called “big money”. Outside the window the white desert gave way to endless snowy taiga. Friend from Baku, who introduced himself as Jamil took out a new deck of cards and offered us to fight. From nothing to do whole days, we were played “Snap”, smoked in the vestibule, long talked, drinking hot tea, which kindly was offered from time to time by the pretty conductor, as it turned out, a Siberian woman from Irkutsk.
So quietly passed two weeks. The train at last arrived to the final station of the Far Eastern — the Vladivostok city. There we were built in a row, further we were reread by the names and shipped on the pier. Some time later we have been raised on the board of ferry, plying between the mainland and the island of Sakhalin. We were told that the destination is a village Okha.
As we learned later, the first commercial oil was produced in Okha in 1921 and soon this settlement became a center of Eastern region of the island. The name of the city was given from the name of the river Okha. It is possible that this name originated from the Evenk word “Okha”. Evenki legend tells about deer, who fled to the green Marie, frightened by hunters and one of the deer have been stuck in a swampy place. When using felled branches hunters dragged the animal, they saw that the deer’s legs and belly were smeared with black oily liquid. The skin in these places was breaked and blood seeped. One Evenk man, noticing this, said, “Oha!” That means on Evenkian language “evil”, “bad”.
We had to swim across the Tatar Strait, go through the La Perouse Strait between the northern tip of the Japanese island Hokkaido and the southern part of Sakhalin Island, connecting Japanese and Okhotsk Sea. As it turned out, the strait was named in honor of the French explorer Jean de La Perouse, who discovered it in the XVIII century. Tatar Strait have been named by the same explorer La Perouse, who mistakenly thought, that “Tatarstan” is a country that extends to the Pacific coast. Since the times of Mongol conquests this ethnonym was widespread in Eastern and Western Europe.
Departure of the ferry was delayed. On the bank was raging the flu epidemic and there was not enough people in the boiler compartment of the ship. Was announced, who of the newcomers can be a stoker. Volunteered my new friend Artem. It turned out that he had worked as a fireman on a locomotive of Vladikavkaz’s railway. Jamil was joined to him, who also worked as a stoker on Baku-Julfa railway line. Ildar and me have taken as assistants of fireman. Going down into the hold of the ship, I was amazed by what I saw!
Never earlier I have seen such a large boilers. Huge mouth of furnaces has been opened from time to time and it was necessary continuously to throw there the coal and to rake the ashes. After dank weather at the pier, we were finally able to warm up, and then became so hot that I had to throw off the outerwear. During the journey we thrown into the boiler furnace, probably, several tons of coal. Finally, was given the command to reduce the supply of coal and then completely stop. The ferry have approached to the northern part of Sakhalin Island.
About Sakhalin I knew just that Anton Chekhov visited there. He lived in the settlement of Alexander’s Post, in the western part of the island. Chekhov decided to make a trip to Sakhalin for the study the life of convicts and exiles. At that time there was not Trans-Siberian Railway and Chekhov’s trip took more than six months. He, of course, have realized the difficulties of such a journey, but he wanted to draw public attention to Sakhalin — “the place of unbearable suffering.” It was the civil feat of the writer! I was possessed with such thoughts, when I looked at the island from the height of the deck of the steamer. But I was destined to work for some time on the ferry till we were replaced by the main team of stokers. Finally we were free and with a light heart left steamer.
The picture on the island turned out dull. All around there were wooden barracks, here and there scurried the people in sheepskin coats, was heard jerky Japanese speech. The arrived people were sent to the one of the barracks for formalize the labor agreement. We were asked to choose the profile of work and the here our ways with my companions were parted. My friends decided to stay in Okha on oil’s elaborations.
Since I was able to shoot accurately, what I have learned in the ranks of the Red Army, having served there for three years. I was joined to the team of hunters for fur and I had to live for weeks on the hunting base, so called farm, which represents a small log cabin in the wood, made from coniferous trees. I have learned that indigenous peoples of the North had been living in such winter huts since antiquity and roamed from one to the other settlements, leaving the supply of food and a means for laying of flames in each cabin. There I learned how to set traps, how to recognize the traces of animals, studied their habits. We usually went on a hunt in the early morning. The most favorable weather was newly-fallen snow when easily are imprinted fresh tracks, a small frost and shallow snow. Best assistant while hunting for fur-bearing animals was East Siberian Laika.

The dog was tall, hardy, has excellent instincts and viscosity to the beast, without losing the host. Among the hunters were the local old-timers, and the Japanese, who during their stay on the island have learned to speak in Russian. They taught us instead of vodka to drink cod liver oil to keep warm, eat raw fish. Fish was cooked as traditional Japanese dish and called “Naredzusi” with rice and Japanese greens — “Wasabi”. Purified ocean fish, stuffed with salt, was put in a wooden barrel, then was pressed with pressure and kept so until the end of fermentation. In this way, prepared fish remained useable for a few months. In order not to get sick with scurvy we were eating a lot of garlic, drank the decoctions of spruce or fir needles.
Nature of Sakhalin was significantly varied. Forests was covered a large part of its territory. In the north of the island predominantly was growing light color coniferous taiga of Daurian larch, to south were dark coniferous forests of the Ajan spruce, Sakhalin fir and Siberian cedar with thickets of the bushes of blueberry, gooseberries, cranberries. In the summer we are harvested berries and mushrooms in the wood, brushwood and firewood for the winter. The furs obtained during the trapping — the sables, martens, foxes, squirrels, once a week we were giving at the receiving station. The fur have been sorted by using suppliers, the best specimens were taken away to Japan, and the remaining skins were selling at a cheap price in the local market. With great zeal them have been bought by people from the Union. In this sense, I was not exception!

Meanwhile, the Japanese are equipped the island. They brought prefabricated houses, hanged signboards with the designation of the shop, dining room, laundry, infirmary. They are also were thinking about the places of entertainment, and one fine day there appeared the signboard on one wooden house with an images of a beautiful Japanese women. I understood the value of what is happening when the ship with geishas on board was approached to the island. Their faces were thoroughly covered with white blusher, with dispersion of dark eyebrows and bright spots of lips. They were all dressed in traditional costume — kimono with a wide belt and a pillow on their backs. Through the our settlement, which consisted mostly from the male population, have swept a wave of joyful news. But this event awaited a short life. Soviet representatives in the settlement appreciated this action of the Japanese, as undermining the moral foundations of the villagers and after a while Japanese women on the island are gone. Despite all the efforts of Japanese to equip of our life, to create the infrastructure on the island, they were not good stewards. The Japanese were understood the brevity of their presence in the northern part of the island and tried quickly to exhaust it’s resources. It was hard to realize this!

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