A Sleepy Island Awaits A Gusher...And Japan Gets In On The Action

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the provincial capital of Sakhalin Island, was once described by Anton Chekhov as the "most depressing place on earth." This former prison colony nudged against Japan is pitch-dark at night. Coal shortages have led to severe power cuts, and most workers in the antiquated coal and timber industries haven't been paid in months. Yet the impoverished town of 200,000 has more restaurants and five-star hotels than many larger cities in Russia's sprawling Far East. Thrice a week, Boeing 757s arrive direct from Moscow, 10,000 kilometers and eight time zones away, and there are frequent flights to Japan.

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