When you live in a place as remote as Sakhalin Island, it is interesting to watch how the rather remote viewpoint causes your perspective on the world to change.
To a lot of Europeans, the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East represents the most far-flung, isolated, and distant destination imagineable. As this post by Snowsquare informs us, Vladivostok lies 6 days, 9259km, 2 continents, 14 oblasts and 8 time zones away from Moscow at the very end of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Every Muscovite would surely know the final destination of the train, but I wonder how many actually braved the journey to Russia’s wild eastern provinces without having the feeling they are descending into the unknown. Vladivostok sometimes gets used in English in the same way as Timbuktu, to mean somewhere so distant and remote it might as well be on another planet. Certainly, for most European Russians and Europeans in general, Vladivostok must represent the ends of the earth.
Not so when you live on Sakhalin Island. Rather than being a remote town off in the distant east, it becomes a rather important city not far off in the west. Vladivostok is a much larger town than Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk or indeed Khabarovsk, the nearest sizeable city to Sakhalin. Many materials, items of equipment, and certain services like consular support are only available from Vladivostok, and requent trips must be made to the city when running a large operation in Sakhalin. When my company required two buses for the transportation of labourers and we couldn’t find any on Sakhalin, somebody went to Vladivostok and purchased a couple of secondhand Korean vehicles. Any Sakhalin islander who wants a UK visa must apply through the visa application facility in Vladivostok. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Vladivostok is spoken of in the same way that somebody from Pembrokeshire speaks of Cardiff, or someone from Kuwait speaks of Dubai: a big place where you must go if what you are after is not available locally.
That Vladivostok should serve this purpose to Sakhalin islanders when it is considered to be the ends of the earth by most of Europe serves well to demonstrate just how remote we are living on this rock.