The Road to Okha

This picture was taken near Okha, the town in the very north of Sakhalin Island, and serves well to show what the roads can be like in Russia when the snow starts to melt.

(Picture via “boichello“)

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13 Responses to The Road to Okha

  1. Aged 17, my father was sent to Russia to fight in Hitler’s criminal war. He rode on a half-track with mounted rocket launchers (Nebelwerfer) which often got stuck in “roads” like the one on your photo.

    The German soldiers called these “roads” a “Rollbahn” (a rollway) as these had nothing in common with roads or anything similar they had seen before. It’s interesting to see that such “roads” still exist today.

    In the 40ies they probably prevented Russia from being over-rolled in the early years of the war. The excellent German “Autobahn” did help the allies to advance rather quickly into “das Reich”.

    Is it simply a lack of money or determination to get the roads in shape or is there also a strategic element with it? I am curious. Anyway, Tim, thank you you for this great picture.

  2. Tim Newman says:

    The German soldiers called these roads a Rollbahn (a rollway) as these had nothing in common with roads or anything similar they had seen before.

    I believe the German transport units were called Rollbahn too, or so I read in a magnificent albeit harrowing book called The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer.

    Is it simply a lack of money or determination to get the roads in shape or is there also a strategic element with it? I am curious.

    I’m sure there’s no strategic element to it, certainly not in north Sakhalin! A combination of lack of funds, sheer distances, and the extreme freeze-thaw and permafrost effects are what cause Russian roads to be as poor now as they were in Tolstoy’s day.

    Anyway, Tim, thank you you for this great picture.

    Sadly, it is one of the few I post on here which is not mine. I found it on a local Sakhalin website today. It’s a good photo, though.

  3. Nathan says:

    I should scan the photo I have of a gas truck stuck in one of these “roads” in Yakutia. The crew said they’d been there for a week trying to dig it out. By the time we got there, the truck was in a pit of mud and water a few feet below road level. We got our Nissan station wagon stuck multiple times and we found out that when testing such cars for trail rating, they fail on the fording the creek test.

  4. Tatyana says:

    ??, ??? ??? ????????? ???????…

  5. Klemen says:

    Great photo. I did not know that a man can also experience his share of Camel Trophy on Sakhalin Island.

    I was just looking the other day the Atlas of Russia from 2001 which I graciously bought some years ago and could not help to notice that there are not many highways in Russia like for example in Germany or the rest of Europe. There is a circle around Moscow and something around St. Petersburg – I think – and that’s pretty much all. When I asked my friend in Moscow why’s that he replied: “Lazyness”.

    I think that the logistic must be a nightmare in Russia. It is actually remarkable that the economy works fairly well in such circumstances.

  6. Tim Newman says:

    Klemen,

    I have a road atlas of Europe and western Asia, and a lot of the Russian pages do look utterly bereft of roads. But the distances in question are usually enormous, which nobody in their right mind would attempt to drive, especially in the snow. You can go for hundreds upon hundreds of miles without seeing a concrete settlement of any kind.

    I don’t think it’s laziness that’s the issue here, it is more to do with the enormous distances and the weather/ground conditions which make road-building exceptionally difficult. Most Russians take the train long distances, and the entire society seems to be adapted to using the railways.

    What I found really odd is the way roads in Russia sometimes lead nowhere. It is pretty much true that from any village in Europe you can drive to any other: there is always a sequence of roads which you can take by following any road which leaves the village. In Russia, I have driven out of a village for 20km on a normal paved road to find that it just came to a dead halt in the middle of nowhere. Just stopped, amongst a load of scrubland, with no warning. Maps are non-existent, so it is a good idea to bring a GPS with you. Or, as the Russians do, don’t drive down unfamiliar roads.

  7. squawkbox says:

    On the WW2 theme, I believe some German general at that time said “Impassable in spring, unbearable in summer and impossible in winter – the Russian climate is a series of natural disasters”.

  8. On the WW2 theme, I believe some German general at that time said Impassable in spring, unbearable in summer and impossible in winter – the Russian climate is a series of natural disasters.

    What he forgot to mention is that the Russians / Soviets very well managed themselves to move millions of soldiers, hundreds of thousands of all kind of vehicles and an uncountable amount of supplies over the very same roads on their way “westward”.

    “General Winter” was as much of an excuse for failure as the myth of the “invincible T-34″ was. I can’t blame them for these excuses. I would also have looked for excuses. ;-)

  9. Larry says:

    Tim,

    Saw the pics of the muddy roads on your site. I’ve been places like that. What a fucking mess? It must have been nice when all was frozen. The cold is better than the mud.

    I’m in Houston and this job is not bad. I’m working with some civilized people and learning a bit about RCM. I’m always trying to learn some new tricks. Gotta keep one step ahead of the Wolf.

    How’s things with you and the Mrs. ? I hope all is well. Do you miss the Gulf States? How about the Iranians capturing the Marines. It make me puke when I see any of them confess to something they didn’t do, especially that fat girl Sailor. Remember the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”? Where they put the British Colonel in the sweat box until he almost died. How about the Bataan Death March or even the American POW’s in the Hanoi Hilton. Don’t we have people like that anymore?

    Anyhow, I know Iranians. You can’t give an inch to those people. They won’t stop. Remember, Persians invented the game of Chess. They call it Shah Trange!

    I hope Tony Blair calls an airstrike on Tehran.

    Cheers,
    Leisure Suit Larry

  10. dearieme says:

    HOW REMARKABLE THAT the Russians didn’t invent the hovercraft: it would cope with both snow and mud.

  11. Tim Newman says:

    Larry! Sorry I’ve not been in touch for a while, I’ll drop you a line this weekend.

  12. Tim Newman says:

    Dearieme,

    Funny you should mention that, there was a hovercraft whizzing around on the frozen lakes when I was snowmobiling. I even got a photo of it.

  13. dearieme says:

    Ah, we engineers.

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