Komsomolsk-on-Amur

Komsomolsk-on-Amur (Russian: Комсомо́льск-на-Аму́ре, kuhm-sah-MOHL'SK nah ah-MOOR-yeh, ) is a large city in Khabarovsk Krai on the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Home of around a quarter of a million people, it's the 3rd largest city of the Russian Far East after Vladivostok and Khabarovsk and a major industrial center.

Understand

First settled by indigenous people, then by settlers from the Perm region, but the history of this BAM town in the far flung reaches of the union come federation, doesn't kick of until the communist hey-ho fervour in the early honeymoon days of the Soviet union, when patriotic fresh-faced members of the Komsomol - the Soviet youth league - landed on the Amurs shores in the 1930'ties, to build a "model city" with wide tree lined avenues, modern trams and large factories - a new future, carriyng the Soviet dream to the far east. And while there are countless monuments and murals celebrating the valour and accomplishments of the Komsomol and the BAM builders here, reality however, is far more sinister; nearly three quarters of the builders were actually convicts, Japanese POW's and other dissidents, and the city became a major, if not the most important GULAG centre during Stalin's purges, and nearly a million prisoners tramped trough the various camps of Komsomolsk. So the city is not, as legend would have it, build on the glory of labour and patriotism alone, but also on top of thousands of unmarked graves.

Get in

By Plane

Owing to its aircraft industry (the Sukhoi Superjet 100 is produced here) and its strategic importance, the city actually has two airports, but unless you find yourself unwittingly recruited by the Russian army, your interest will mainly be in Khurba airbase (IATA: KXK) 17 kilometers south of the city. Vladivostok Avia is your choice for direct 8 hour flights to Moscow (Vnukovo, VKO), but only once weekly most of the year (on Tuesdays at the time of writing, returning Wednesday). The only other airline operating is Sakhalin based SAT Airlines with once or twice weekly services to Ignatyevo Airport (BQS) near Blagoveshchensk and more importantly to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (UUS) where the airline operates a decent hub with a number of connections to East Asia.

By Train

A train at Komsomolsk station

Planes aside, most visitors who wound up in the city is here because the city is an important hub on the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Westwards the next major town is Tynda (~40 hours, once daily) and to the east the line reaches the pacific with a stop in Vanino (~15 hours, once daily, twice in summer), where ferries takes passengers across to Sakhalin before the railway terminates in Sovetskaya Gavan. Going south there is a branch line with 1-3 daily trains from Khabarovsk or Vladivostok. Occasionally there are direct trains to Irkutsk and beyond, you can try the #008/667 from/to Novosibirsk if that's useful to your itinerary - in the summer there is even sometimes a direct carriage attached to the Rossiya from Moscow. If you want to shorten time from Komsomolsk to Khabarovsk, you may get off at Selikhino between them, where a bus will await you for connection. The total travel time will be 6 hours instead of 11.

By Bus

The road to Khabarovsk is, by Russian standards, in workable condition and paved for nearly the entire length, so naturally buses are taking full advantage of this rare feat, with around 10 round trips per day. The trip takes a good 8 hours and costs between 460-660 rubles depending on which bus you catch. There is a red eye service leaving in both directions at 23.00 if you're on a really tight budget, and the 09.30 #306 bus continues onwards to Birobidzhan. Supposedly there is a single daily bus to Vanino, but if that's a miss, there should definitely be a Marshrutka leaving sometime. The Bus station (Автовокзал), at Pionerskaya Street 2,  +7 4217 59-11-54. is a short walk from the river terminal north along the beach.

By Boat

If potholes is not your thing, and 7000 kilometers of shouting provodnitzas has put a dent in your railway enthusiasm, you can go liquid instead, that is, when it's not frozen between June and August. Meteor hydrofoils speed up the Amur from Khabarovsk in six hours, which actually makes it the fastest connection between the two cities. In the same period, you can continue onwards to Nikolaevsk-on-Amur with the boats too, really the only option other than the daily flights from Khabarovsk, if you like your bones right where they are. This trip takes around 12 hours. The River terminal (Речной вокзал, +7 (4217) 59-29-35) is at the end of Oktyabrskiy Prospekt right by the beach.

Get around

Map of Komsomolsk

While the River terminal and the Bus Station are just a few hundred meters apart on the river front, the Railway Station is about 4km away; tram line number 2 or bus number 17 will do the work for you. In fact any tram numbered 2, 3 or 4 will take you to the river terminal, while 1, 2 and 5 will take you the railway station, provided you take it in the right direction of course, all the tram lines convene at the intersection of Lenina and Mira Prospekts

See

Unless Komsomolsk is the first stop on the Russian mainland coming from Japan, it should come as no surprise by now that this young city is not a prime sightseeing spot by anyone's standard, unless of-course you've seen nothing but taiga pines for the past year or so, in which case it might just stir a bit of excitement. As a short stopover however, the city works surprisingly well - especially (or perhaps mainly) if you have an interest in photography; there is a number of buildings in Stalin's Neo-renaissance style in the city centre, and many of the housing blocks are adorned with both sculptured and painted murals with soviet themes - makes for some amazing pictures if you know what you're doing. As does the War Memorial on a marble plaza right above the river boat terminal, with its seven giant granite heads looking towards an eternal flame. If seen from the river the River Terminal itself is also a bit interesting, as it's designed to look like a ship, another monument nearby portrays a band of Komsomolsk pioneers.

Do

Buy

Soviet architecture on Lenina Street

Eat

As the author of the Lonely Planet guide so eloquently puts it; "Komsomolsk isn't Russian for 'spirited dining scene'"...

Drink

Sleep

Cope

Connect

Go next

Komsomolsk Nature Reserve

Komsomolsky Zapovednik ( (Комсомольский заповедник)),  +7 4217 22-18-23. is a large nature reserve 50 km north of the city, covering some 650 km² of both river wetlands, lowlands and mountain landscapes, around the mouth of the Gorin River on the west bank of the Amur. The reserve is transitional between the mixed forests of the south morphing into Taiga, and it's home to an amazingly diverse range of animals and plants; wild boars, raccoons, bears. Siberian tigers occasionally cross into the reserve, but you'd probably have better odds winning the lottery and buying one, than spotting a tiger here by chance. Since several important migratory routes for birds crosses the reserve, spring and fall brings an amazing diversity of bird species here, cranes, storks, ospreys, eagles and 200 other species makes it a hotspot of ornithologists during those seasons.

Other destinations

Transportation wise the next major stops are Tynda to the west, and the port city of Vanino with ferries to Sakhalin to the east along the BAM. Along the mighty Amur river, you'll find Amursk and Khabarovsk to south with both bus, river and railway connections, and Nikolaevsk-on-Amur going North, but only reachable in summer. Nearby you can check out some sights of natural and ethnographic interest;

Routes through Komsomolsk-on-Amur

Severobaikalsk Tynda  W  E  Vanino Sovetskaya Gavan


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 05, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.