We traveled from Khabarovsk to Krasny Yar on the “military road,” an unfinished highway that one day will connect Khabarovsk with the port city of Nahotka. The Soviets decades ago began building the highway because the existing highway between Khabarovsk and Vladivostok is seen as vulnerable to a Chinese attack due to its location. That highway parallels the Chinese border, separated from China by only a few miles for much of its length. The Chinese could easily cut off Vladivostok, home to the Soviet Pacific Fleet, from the rest of Russia.
But the Soviets only got as far as the Bikin River. There, the highway disappears into a forest.
During our five-hour drive on the highway, we saw fewer and fewer cars as we traveled in a southeasterly direction toward the Bikin River. During the last two hours, we saw one motorcycle. The pavement gave away to gravel, and the road became increasingly bumpy. Before we got to the Bikin River, we left the highway and traveled on a dirt road to the village of Sobilina. Here, the road became much worse. It took us another hour to reach the three bridges that took across the Bikin River to the village of Krasny Yar.
Before we reached the cut-off to Sobilina, we reached the top of a hill and were able to see for the first time the mountains near Svetlana’s village. Svetlana become excited and we stopped the car to take in the view.
Svetlana spoke to me about returning to the village in this video. It’s in Russian, but here is the translation:
“Now we are getting closer to my village. It’s far, but we already see beautiful hills, beautiful countryside. The road, to tell the truth, is not very good, but travel is possible. And I left 17 years ago, and now I have grown older, and much time has gone by. I don’t know what kind of reception awaits me, or who will greet me. But believe they will be happy to see me.”