Instagrammers’ Photos Document the Smog Enveloping Khabarovsk

Source: Instagram. Catherine Afanasyeva (@kazhetsyatak)

Source: Instagram. Catherine Afanasyeva (@kazhetsyatak)

Residents of Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East have been staying indoors or wearing masks when they go outside since a thick smog blanketed the city on Tuesday. As reported by news website 2× (yes, .su is the top-level domain for the Soviet Union), locals say the smog has been accompanied by a burning smell and intensified over the last two days as fires rage in Khabarovsk and surrounding regions. Russian officials are monitoring carbon monoxide levels, which have increased 1.5 times since the smog rolled in.

Smoke began to descend on Khabarovsk about two weeks ago and seemed to originate from the Chinese border province of Heilongjiang and the Jewish Autonomous Republic, a Russian region next to Khabarovsk. Khabarovsk officials said that straw fires in Heilongjiang were responsible for the smoke, and sent a letter to the Heilongjiang Department of Environmental Protection asking that provincial authorities get the situation under control and take new measures to prevent future fires. Authorities in Heilongjiang denied the Russian officials’ claims, telling the Global Times today that farmers in the province had not yet begun to harvest crops or burn straw—and won't begin do so until early November because of recent precipitation.

Ас satellite imagery from “Fire Map,”(a Russian website that shows where forest fires are currently burning across the globe) shows, when the smoke began to envelop Khabarovsk two weeks ago, fires were indeed mainly in Heilongjiang and the Jewish Autonomous Republic:


Satellite imagery of the fires on October 14. Source:

By the time Heilongjiang officials responded today, however, the fires were almost all to the north and west of Khabarovsk:

Satellite imagery of the fires on October 27. Source:

While the regional governments went back and forth, Instagram user unimat093 joked that he had found out who was really responsible for the fires, posting a photo of smoke emerging from a small chimney in Khabarovsk.

A photo posted by @unimat093 on

Over the past two weeks, Instagrammers have documented Khabarovsk as the smoke has come and gone; taken as a composite, their images provide a kind of Instagram reportage on the situation:

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