(Ajay Kamalakaran’s article appeared in Russia Byond the Headlines, 6/3.)
In 1890 Anton Chekhov, who by all accounts was a highly sensitive person, was completely shaken up by his three months on Sakhalin Island. After a long and grueling journey by train, horse-carriage and ferry from Moscow to the island in the Russian Far East, Chekhov spent three months interviewing settlers and convicts on what was then a penal colony.
“He was more than happy to leave a place he called “hell” and take a more comfortable journey back to Moscow by ship,” says Tamara Chikova, a retired academician in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. “His letters indicate that the bad impressions of Sakhalin stayed in his head throughout the journey, but Chekhov was happy to see the colors and life of Asia.”