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A Journey to Sakhalin

by Anton Chekhov

translated by Brian Reeve

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book cover
"Away in the distance were fires where people were burning coal and there would be a light from a forest fire … the convict driver would swing the horses round, then, looking back at the mountains and fires, say, 'It's miserable here, y,er Excellency. It's better back home in Russia.' "

In 1890, the 30 year old Anton Chekhov, knowing that he was ill with tuberculosis, undertook an arduous eleven-week journey from Moscow across Siberia to the penal colony on the island of Sakhalin, where he spent three months. On his way he wrote travel sketches which he sent back for publication in the European Russian press and while on Sakhalin he collected information for a detailed expose of the Tsarist system of penal servitude. Chekhov's valuable research was later used and quoted by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his "Gulag Archipelago".

Here in one volume are completely new, fully annotated translations of the travel sketches (From Siberia), the expose (Sakhalin Island), and extracts from 40 letters Chekhov wrote to relatives and associates before, during and after his expedition.

In the introduction, the translator, Brian Reeve, a writer & journalist with a particular interest in Russian social history, explores Chekhov's motivation for visiting the colony, his objectives in writing Sakhalin Island and the effect that the publication of the book had both on his subsequent work and on Russian society. Among the appendices is a detailed account of the Tsarist penal system, and photographs of convict life on Sakhalin complement the text.


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