Misha Pak was born in 1946 when Japanese POWs were being repatriated from Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands to Japan. He is ethnically Japanese with a Korean surname because Japanese were not supposed to stay on Sakhalin. When he was 16, he refused to accept Soviet citizenship and a Soviet passport, because in section 5 of the passport which denotes "nationality"he was not allowed to write "Japanese". He was the "chief of fishing" of an Aboriginal cooperative in the Gulf of Patience. He died in 2014 of cardiac failure as a citizen of the world, with no citizenship. "I have for 60 years lived in and never left a small town on the island. Accepting Russian citizenship now would mean betraying my whole life, as nobody has written that I am Japanese in my passport." he told Klimov in August 2007.
"Asia comes to an end. You could say that the Amur flows into the Pacific Ocean here, if it weren't for Sakhalin blocking the way." Anton Chekhov, The Island: A Journey to Sakhalin, 1967
In 1890, Anton Chekhov set out on a journey to the 'prison island' of Sakhalin to investigate the penal conditions in the Russian Far East and raise awareness about the inhumane treatment of inmates there. In 1895, he published the book Sakhalin Island, which The New Yorker recently named the best work of journalism written in the nineteenth century. When it was published, the book's ability to show the contrast between the authorities' official statements about the prisons and their grim reality led to a public outcry, forcing the Tsarist government to initiate much-needed reforms. 120 years after the publication of Sakhalin Island, photographer Oleg Klimov retraced Chekhov's steps, traveling to Sakhalin to assess its modern-day condition.