Eight Years on Sakhalin

Eight Years on Sakhalin

A Political Prisoner’s Memoir

By Ivan P. Iuvachev
Commentary by Andrew A. Gentes

Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

This memoir by Ivan P. Iuvachëv, a cofounder of the People’s Will, details his time as a political exile in the Sakhalin penal colony from 1887 to 1895. Iuvachëv experienced one of the penal colony’s most tumultuous periods. His vivid descriptions make this both a work of literature and a valuable historical document.

PDF, 292 Pages


January 2022

£40.00, $60.00

EPUB, 292 Pages


January 2022

£40.00, $60.00

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About This Book

In 1887, following several years’ imprisonment for his role in the People’s Will terrorist group, Ivan P. Iuvachëv was exiled with other political prisoners to the notorious Sakhalin penal colony. The penal colony emerged during the late 1860s and 1870s and collapsed in 1905, under the weight of Japan’s invasion of Sakhalin. The eight years between 1887 and 1895 that Iuvachëv spent on the island were some of the most tumultuous in the penal colony’s existence. Originally published in 1901, his memoir offers a first-hand account of this netherworld that embodied the extremities of tsarist Russian penality. A valuable historical document as well as a work of literature testifying to one man’s ability to retain his humanity amid a sea of human degradation, this annotated translation marks the first time Iuvachëv’s memoir has appeared in any language besides Russian.

Iuvachëv describes both colorfully and with journalistic objectivity fellow political prisoners as well as criminal exiles, corrupt prison wardens, well-intentioned administrators, and island aboriginals. As such, he is able to bring to life the many characters whose fate it was to live on Sakhalin, where, he writes, “This Sakhalin kaleidoscope is so complex in consistency it will hang before my eyes my entire life.” A man of many talents, Iuvachëv was employed by the island administration as a surveyor, navigator, hydrologist, meteorologist, engineer, choir director, and interior designer. He describes all these employs in detail and with humility. Dispatched as well on expeditions through the Tatar Strait and the Sea of Japan, he saw much of the region, and his observant eye and knowledge of nature allows him to paint wonderful portraits of the region’s flora, fauna, and natural wonders.

This book captures Iuvachëv’s wit, style, and sense of wonder, and has an introductory essay, explanatory notes, and a brief biography. The result is a comprehensive work that will prove especially useful to students of Russian and European history and literature, but that should also interest any reader desiring an inspiring story of one man’s survival against the odds. 


“This translation of a political prisoner’s memoir is another excellent work by Gentes dealing with Siberian exile and exiles during Russia’s late tsarist period. It not only sheds light on the Russian exile system during that period, but also has universal significance regarding prisoners everywhere.” —Walter G. Moss, Professor emeritus, Eastern Michigan University, US.

Author Information

Andrew A. Gentes is an historian and translator. His publications and translations include The Mass Deportation of Poles to Siberia, 1863–1880 ( 2017) and In the World of the Outcasts: Notes of a Former Penal Laborer (2014).


Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction, Andrew A. Gentes; A Note on Transliteration and Dates; Glossary of Measurements; Eight Years on Sakhalin: A Political Prisoner’s Memoir, Ivan P. Iuvachëv; Foreword; Part I; I. First impressions of the Sakhalin coast; II. Searching for food; III. Dinner; IV. Meeting the educated exiles; V. The penal laborers’ march to Tymovsk District; VI. Rykovsk settlement; VII. Assignment as a carpenter; VIII. My comrades; IX. The situation in the Tym Valley; X. The warden’s efforts to build a church; XI. Katorga assignments; XII. The difficulty of katorga; XIII. Headmen-executioners; Part II; I. A new assignment; II. A change of situation; III. Preparing the new church for Easter; IV. The temptation of an artless existence; V. Recording Giliak fables; VI. Solitary and general prison confinement; VII. The murder of choirmaster Gennisaretskii; VIII. Morning impressions; IX. Summer jobs; X. The situation of designated homeowners; XI. Meeting penal laborers from the barracks; XII. Catching fish with a hook; XIII. My sailing assignment; XIV. The educated exile Pl.’s farm; Part III; I. Invitation to a seaside stroll; II. Guests of the military commander; III. Preparations for a new journey; IV. Cape Nevelˊskoi; V. Giliaks’ provisions caches; VI. Aboard the steamer Shooter; VII. Korsakovsk Post; VIII. Manué Post; IX. The 1891 Manifesto; X. Katorga’s tragic days; XI. My new manservant; XII. L−‘s retirement and departure; XIII. Leaving Sakhalin; XIV. A visit to Rykovsk settlement; XV. First news in the press about the Onor atrocities; XVI. Situation for educated people on the island.; Part IV; I. The new status of exile-settler; II. My meeting with General Grodekov; III. The exile-settler Elizaveta K; IV. Women on Sakhalin; V. Personal morality’s importance in lifting a man; VI. Losing the most favorable period of life; VII. A trip to Aleksandrovsk Post in winter; VIII. Exiles’ hidden sorrows; IX. Vladivostok under military alert; X. In a grave; XI. Held back!; XII. The governor’s new request; XIII. Sakhalintsy in Vladivostok; XIV. Distance and time make an impression; Bibliography.


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