The Sakhalin region stretches across 59 islands off the eastern coast of Russia. Most of these islands came under Soviet jurisdiction in September 1945, following an agreement drawn up at the Potsdam peace conference after the end of World War II. In the 1940s, about 300,000 Japanese citizens repatriated to Japan from Sakhalin and from the Kuril islands, while the number of Soviet residents grew from 70,000 to 450,000 people. Today, island residents lead a tough life mostly based around fishing, selling to markets in Russia and Japan. The disagreement over which country owns these territories continues to this day.
The photo book Calamity Islands contains historical and contemporary photographs, stories and opinions of island natives, collected by the documentary photographer Oleg Klimov over his several years at Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.
The research uses quotes from the Anton Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island, as well as materials and photographs from the archives of the Moscow Literary Museum, Sakhalin Local History Museum, Anton Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island book’s museum, USA Library of Congress, and from media reports.
A comparative visual and social analysis of the local residents’ lifestyles, from the hard-labour times to modern day, is conducted at Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands – the continental Russia’s only island area.
Through topographically singling out the unique islands of the state that is nearly a continent, and enduing them with the qualities of Russia’s “social subconscious”, OIeg Klimov tries to explain the post-Soviet person’s behaviour and examine the causes of their ressentiment, confirming his conclusions with visual images.