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Summer 1890. To earn a little money and feed his family, Anton Chekhov, a humble doctor, writes sketches for newspapers under a pseudonym Antosha Chekhonte. An important writer and publisher come to pay him a visit and make him aware of his talent. His situation improves and Chekhov receives the coveted Pushkin Prize and wins Tolstoy's admiration. But when one of his brothers dies of tuberculosis, Anton experiences it as a personal failure and wants to flee his celebrity status and from his love affairs.
He remembers a promise he made with regard to prison reform, and decides to go to the penal colony on Sakhalin Island, thousands of miles from Moscow, to meet with the convicts.