Born in 1948 in Riga, Latvia, Mischa Maisky received his first music lessons in Riga, where he attended the Children's Music School and Conservatory. In 1962 he entered the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1965 his debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic earned him the nickname "Rostropovich of the Future". One year later he was a prizewinner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and began his studies with Rostropovich at the Moscow Conservatory while pursuing a concert career throughout the former Soviet Union. After being imprisoned in a labour camp near Gorky for 18 months in 1970, he emigrated from the USSR.