On the occasion of the year of music and cultural encounters between Russia and Austria this blog post is mainly supposed to tell the story of achievements during A.P. Chekhov’s stay in the muscovite village Melikhovo from 1892 until 1899. This period of time is often called “seven years of life in Melikhovo” because Chekhov had been very successful in many ways at the time.
In the early 1890s A.P. Chekhov has already been a renowned author. He was said to be one of the most popular fiction writers in his days. Literary giants like Tolstoi or Polonsky did not spare their lavish praise. A lot of publishing houses wanted to work with him. This special attention did not happen by accident. Within these seven years alone Chekhov wrote unbelievable 42 pieces of work, e. g. “Uncle Wanja”, “The Seagull” or “Men”. However, why did such a thriving writer even decide to move into the country?
A.P. Chekhov had been missing something specific while living in the capital. In fact, he always wanted to be an author who is a significant part of the community, because he believed that being surrounded by people would make him able to fulfil his job as a writer. Only if he felt the emotions, which were felt by the people, and only if he really stood in the middle of their political and public life, he then had the suitable input for writing works which are critical of society and fit into it at the same time. That’s the reason why Anton Pavlovich moved to his unpretentious manor in 1892.
Well, he got more than he has ever expected. Soon after his move into the countryside he started working as a doctor. Especially, the farmers of Melikhovo and adjacent villages needed medical care. Later, when the cholera epidemic was spread all over Russia, Chekhov became the country doctor and attended over two dozen villages, four factories and one monastery. As if this was not already enough, the writer and doctor built three schools and improved popular enlightenment. Because of his tuberculosis he was forced to sell his country estate in 1899. Chekhov’s doctors suggested relocation to South Russia. That is why he moved to Jalta.
After Anton Pavlovich moved, the country estate itself had two different owners who wanted to keep the memory preserved. In 1917 a nationalisation followed. Melikhovo got a pilgrimage town for the writer’s admirers, although Chekhov’s former country estate got partly damaged after the Russian Revolution. Finally, in 1940 the building became a museum for A. P. Chekhov’s incredible work. Fortunately, one of the manor’s outhouses was still preserved. It is famous because the author’s masterpiece “The Seagull”, which is my favourite play by A. P. Chekhov, was written there. In the 1950s, the country estate’s damaged parts were fixed. In the years of 2006 and 2010, the professional theatre “Chekhov’s Studio” and an international competition in honour of A. P. Chekhov were founded.
As you might have noticed, I am a big fan of A. P. Chekhov. In fact, he is one of my favourite authors. Inter alia, I am studying Slavonic Studies in Vienna, whereby my main subject is “Russian Theatre”. After concentrating on Chekhov’s works for a while I understood what he meant when he said that the characters in his plays go through a psychological process although the figures do not go through any personal transformation. I know that must sound confusing and illogical, however that is why I really would recommend reading Chekhov’s plays.
In the following section I will try to explain this concept, although I am aware of the fact that explaining such a thought out and specific theory in just one paragraph could be difficult. However, it is supposed to give you a quick overview about Chekhov’s concept concerning the development of the protagonists. Generally, the characters in Chekhov’s works do not go through any personal transformation because they are always unhappy no matter how the storyline changes. But although their mood does not change, there is a psychological process going on which develop the figures in a positive or negative way. In short, Chekhov focuses on the human development instead of an emotional one. I guess, you will understand what I wrote here after “feeling” Chekhov as there is said in Russian Theatre.
If you would like to read some of A. P. Chekhov’s plays, you will find some of them below in English and in German.
The Seagull (engl.): http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1754/1754-h/1754-h.htm
Die Möwe (dt.): http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/die-mowe-3975/2
The Three Sisters (engl.): http://www.online-literature.com/anton_chekhov/three-sisters/0/
Die Drei Schwestern (dt.): http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/drei-schwestern-3978/2
The Cherry Orchard (engl.): http://www.artlit.org/en/belles-lettres/orchard/Orchard-I.pdf
Der Kirschgarten (dt.): http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/der-kirschgarten-3977/2