Peasants (short story)

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Author Anton Chekhov
Original title "Мужики"
Country Russia
Language Russian
Published in Russkaya Mysl (1897)
Publisher Adolf Marks (1901)
Publication date April 1897

"Peasants" (Russian: Мужики) is a 1897 novella by Anton Chekhov. Upon its publication it became a literary sensation of the year, caused controversy (even the Chekhov admirer Leo Tolstoy labeled it "the crime against the people") but in retrospect is regarded as one of Chekhov's masterpieces.[1]


The novella was first published in the April 1897 issue of Russkaya Mysl. With minor changes and some additions to Chapter IX, it came out as a separate edition, first via Alexey Suvorin Publishing House, then (also the same year) as part of the book called 1. Peasants. 2. My Life. With further minor edits, Chekhov included it into 9 of his Collected Works published by Adolf Marks in 1899-1901.[1]


The story's plotline was based upon Chekhov's five-year stay in Melikhovo. In a 2 April letter he informed his brother Alexander: "In the April 1897 issue of Russkaya Mysl the novella will appear where I describe the fire that broke out in Melikhovo when you visited the place in 1895."[2] Chekhov was finishing the story at the time of the all-Russia census which he took an active part in the organization of in Melikhovo. It was in those days he steeped himself totally into the lives of the local peasantry.

The first mention of "Peasants" dates back to 1 January 1897 when Chekhov wrote to Ekaterina Shavrova from Melikhovo: "I am busy, up to my throat: write and cross out, write and cross out again..." When exactly did he start working upon the novella is uncertain, but by the end of February 1897 it has been completed. On 1 March he wrote to Alexey Suvorin: "How about this for a misfortune? Have written a story on the life of peasants, but they told me it won't pass censorship and has to be cut by half." The story was sent to Russkaya Mysl in mid-March; between 15th and 18th, according to Chekhov's two letters to Viktor Goltsev.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rodionova, V.M. Commentaries to Мужики. The Works by A.P. Chekhov in 12 volumes. Khudozhestvennaya Literatura. Moscow, 1960. Vol. 8, pp. 524-529
  2. Нива, 1911, № 26, стр. 483

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