Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a well-known Russian playwright, writer and public figure. He authored The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Duel, The Lady with the Dog, among other plays and short stories. He was born into the family of a merchant in Taganrog in 1860 and moved to Moscow in 1877. The ancient Russian capital left an indelible mark on Chekhov and lent a flavour of its own to many of his works. The city was also the inspiration for many of his original characters. Historians have estimated that as many as seventy addresses are associated with Chekhov in Moscow, since the Chekhov family lived in poverty and was forced to move from one address to another. Not all of these buildings still exist today, but you are may be interested in paying a visit to two museums associated with him: the Chekhov house museum in Sadovoye RingRussian: Sadovoe kol'tso or Садовое кольцо and the wonderful Chekhov museum in Chekhov’s former country estate in MelikhovoRussian: Мелихово, near Moscow. Chekhov was buried at the Novodevichy CemeteryRussian: Novodeviche kladbische or Новодевичье кладбище in Moscow.
ANTON CHEKHOV’S MOSCOW ADDRESSES
Anton Chekhov first came to Moscow in 1877. His family had already been living here for a year while waiting for young Anton to graduate from high school in Taganroga port city in Rostov Oblast located on the north shore of the Taganrog Bay in the Sea of Azov. Due to their difficult financial situation, the family had settled in one of Moscow’s poorest and run-down neighbourhoods of the time, on SretenkaRussian: Сретенка and TrubnayaRussian: Трубная Streets. In 1879, Chekhov entered the Faculty of Medicine of the Moscow UniversityRussian: Moskovskiy universitet or Московский университет (11, MokhovayaRussian: Моховая Street). Among his teachers were renowned Moscow doctors Nikolay Sklifosovsky, Grigory Zakharyin, Friedrich Erismann, etc. The same year, the Chekhovs moved to a tenement building near St. Nicholas ChurchRussian: tserkov sv. Nikolaya or церковь св. Николая (36, Trubnaya Street). “We lived in grinding poverty, living hand to mouth and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. We moved apartments twelve times and, in 1879, ended up renting a basement in a building belonging to the St. Nicholas Church on GrachyovkaRussian: Грачёвка where it smelled musty and all you could see were the heels of people walking past the window”, Mikhail Pavlovich Chekhov, the writer’s brother, recalled later in his memoirs. Unfortunately, the house where the Chekhovs lived has not survived.
The beginnings of Chekhov’s literary career are associated with the Savitsky HouseRussian: dom Savitskogo or дом Савицкого (Building 2, 23, Trubnaya Street), one of the few surviving “Chekhov” buildings in Moscow. This is where he wrote his first literary works, striving to draw society’s attention to the the issue of prostitution. “Our Sobolev LaneRussian: Sobolev pereulok or Соболев переулок, Chekhov wrote, is nothing but a slave market” (the present-day Bolshoy Golovin LaneRussian: Bolshoy Golovin pereulok or Большой Головин переулок was known as Sobolev Lane before 1906). Chekov described it in the short story titled The Fit, while depicting the neighbouring Trubny marketRussian: Trubnyi rynok or Трубный рынок, where cattle and saplings used to be sold, in his essay In Moscow’ Trubny Market.
Between 1881 and 1885, Chekhov lived in Maly Golovin LaneRussian: Malyi Golovin pereulok or Малый Головин переулок (3, Maly Golovin Lane): “I live in Golovin Lane. A vast, unplastered building, the third one from Sretenka Street, the middle bell on your right, second floor, door to your right, a small mean dog”. In Chekhov’s times, this was a two-storey building laid on the foundations of a large basement, which has since been reconstructed.
Today, the house where the writer once lived is the middle part of a four-storey building. This is where Chekhov wrote some of his famous short stories, such as Fat and Thin, The Swedish Match, A Test for Rank, A Chameleon and Surgery. Friends and acquaintances used to visit him, including the Moscow journalist Vladimir Gilyarovsky, who would soon become famous in his right, and writer Nikolay Leskov who were often served Chekhov’s legendary Taganrog salad with olives, onion and potatoes. After Chekhov graduated from the university in 1884, a plate reading “A. P. Chekhov, Doctor” was fixed on the entrance door. After obtaining his diploma, Chekhov regularly visited the sick and also received them at home. “I keep treating,’ he wrote, ‘I spend over a ruble on cabmen every day. I know lots of people, and consequently, lots of sick people. I have to treat half of them for free, and the other half pays me three to five rubles”.
It is not a coincidence that Dmitrovka StreetRussian: ulitsa Dmitrovka or улица Дмитровка was known as Chekhov Street back in the Soviet times, since Chekhov lived in several buildings located in this street. In April 1899, he spent four days in 1, Uspensky LaneRussian: Uspenskiy pereulok or Успенский переулок (present-day 12, Malaya DmitrovkaRussian: Малая Дмитровка) in an apartment rented by his sister Maria. He also stayed in A. Sheshkov’s tenement houseRussian: dohodnyi dom A. Sheshkova or доходный дом А. Шешкова (No. 14, 11, Malaya Dmitrovka Street), which now houses the Golden Apple Hotel – one of the rooms here is called the “Chekhov DeluxRussian: Чеховский Delux”. Chekhov would often visit the Sobraniye vrachey clubRussian: клуб «Собрание врачей» (Doctors’ Meeting Place) (32, B. Dmitrovka, inside the courtyard), which he described in one of his short stories, The Lady with the Dog, as follows: “The rage for card-playing, the gluttony, the drunkenness, the continual talk always about the same thing”.
Chekhov’s HouseRussian: domik Chehova or домик Чехова in Malaya Dmitrovka (V. Firgang’s HouseRussian: dom V. Firganga or дом В. Фирганга, 29, Malaya Dmitrovka) is another memorial place in this neighbourhood. Chekhov lived in a small outhouse on the right side of the mansion’s courtyard between 1890 and 1892 after his journey to Sakhalina large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean and before he purchased an estate in Melikhovo. Here, he worked on some of his best known stories, The Grasshopper, The Duel, Ward No. 6, and also his book Sakhalin Island. This is how he described his dwelling: “I now live on Malaya Dmitrovka; the street is nice, the house is sort of a mansion, two stories. I’m not bored yet, but boredom is starting to peep now and then into my window threatening me with its finger”. A commemorative plaque is now attached on this building in his memory. Chekhov’s House, presently a branch of the Novy ManezhRussian: Novyi manezh or Новый манеж exhibit hall, regularly hosts concerts and exhibitions.
Anton Chekhov also lived in Firsanova (Gonetskaya)’s HouseRussian: dom Firsanovoy (Gonetskoy) or дом Фирсановой (Гонецкой) at 2/14 Zvonarsky LaneRussian: Zvonarskiy pereulok or Звонарский переулок. In 1901, Chekhov’s wife Olga Knipper rented an apartment in this ornate building built by Boris Freudenberg in 1894-1895 which was equipped with the recent invention, electric lighting. Chekhov spent almost seven months here and noted that the apartment was spacious, with high ceilings and a good heating system.
The Katyk HouseRussian: dom Katyk or дом Катык, built by architect A. Meinhardt in 1899 in Leontyevsky LaneRussian: Leontevskiy pereulok or Леонтьевский переулок (24, Leontyevsky Lane) is considered to be Chekhov’s last address in Moscow. He lived here in 1904 before he left to live in Germany. The famous Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin also resided at the same building at that time.
The Anton Chekhov MuseumRussian: muzey A. Chehova or музей А. Чехова is located in the vicinity of the Garden Ring (6, Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya StreetRussian: Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya ulitsa or Садовая-Кудринская улица, MayakovskayaRussian: Маяковская Metro Station) in Moscow. Chekhov spent almost four years in this two-storey stone outbuilding built in 1874 and owned by Y. Korneev, a doctor. It was here that he wrote some of his plays (Ivanov, The Wood Demon), farces (The Bear, A Marriage Proposal, The Marriage) and short stories (The Steppe, Lights, A Boring Story). Chekhov also practiced medicine here, seeing patients from his home.
The museum, opened in 1954 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Chekhov’s death, hosted a collection from the Rumyantsev MuseumRussian: Rumyantsevskiy muzey or Румянцевский музей. The building’s peculiar appearance made Chekhov call it a “dresser building”. The museum features Chekhov’s study as well as the study of his sister, a literary exhibition devoted to the writer’s literary heritage and another exhibition illustrating Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin. Of particular interest are Chekhov’s authentic personal belongings: a desk, candlesticks, an inkstand and photographs showing Chekhov and his friends and relatives.
However, Chekhov’s country estate at MelikhovoRussian: usadba Melihovo or усадьба Мелихово (Moscow OblastRussian: Moskovskaya oblast' or Московская область, Chekhovsky DistrictRussian: Chehovskiy rayon or Чеховский район, the settlement of Melikhovo), purchased by Chekhov in 1892, is, without a doubt, the main museum dedicated to this writer in the Moscow region. Chekhov lived here until 1899, and this is where he created 42 literary works. A separate article on this website is dedicated to this wonderful museum, a fine example of late 19th-century Russian country estate architecture, which recreates the authentic atmosphere of the life and work of Anton Chekhov and his family. Later, the Chekhovs purchased a country estate in Yaltaa resort city on the south coast of the Crimean Peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea, and Chekhov spent the rest of his life there going on occasional trips to Europe to seek treatment for his medical conditions.
CHEKHOV ON STAGE
Chekhov met his future wife in the Razumovsky city estate Russian: usadba Razumovskih or усадьба Разумовских(2, Romanov LaneRussian: Romanov pereulok or Романов переулок) in Moscow in 1898. At that time, this building housed a Hunt ClubRussian: Ohotnichiy klub or Охотничий клуб, and the Society of Art and LiteratureRussian: Obschestvo iskusstva i literatury or Общество искусства и литературы staged weekly performances there. At one of the rehearsals of Chekhov’s The Seagull, Chekhov met Olga Knipper (1868-1959), who was an actress in the performance. Their church wedding took place at the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Chisty VrazhekRussian: Krestovozdvizhenskiy hram na Chistom Vrazhke or Крестовоздвиженский храм на Чистом Вражке on 25 May (O.S. 7 June) 1901 (8, Pervy Truzhnikov LaneRussian: 1-y Truzhnikov pereulok or 1-й Тружников переулок). Later, Olga was a leading actress at the Art TheatreRussian: Hudozhestvennyi teatr or Художественный театр and, in the Soviet times, won the People’s Artist of the USSR award. Today, the former Hunt Club houses a hospital and a health center belonging to the Administrative Directorate of the President of the Russian FederationRussian: Upravlenie delami prezidenta Rossii or Управление делами президента России.
The first production of Chekhov’s The Seagull was hugely unsuccessful in St. Petersburg in 1896. This was a profound blow to the playwright, who felt deeply disappointed with the theatre. However, the Maly TheatreRussian: Malyi hudozhestvennyi teatr or Малый художественный театр, founded in 1898 by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, took on this complex play and put it on the Moscow stage. This time, the play was a success, and Chekhov subsequently wrote Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchad. His plays staged at the Moscow Art Theatre, becoming one of the hallmarks of the Russian literature and exerting a significant influence on the development of theatre worldwide.
The story of the renowned Moscow Art TheatreRussian: Moskovskiy hudozhestvennyi teatr or Московский художественный театр (3, Kamergersky LaneRussian: Kamergerskiy pereulok or Камергерский переулок) began with a performance dated 17 December 1898. Its façade is decorated with a flying seagull drawn by architect Fyodor Schechtel, a friend of Chekhov’s. He was the brains behind the theatre’s design. A monument to Anton Chekhov designed by sculptor Mikhail Anikushin and architects Mikhail Posokhin and Mark Feldman stands in the same lane near building №2.
Another theatre associated with Anton Chekhov is the Mayakovsky TheatreRussian: Moskovskiy akademicheskiy teatr im. V. Mayakovskogo or Московский академический театр им. В. Маяковского (19/13, B. Nikitskaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Bolshaya Nikitskaya or улица Большая Никитская). The building, designed in 1886 by architects Konstantin Tersky and Fyodor Schechtel, was initially known as the ‘Paradise TheatreRussian: театр Парадиз’. Actors from the Moscow Art Theatre staged another performance just for Chekhov. The performance of the play, given on 1 May 1899, was attended by one spectator, the seriously ill Anton Chekhov who had just returned from Yalta.
TRIBUTES TO THE MEMORY OF ANTON CHEKHOV
Anton Chekhov succumbed to tuberculosis in 1904 in Badenweiler (Germany). His last words were: «Ich sterbe» («I’m dying»). A crowd met the train bringing his coffin at Moscow’s Nikolayevsky Railway StationRussian: Nikolaevskiy vokzal or Николаевский вокзал (present-day Leningradsky Railway StationRussian: Leningradskiy vokzal or Ленинградский вокзал) (3, Komsovolskaya SquareRussian: Komsomolskaya ploschad or Комсомольская площадь). The funeral service was held at the Assumption Cathedral of the Novodevichy ConventRussian: Uspenskiy hram Novodevichego monastyirya or Успенский храм Новодевичьего монастыря. Chekhov was buried in the convent in a grave next to his father’s. An obelisk with a small icon decorated Chekhov’s grave, along with an Art Modern enclosure designed by artist Leonid Brailovsky. In 1933, at the height of the Bolsheviksmembers of a wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, led by Lenin, seized control of the government in Russia (October 1917) and became the dominant political power’ struggle with the Church, the cemetery was devastated and, upon the request of Olga Knipper-Chekhova, the writer’s remains were reburied in the Novodevichy cemetery (Moscow, 2, Luzhnetsky DrivewayRussian: Luzhnetskiy proezd or Лужнецкий проезд, 2nd lot of the cemetery, SportivnayaRussian: Спортивная Metro Station), next to the convent’s south wall. The gravestone was transferred there, too.
A metro station, an art theatre and a school are named after Anton Chekhov in Moscow. In Moscow Oblast, a town founded in 1954 and a city railway station, called LopasnyaRussian: Лопасня in Chekhov’s times, bear his name. Also, Moscow regularly hosts the Chekhov International Theatre FestivalRussian: mezhdunarodnyi teatralnyi festival im. A. P. Chehova or международный театральный фестиваль им. А. П. Чехова established by the International Confederation of Theatre Associations.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com