Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Yuri Pavlovich Kazakov was a leading short-story writer in the so-called thaw period in Russian literature from the 1950’s through the 1970’s when, after decades of strict Communist Party control, writers felt free to write as they pleased and not follow party dictates. One group of writers concentrated on village life, presenting the struggle of the peasants to preserve their moral fiber and to survive the intrusion of the urbanites trying to remake their way of life. Another group depicted life in the big cities under the onslaught of political, moral, and technological progress. Kazakov positioned himself in the middle. Although most of his stories deal with urban characters in their city environment, many of them want to escape from urban life and hope to find solace in nature and the countryside. “Autumn in the Oak Woods” is a perfect example of such a balancing act.

It is not clear from the story why the young man, the protagonist and narrator, has chosen to live away from big cities. There are indications that he once lived in a large city or at least had an opportunity to do so, and his female companion comes from a large city. However, they have come to the pristine environment of the countryside and prefer it to the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether this is a rebellion against the constraints of an urbanized society is not made clear, but judging from the pleasures the two characters derive from their sojourn in the country and by their final decision to stay there, it can be surmised that they are turning their backs on urbanization.


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