Durnovka (door-NOF-kah). Fictional Russian village in which the novel is set. Its name might be translated into English literally as “Evil Town” or “Illville,” and Ivan Bunin clearly intends it to represent all that he regards as being wrong with Russian rural society in the last days of the czars. Durnovka is probably based to some degree upon the real village of Ognyovka, where Bunin himself lived. It is a generic peasant village of the period but also a symbol of all Russia, of all that Bunin perceives as being wrong with Russia at the time.
Standing in a deep ravine, the village has thirty peasant cottages on one side of its gorge and the tiny manor house on the other side. The manor is not held by exalted princes or gentlefolk of the sort one finds in books by Leo Tolstoy or Ivan Turgenev, but by a man named Tikhon Ilich Krasov, whose own grandfather was a freed serf. Tikhon Ilich is himself little more than a kulak—a wealthy peasant of the sort who, two decades later, would be murdered by the thousands in the collectivization campaigns of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. His manor house is little more than a well-built farmhouse, originally an outlier manor for a landlord who had a number of holdings and his primary seat elsewhere. The village’s peasant cottages are equally unimpressive, small wooden shacks of appalling squalor. Many of them, such as that of Siery, are quite literally falling apart, missing...
(The entire section is 602 words.)