Chekov wrote Uncle Vanya during a period of social, political and economic upheaval in Russia. During the 19th century, Russia was trying to move from a mediaeval to a modern economic and social system. This upheaval continued well into the 20th century, leading up to the Russian Revolution.
Chekov was the grandson of a serf. Serfs were left over from mediaeval times, and were essentially slaves. The serfs were freed in 1861, when Chekov was a year old. However most former serfs and families were extremely poor. Although this is not an overly political play, Chekov was concerned with the plight of the poor and downtrodden.