What is the historical context behind Uncle Vanya?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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.