Popova is the female protagonist of The Bear: A Joke in One Act, a play by Anton Chekhov that premiered on October 28, 1888 in Moscow, Russia. The play is one of Chekhov's lighter comedies, verging on farce, and was created in part as vehicle for the actor Nikolai Nikolaevich Solovtsov, a childhood friend of Chekhov who played the character of Smirnov, the male lead, in the original production.
The play is set in the house of Elena Ivanovna Popova, a recently widowed but still relatively young and attractive woman. As she mourns the death of her philandering husband, swearing that she will remain a recluse, living alone and speaking to no one other than her servant Luka, Gregorii Stepanovich Smirnov forces his way into her presence demanding money her dead husband owed him. When she prevaricates, he challenges her to a duel and she agrees to it. She brings out her husband's set of dueling pistols. Impressed by her fiery nature, Smirnov falls in love with her, and they kiss as the curtain falls.