Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1321

Pantelei Apollinarievich Pantelei

Pantelei Apollinarievich Pantelei (pahn-teh-LAY ah-poh-lih-NAH-rih-vihch), also called Pantik, Academician, Pantelyusha, and Pant, a writer. Forty years old in 1972-1973, he wins at the racetrack, flies to Yalta, and ends up in a sobering-up station. Arrested in Moscow, he shares a dream in jail with the other heroes (Kunitser, Sabler, Khvastishchev, and Malkolmov); their identities merge with one another and with Tolya’s.

Aristarkh Apollinarievich Kunitser

Aristarkh Apollinarievich Kunitser (ah-rih-STAHRKHKEW-nih-tsehr), also called Kun, and Arik, a forty-year-old physicist and space scientist. He takes Nina Lygher-Cheptsova, his lover, to political meetings at Argentov’s.


Samson (Samsik) Apollinarievich Sabler (SAB-lehr), a forty-year-old jazz saxophonist in a Moscow nightclub. He faints during rehearsal and discovers he has emphysema.

Radius Apollinarievich Khvastishchev

Radius Apollinarievich Khvastishchev (RAH-dee-uhs khvah-stih-SHCHEHV), a forty-year-old sculptor. He invites a cloakroom attendant to pose, then learns the attendant is Lygher.


Gennady (Genka) Apollinarievich Malkolmov (geh-NAH-dee MAHL-kohl-mov), a forty-year-old physician who, in 1961, met Masha at a United Nations hospital in Katanga. Summoned to care for the injured Cheptsov, he allows him to die.

Tolya von Steinbock

Tolya von Steinbock, also called Tolya Bokov and Anatoly Apollinarievich Bokov, who is seventeen years old in 1949. He is in Magadan, Eastern Siberia, where Tolya lives with his mother and loves Lyudmila Guly. He witnesses his mother’s second arrest and Cheptsov’s torture of Sanya.


Alisa, a seventeen-year-old Magadan camp inmate in 1949 who is married to Fokusov. She is a sexually promiscuous Moscow beauty with reddish blonde hair in the 1970’s. When Pantelei confronts her, she chooses her husband’s wealth. Blazer says she is in the KGB.

Sanya Gurchenko

Sanya Gurchenko (GOOR-chehn-koh), known as Father Alexander, a Catholic camp inmate and carpenter who escapes to the West in 1951. He introduced Tolya to the underground world of “Crimea.” As Father Alexander, he encounters Pantelei/Khvastishchev in Rome in 1965-1966.

Patrick Thunderjet

Patrick Thunderjet, an Anglo-American friend of the heroes. He met Malkolmov and Masha in Katanga in 1961. He spends an evening with Khvastishchev, Toma, and Klara. He and Academician win at a Moscow racetrack and fly to Yalta, where he drunkenly requests political asylum. In 1972-1973, he is at the University of Sussex in England.

Stepan Cheptsov

Stepan Cheptsov, a retired KGB officer who arrested Tolya’s mother and Sanya Gurchenko twenty years earlier. Retired to Moscow, he holds menial jobs to support Paulina and his stepdaughter Nina, whom he rapes. He gets drunk and beats his head bloody before he is taken to the hospital.

Nina Lygher-Cheptsova

Nina Lygher-Cheptsova, Lygher’s daughter. In Magadan during the Stalinist era, she is adopted by Cheptsov in Moscow, where she lives with him and her mother in 1972-1973. She is Kunitser’s lover and types for counterrevolutionaries.

Alik Neyarky

Alik Neyarky (AH-lihk neh-YAHR-kee), a big former ice hockey player. He joins Academician and Patrick Thunderjet at the racetrack and on the flight to Yalta.

Tatyana Nathanovna von Steinbock

Tatyana Nathanovna von Steinbock, Tolya’s mother. Arrested in 1937 as a counterrevolutionary, she served ten years in Magadan before being allowed some freedom as housekeeper in an orphanage. In 1949, she is arrested again, by Cheptsov.

Apollinary Ustinovich Bokov

Apollinary Ustinovich Bokov (ah-poh-LIH-nah-ree ew-STIH-noh-vihch BOH-kov), Tolya’s father, who appears in a dream, in his native village of Fanino.


Martin, also known as Philip Yegorovich (yeh-GOH-roh-vihch), a German Catholic political prisoner in Magadan. He lived with Tolya’s mother and practiced homeopathic medicine.

Boris Yevdokimovich Lygher

Boris Yevdokimovich Lygher (yehv-doh-KIH

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KIH-moh-vihch LI-gur), a second cloakroom attendant at the National Hotel in Moscow, where Khvastishchev meets him. His name derives from la guerre, which is French for “war.” His patriotism is suspect.

Paulina Ignatievna

Paulina Ignatievna (ee-GNAH-tih-yehv-nah), Lygher’s wife and Nina’s mother. She had been prominent in Magadan society during the Stalinist era. In 1972-1973, she is the mad wife of Cheptsov in Moscow.

Lyudmila Guly

Lyudmila Guly, the daughter of a colonel of security forces in Magadan. She scorns Tolya.

Sergeyevich Mukhachov-Bagrationsky

Sergeyevich Mukhachov-Bagrationsky (sehr-GEH-yeh-vihch moo-kah-CHOV-bah-grah-TEE-ohn-skee), called Blazer, a friend to Pantelei, whom he wants to write screenplays for Western consumption. An honorary member of the Moscow police, he has immunity from arrest.

Vadim Serebyanikov

Vadim Serebyanikov (vah-DEEM seh-reh-BYA-nih-kov), an alcoholic former friend of Pantelei. Once first violin in an orchestra of “new voices,” he is now a solid Party member.

Academician Fokusov

Academician Fokusov (foh-KEW-sov), Alisa’s husband. He is middle-aged and a famous tractor designer.

Jan Strudelmacher

Jan Strudelmacher (SHTREW-dehl-mah-chehr), a blond, athletic, joking mercenary. In an attack on the United Nations hospital in Katanga in 1961, he tries to rape Masha.

Marianne Coulagot

Marianne Coulagot (kew-lah-GOH), called Mashka and Masha, a Russian Frenchwoman and Swiss citizen, the beautiful former mistress to Kunitser/Sabler/Malkolmov/Khvastishchev/Pantelei. She meets him (them) while riding the streets of Moscow with Patrick Thunderjet. She first met him/them (as Malkolmov) in the United Nations hospital in Katanga in 1961; she was a Christian Sister of Mercy.


Silvester, who composes music for Sabler’s jazz group and helps Sabler to plan a concert in 1973. With his long hair and mustache, he looks like a Western intellectual, though he once had a 1950’s-style crew cut.

Zheka Buzdykin

Zheka Buzdykin (bewz-DEW-kihn), called Fatface, a musician who plays jazz with Sabler. Sabler dislikes him because of the Czechoslovakia uprising in 1968.

Marina Vladi

Marina Vladi (mah-REE-nah VLAH-dih), a woman who was in the audience when Sabler played at Leningrad in 1956. She inspires him to musical invention.

Arina Belyakova

Arina Belyakova (ah-REE-nah beh-LYA-koh-vah), Sabler’s young lover in Leningrad, where she studied medicine in 1956. In 1973, she treats him for emphysema.

Klara Khakimova

Klara Khakimova (khah-KI-moh-vah), a rich Asian girl from Uzbek and a student at Moscow University. She was with Sabler in the Blue Bird in 1970.

Tamora Filchenko

Tamora Filchenko, called Toma, a KGB agent who meets Academician as Khvastishchev at the National Hotel.

Tinatina Shevardina

Tinatina Shevardina (tih-nah-TIH-nah sheh-VAHR-dih-nah), a female student of Malkolmov. She meets him for a party and a drive through Moscow.

L. P. Fruitozov

L. P. Fruitozov (frew-ih-TOH-zov), called Agent Silicate, who investigates the incident at the Moscow Hotel National.

Silly Zoika

Silly Zoika (ZOY-kah), a plump, dark, small woman who provides sexual pleasures for Academician, Patrick, and Neyarky at a party in Afanasy’s new apartment.

Afanasy Seven-For-Eight

Afanasy Seven-For-Eight, Silly Zoika’s fiancé, a songwriter without talent.


Petyusha, a young party official on the plane to Yalta.


Fyodorich (FYOH-doh-rihch), an older companion of Petyusha. He looks like Cheptsov.


Natalya, who is lured to Yalta by hopes of a film career but is raped instead. She meets Academician, who gives her money to throw along the beach.

Vitaly Yegorovich Chuikov

Vitaly Yegorovich Chuikov (vih-TAH-lee yeh-GOH-roh-vihch CHEWIH-kov), the director of the Party sanatorium and commander of children’s war games at Yalta. He is a retired major general who carouses with Patrick, Neyarky, and Academician.


Boris, a Magadan guard who, with Cheptsov, tortures Sanya Gurchenko.

Sergeant Ryumin

Sergeant Ryumin (RYEW-mihn), who is in charge of prisoners, including Academician and friends, in the Yalta courtroom. He wants more severe punishments.

Aunt Varya

Aunt Varya, a political prisoner. She is a friend of Tolya’s mother in Magadan.

Igor Yevstigneyevich Serebro

Igor Yevstigneyevich Serebro (yehv-stih-GNEH-yeh-vihch seh-reh-BROH), a sculptor and friend of Khvastishchev. Interviewed on the BBC in 1973 after his defection, he admits he was a KGB agent.

Major Paly

Major Paly (PAH-lee), who accompanied Cheptsov to arrest Tolya’s mother the second time, in Magadan.


Zilberantsev (zihl-beh-RAHN-tsehv), a medical colleague of Malkolmov. He knows about the serum, Lymph D.

Nikodim Vasilievich Argentov

Nikodim Vasilievich Argentov (nih-koh-DIHM va-see-LYEH-vihch ahr-GEHN-tov), a fellow scientist of Kunitser. In his rooms in 1973, a meeting is held for a new political party in Moscow.


Makkar (mah-KAHR), a twenty-year-old guitarist for Sabler’s new group in 1973.

Grisha Koltun

Grisha Koltun (grih-SHAHKOHL-toon), an army major and Nina’s new husband. He had participated in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The Burn’s five-in-one hero manifests different aspects of Aksyonov himself and his close friends, all members of the new young cultural and scientific elite in the 1960’s. Most central of the generational spokesmen and closest to author Aksyonov is the writer Pantalei, who is caught up in the quest for the once-pure camp victim Alisa, now the beautiful vixen of the Moscow jet set and possible KGB informant. Malkolmov, like Aksyonov, is a doctor. Jazz saxophonist Sabler reflects Aksyonov’s love of American jazz and popular music. Tolya von Steinbock’s background closely parallels that of Aksyonov’s youth. The heroes, although distinct in most respects, are not “real,” individuated protagonists. They are, rather, richly drawn types chosen to convey different aspects of the experiences of a single generation. Their kinship is marked by their shared middle name, “Apollinarievich”; they are the figurative sons of Apollo, the Greek god of the creative arts.

Other characters are also treated as “sets.” Each of the heroes is paired with a villain, a Judas figure. Aksyonov signals their nature by assigning them names that mean “silver” in various languages: Silvester, the jazz man; Zilberansky, the doctor; Argentov, a scientist; Serebro, a sculptor; and Serebryanikov, a writer. The “silver” refers to the thirty pieces of silver Judas received for betraying Christ.

The Burn offers a third, less sharply defined group of characters. These are the Stalinists headed by Lieutenant Colonel Cheptsov. Cheptsov and his henchmen appear throughout the novel in various guises and transformations: as cloakroom or drunk-tank attendants; as roving marauders who plunder Europe in earlier centuries; as a mercenary unit that attacks a United Nations hospital in Katanga; and as the Soviet tank crews that subjugate Prague in 1968. Cheptsov is often identifiable only by his “eyes like small, hot black cherries.”

Perhaps the only characters who are truly individuals as opposed to representatives are the ex-prisoners Sanya Gurchenko and Tolya’s stepfather, who, supported by their religious beliefs, have actively resisted evil. Moral compromise and betrayal are unknown in their world.




Critical Essays