Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 521

*Simbirsk

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*Simbirsk (sihm-BEERSK). Russian town (later renamed Ulyanovsk) on the Volga River 485 miles east of Moscow. In one of Simbirsk’s surrounding rural regions, Piotr’s father received a plot of land, probably after his career of military service. The town’s distance from the civilized cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg serves to show that his military service was, although honest, perhaps less than brilliant. This is also suggested when he reads in the “Court Calendar” that his peers are now high-ranking general officers. In a Simbirsk tavern, the young Piotr loses one-hundred rubles in a drunken gambling bout at the first stop en route to his military assignment. Through this experience, Piotr breaks free of his parents’ control and takes his first steps toward independence.

*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Capital of Russia and center of imperial power, high society, and culture. As a nobleman, young Piotr was registered here on paper, though he lived in Simbirsk, as a sergeant with the largely ceremonial Semyonovsky Guards Regiment. When his father realizes that young Piotr is learning little in Simbirsk from his expensive, foreign tutor, he decides it is time to allow life experience on Russia’s frontier to educate the young boy. Piotr’s father refuses to approve an easy capital assignment and requests that an old friend assign Piotr to service in Orenburg—a town geographically and culturally remote from St. Petersburg.

*Orenburg

*Orenburg. Russian town in the southern Ural mountain range roughly three hundred miles to the southeast of Simbirsk. In the eighteenth century, Orenburg was the regional military and administrative center of this turbulent province on the Russian frontier. Serfs seeking freedom from horrible working conditions on European estates competed with ethnic German settlers, Yaikian people indigenous to central Asia, and Cossacks for limited arable land. This mix of influences made the region, tenuously under the control of the Russian Empire, unstable.

Bailogorsk fortress

Bailogorsk fortress. Outpost to which Piotr is assigned and where most of the story’s action occurs. It is located approximately twenty-five miles from Orenburg, the term “fortress” being a rather exaggerated description of the small, walled village. The fortress is where Piotr meets the captain’s daughter, Maria Ivanovna, a shy, but stalwart woman, representing the best qualities of the simple Russian. The fortress quickly falls to Pougatcheff’s men after widespread desertion by the local troops and a minor skirmish. It is recaptured just as easily during the suppression of the rebellion.

*Tsarskoe Selo

*Tsarskoe Selo (TSAHR-skoy-ye sih-LOH). Location of the royal summer palace, approximately twenty miles south of St. Petersburg. Translated literally, its name means “Czar’s Village.” Coincidentally, the town was later renamed “Pushkin,” in honor of the novel’s author. Alexander Pushkin often frequented Tsarskoe Selo and would have been very familiar with the gardens and palaces that he describes when Maria Ivanovna meets the empress. Although Tsarskoe Selo was the actual place where the empress would have resided, its location so close to St. Petersburg is ironic in that Piotr’s salvation comes from the very place that his father was certain would lead to his ruin.

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