Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 785
Alexander (Sasha) Dvanov
Alexander (Sasha) Dvanov (DVAH-nov), an orphan and Red Army soldier. Having been orphaned early and thrown out of his foster parents’ home, Sasha becomes a mendicant and later joins the Bolsheviks. As a beggar, he is a failure, because he is not brave enough to beg. He embraces Communism instinctively, at first because everyone else is joining the movement and it is frightening to be left alone again. Later, he learns more about Communism, but his understanding of it remains on a rudimentary level, as he seeks understanding among the simplest and best of people. the nebulousness of his political views is best exemplified by his participation in building, together with a number of similar souls, a city of Chevengur that corresponds to their idealistic notion of brotherly love and comradeship. In the end, he fades away into the foggy future of the city, without any assurance that it would ever work, let alone fulfill his dream of a better life for everyone.
Zakhar Pavlovich (zah-KHAR PAHV-loh-vihch), Sasha’s guardian, a railroad mechanic. A progenitor of Sasha’s dreamlike attitude toward life, Zakhar is also a dreamer but of a different kind. He is inordinately gifted as a practical man and a mechanic; he is able to make and fix almost anything. He makes things for others, never for himself, and he does so out of curiosity about what makes things what they are and how they work. He lives alone and never needs people, considering machines to be people, and is attracted to unusual projects such as building a wooden clock powered by Earth’s rotation. He is able to converse with anyone in a neighborly way. This combination of friendliness and aloofness draws him to the revolution; without subscribing to its political aims, he believes, again instinctively, that it may do some good.
Stepan Kopenkin (steh-PAHN koh-PEHN-kihn), a dedicated revolutionary with some of the strangest notions about Communism. He wants to build a family army to fight the enemies of the poor and common people. He has an obsession with a German revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, and carries her picture sewn into his cap. He uses her as a yardstick for measuring a good revolutionary. With his horse, named Proletarian Strength, he resembles Don Quixote more than a fiery Bolshevik. He believes that people would set things right by themselves if they were left in peace and that Rosa, as a symbol of revolution, had thought up everything in advance. Like Sasha and, to some degree, Zakhar, he is vague about the real goals of the revolution. He trusts his instincts, believing that within himself he has the gift of revolution. That, however, is only a mask for his desire to live totally free.
Prokofy (Proshka) Dvanov
Prokofy (Proshka) Dvanov (proh-KOH-fee), Sasha’s foster brother. A revolutionary of a different kind, Proshka is using the revolution for his own ends. Practical and at times cruelly selfish, he operates almost exclusively on the basis of “what’s in it for me.” Even though he has worked for many people, he is loved by no one. He has acquired a good knowledge of Marx, but his use of Marx depends, for example, on his girlfriend’s mood and the objective circumstances. By and large, he is a predator who needs no people and collects property in place of people; he loves no one beyond his own door. the only reason he has survived so far is because he is able to manipulate his comrades and because of the uncertainties of the revolution.
Chepurny (sheh-PUR -nee), called the Jap, a revolutionary and president of Chevengur. Another blind believer in revolution, the Jap calls himself “a naked communist” who has not read a line of Marx but has picked up an idea or two at meetings and now spends his life fighting for it. Because most...
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