Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Nikolai Rubashov

Nikolai Rubashov (nih-koh-LI rew-BAH-shof), a political prisoner, a former commissar once politically powerful but now in disfavor and accused of crimes he did not commit. He broods over his actual deeds for the Party and attempts to rationalize them. After publicly denouncing his supposed errors, he is executed. He resembles such old Bolsheviks as Leon Trotsky and Nikolay Bukharin, who wielded ruthless power for supposedly good ends in the early years of the Soviet Union and who were then liquidated by an even more ruthless dictator, Joseph Stalin.


Ivanov (ih-VAH-nof), a prison official, Rubashov’s old college friend and former battalion commander. After interrogating Rubashov on two occasions and persuading him to renounce his opposition to Party policies and to acknowledge his errors, Ivanov is executed for negligence in conducting Rubashov’s case. Like Rubashov, Ivanov resembles the old Bolsheviks whom Stalin regarded as dangerous enemies. Ivanov may also be compared to Fyodor Dostoevski’s Stepan Verhovensky.


Gletkin (GLEHT-kihn), another official who represents the new Party policy of practical application of theoretical principles. He believes in the power of brute force and the instilling of fear to maintain control and order in the state. He is reminiscent of Stalin’s police-state aides, of Dostoevski’s Pyotr Verhovensky, and of George Orwell’s O’Brien.

Mikhail Bogrov

Mikhail Bogrov (mih-ha-IHL bohg-ROHF), another prisoner, long a close friend of Rubashov. Frightened, beaten, and whimpering, Bogrov is dragged past Rubashov’s cell and shot.


Kieffer, called Hare-Lip , an informer, the son of a former friend and associate of Rubashov. After being tortured in a steam bath and later used to testify that Rubashov plotted to have him poison Number 1, Hare-Lip is executed.

Number 402

Number 402, an anonymous prisoner with whom Rubashov exchanges many tapped-out conversations through the wall that separates their cells.

Number 1

Number 1, the Party dictator who resembles Joseph Stalin and George Orwell’s Big Brother.


Richard, a young man arrested in Germany while Rubashov headed the Party Intelligence and Control Department.


Arlova (ahr-LOH-vuh), Rubashov’s former secretary and mistress, who was executed after Rubashov shifted a charge of treasonable activities from himself to her.

Little Loewy

Little Loewy, a Party worker who hanged himself after being denounced as an agent provocateur.

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle, a little old man, the inmate of cell 406 and a veteran of twenty years’ imprisonment.