Gregor Melekhov (GREH-gohr MEH-leh-khohv), a soldier in the White Army fighting the Reds. He returns home to his wife, but when he discovers that the Red government of his village intends to arrest him, he escapes. He joins a Cossack rebellion against the Reds and becomes a ruthless fighter after his brother is killed in cold blood. He has a reputation for not keeping live prisoners. He comes home on furlough and takes up his affair with Aksinia, his former mistress. Finally, tired of fighting, Gregor throws away his arms and returns to his house and his son.
Piotra Melekhov (PYOH-trah), Gregor’s elder brother, also a soldier in the White Army. Once saved through his friendship with Fomin, a Red commander, he is eventually killed by Koshevoi. He has none of Gregor’s ambivalence of mind and is decidedly anti-Red.
Aksinia Astakhova (ak-SEE-nyah as-TA-khoh-vah), Gregor’s mistress, who, scorning her husband, Stepan Astakhov, tries to escape with Gregor to the south. She falls ill of typhus and has to be left behind. She is killed by a Red patrol. She was once the mistress of a rich Cossack officer, Eugene Listnitsky, but she was cast aside after Eugene married Olga, the widow of a fellow officer.
Natalia Melekhova (nah-TAH-lyah meh-leh-KHOH-vah), Gregor’s wife, who becomes cold toward him when she finds that he has taken up with his former mistress. She refuses to bear him another child and tries to have an abortion, but it is clumsily done, and she bleeds to death.
Mikhail Koshevoi (mih-hah-IHL ko-shee-VOY), a Communist sympathizer who is put in charge of the government in Gregor’s village, Tatarsk, in which job he is assisted by a professional Red named Stockman. After becoming a full-fledged Communist, he kills Piotra outright. Koshevoi’s family disappears, and his father’s house is destroyed; he then takes great joy in firing at the wealthy landowners’ houses in revenge. After he becomes commissar of Tatarsk, he brazenly marries Dunia, the sister of Gregor and Piotra.
Daria Melekhova (DAHR-yah), Piotra’s wife, who kills the man she thinks is responsible for her husband’s death. She soon recovers from her grief and begins to have various affairs. She catches syphilis and drowns herself.