*Caucasus (KAW-kuh-zuhs). Region and range of mountains lying between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the extreme southeast of Europe. The Caucasus Mountains are generally accepted as a dividing line between Europe and Asia, and the range includes Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus. At the time the novel takes place, Russia was fighting the region’s indigenous peoples in a war of expansion destined to last until 1864. To Russians, the Caucasus represented a frontier whose cities were outposts of what they regarded as civilized life.
Lermontov himself visited the Caucasus as a child, and served twice in the region as a military officer, having been banished there in 1837 and again in 1840. Besides being a novelist and poet, he was a gifted painter and describes the region’s majestic yet forbidding terrain with quick, impressionistic strokes.
*Military Georgian road
*Military Georgian road. Often precipitous road running from Georgia to Russia through the Caucasus Mountains. Besides linking the Caucasus to its occupiers, the road connects the novel’s five sections. In “Bela,” the first episode, two of the novel’s characters meet on the road during the autumn, and since the station they have reached lacks rooms for travelers, they spend several hours in a smoky native hut as a snowstorm passes. Over tea, one of the travelers, Maksim Maksimich, begins a story about a striking officer named Pechorin, the hero of the novel’s ironic title. Although the two resume their travels during the night, worsening weather forces them to seek...
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