Gregor Melekhov (GREH-gohr MEH-leh-khov), a native of the Don basin in Russia. He is married to one woman but openly goes about with another. His father whips him, and he leaves home. He joins the army and distinguishes himself in action. When the Soviet Socialist Republic is established and civil war breaks out, Gregor joins the Red Army and is made an officer. When the Red Army is beaten, Gregor, after denouncing the cruelty of Podtielkov, his old revolutionary leader who is about to be executed, returns to his village.
Piotra Melekhov (PYOH-trah), Gregor’s elder brother, who is in the army with him. When the revolutionary troops advance on Tatarsk, their home village, Piotra is named commander of the villagers, who are organized by a counterrevolutionary officer.
Natalia Melekhova (nah-TAH-lyah MEH-leh-khoh-vah), Gregor’s wife. When she realizes that Gregor does not love her, she tries to commit suicide. After Gregor discovers that his mistress has been unfaithful to him, Natalia and Gregor are reconciled, and she bears him twins.
Aksinia Astakhova (ak-SEE-nya as-TA-khoh-vah), Gregor’s mistress, married to Stepan Astakhov, who mistreats her. Her affair with Gregor becomes a village scandal. She goes away with him, and they become servants to a wealthy land-owning family. When Gregor goes away to join the army, she is unfaithful to him with Eugene Listnitsky, the son of the family. The affair is broken off by Gregor, who whips her and goes home to his wife.
Ilia Bunchuk (eel-YA boon-CHOOK), a revolutionary leader and the chief agitator in his company. He deserts the company before he can be handed over to the authorities. He joins the revolutionary troops as a machine gunner and is prominent in the administration of the local revolutionary government. He falls in love with Anna Poodko, a woman machine gunner who is killed.