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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Katusha, full name Katerina Maslova, is a young woman who was forced into prostitution due to unfortunate circumstances. She was an illegitimate child who was lucky enough to be taken in by two kind women who gave her an education. In her teens she worked as a maid, only to be seduced and impregnated by her employer's nephew, Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff. Losing the baby, her life went into a downward spiral, until she became a prostitute. At the beginning of the story, she is on trial for murdering an abusive client and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia.

Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff is the novel's central character. He feels guilty for what he did to Katusha and while serving on the jury during her trial, seeks to help her. He ends up learning much about the lower classes and social undesirables during this episode of his life, prompting a spiritual awakening in himself. He pursues Katusha to Siberia, wanting to right all the wrongs he heaped upon her by marrying her and rescuing her from her suffering. However, things do not turn out the way Dimitri plans.

Valdemar Símonson completes the love triangle. He is a political prisoner who falls for Katusha. Katusha ultimately marries him, feeling she has more in common with him than she does with the noble Dimitri.

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