The Seven Who Were Hanged

by Leonid Andreyev

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Places Discussed

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*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Capital of Russia at the time this novel is set. The entire story takes place in this city; Leonid Andreyev never mentions it by name, but its identity is obvious. There are no glimpses of the city itself. Andreyev uses it simply because it was the capital and nerve center of the country. He also implies that the Russian government was unjust in its treatment of those who disagreed with it. Andreyev does not take political sides; as a matter of fact, political issues are hardly mentioned. It is clear, however, that he portrays the revolutionaries with sympathy. Other locations are mentioned in passing, such as the unnamed villages where two of the condemned men committed their crimes.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Russia was troubled by the unrest of workers who demanded better living conditions. This was manifested in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. The Seven Who Were Hanged depicts the death sentences and hangings of five revolutionaries and two common criminals in St. Petersburg. The revolutionaries are branded terrorists by the authorities, though there is no proof of their crime.


Prison. Fortress building in which the accused prisoners are held. Their alleged crime was not Andreyev’s main concern. Rather, he wanted to show the behavior of the unjustly condemned facing death. The prisoners languish in their cells in a fortress, where they can only sense that spring is coming and everything is ready to burst to life except for them. The only external sound they hear is the striking of a steeple clock, especially at night. The ticking is symbolical of their lives literally eroding by the minute. The final scene is placed in a forest, where the hanging takes place. Amid the soft snow and the balmy forest the lives of seven young people are snuffed away.


Courtroom. Nondescript government building in St. Petersburg which seems to have one purpose only—to convict people and sentence them to death. The novel’s action takes place mainly in this room.


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Connolly, Julian W. “The Russian Short Story 1890-1917.” In The Russian Short Story: A Critical History, edited by Charles Moser. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Places The Seven Who Were Hanged in a historical framework of Andreyev’s development. Emphasizes Andreyev’s attention to the emotions of the convicted and terms The Seven Who Were Hanged his most famous political story.

Hutchings, Stephen. A Semiotic Analysis of the Short Stories of Leonid Andreev 1900-1909. London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1990. A fashionable semiotic study of Andreyev’s short stories, placing them within the context of early twentieth century Russian literature and culture.

Kaun, Alexander. Leonid Andreyev: A Critical Study. New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1924. Stan-dard critical biography of Andreyev, covering all aspects of his works. Labels The Seven Who Were Hanged a masterpiece in both technique and emotional power, because of its simplicity of style, keen psychological analysis, humane sympathy, and lasting effect.

Mihajlov, Mihajlo. Russian Themes. Translated by Marija Mihajlov. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968. Far-reaching treatment of Russian writers. Discusses the political aspect of The Seven Who Were Hanged, pointing out Andreyev’s sympathies for the revolutionaries in their struggle with the czarist regime.

Newcombe, Josephine M. Leonid Andreyev. Letchworth, England: Bradda Books, 1972. Brief but pithy introduction to Andreyev, with a pertinent discussion of The Seven Who Were Hanged on pages 85-90.

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Critical Essays