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Characters Discussed

Yegorushka Knyazev

Yegorushka Knyazev (yeh-GOH-rew-shkah KNYA-zehv), called Georgie, a boy on the way to his first boarding school. Georgie has been reared by his widowed mother and thus has been, to a degree, sheltered from the world. His unworldliness has been further nurtured by the provincial town in which he has grown up. His journey across the seemingly endless Russian steppe greatly expands his knowledge of both the world and human nature, although he is often frightened or repulsed by his experiences. The boy has a good heart. He sympathizes with the carters, whose difficult lives cause him vicarious pain. On the whole, however, Yegorushka is understandably bored by the lengthy trip and made lonely by the separation from his mother.

Ivan Kuzmichov

Ivan Kuzmichov (kew-ZMIH-chov), Yegorushka’s uncle, a provincial merchant. Continually preoccupied with business, reserved, and having the air of a civil servant, Kuzmichov is ambivalent about his nephew. Although he clearly has affection for the boy, the practical businessman has little time for Yegorushka’s sensitivity. His chief concern is to settle on a good price for his wool. His secondary errand, escorting the boy to school, is bothersome to him. He grudgingly admits, however, that the boy’s education will reflect well on his family.

Father Christopher Siriysky

Father Christopher Siriysky (sih-RIH-skee), a Russian Orthodox priest. Father Christopher, a kindly, gentle man, is Yegorushka’s parish priest. His benign, optimistic worldview contrasts favorably with Kuzmichov’s hard practicality. Having children himself, Father Christopher understands Yegorushka’s homesickness and does his best to lighten the boy’s journey. A sincere Christian, he finds authentic delight in the sights of the steppe, making him the only character to do so. His one vanity is his learning, which, with age, he has largely forgotten.


Panteley (pan-teh-LAY), an old carter. His age and his air of wisdom make him the unofficial leader of the wagon train to which Yegorushka becomes attached when his uncle is pressed to hurry. He befriends the boy, taking Yegorushka into his confidence, explaining the histories of the other carters, and pointing out the wonders of the steppe. Panteley is in some ways a mirror image of Father Christopher and acts as his surrogate with Yegorushka: Both men are saintly, calm, and wise in the ways of the world. Short, gaunt men, they even look much alike.


Yemelyan (yeh-MEH-lyan), a carter, formerly a singer. Having lost his once beautiful voice as the result, he claims, of bathing in a cold river, Yemelyan is a melancholy figure. Despite his almost constant sotto voce singing, his voice does not improve. As a former professional chorister, however, he still retains his religious devotion.


Dymov (DIH-mov), a young carter. Dymov is rough, gregarious, handsome, and a natural leader. He is also something of a troublemaker. His ennui prompts him to torment Yemelyan and to taunt the other carters. His “rude” behavior, in turn, sparks a confrontation with Yegorushka.


Moses, a peasant innkeeper. Motivated by equal parts of greed and authentic hospitality, Moses alternates between giddiness over the arrival of his guests (Yegorushka, his uncle, and Father Christopher) and despair over the behavior of his brother, Solomon. To an extent, the author’s portrait is drawn from nineteenth century stereotypes of Jewish merchants; Moses’ dialect, his sycophancy, and his thrift are all caricatured.


Solomon, Moses’ brother. Sardonic and embittered, Solomon is considered mad by the other characters. He neither respects his social superiors nor demonstrates affection toward his brother. His role in the story is enigmatic: His half-insane behavior...

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is perhaps a reaction to the rampant anti-Semitism of the period.


Varlamov, a rich peasant. Varlamov is the stereotype of the self-made man. During his brief and almost mythic appearance in the story, the responses of the other characters to him make it abundantly clear that he is a man whom others naturally respect, and possibly fear. Short, powerfully built, and mature, he awes the carters.


Deniska, Kuzmichov’s coachman. A simple, good-humored peasant, Deniska shares Yegorushka’s boyishness.


Constantine, a newly married man. Constantine appears briefly at the carter’s campfire. He has been on a hunting expedition, although his entire attention is centered on his happiness.