Places Discussed


*Ukraine. Russian province (now an independent country) that borders the north coast of the Black Sea. The relationship between Vanya and Professor Serebriakóv mirrors the relationship between provincial Ukraine and Russia. During Chekhov’s lifetime and well into the twentieth century, Russia exploited Ukraine’s rich agricultural and natural resources to feed and fuel other regions and provinces. Similarly, Professor Serebriakóv exploits the labor of Vanya and Sónya in order to maintain his life and career in Moscow.

Serebriakóv farm

Serebriakóv farm. Farm in Ukraine from which Serebriakóv derives the wealth on which he has built his social position in Moscow. Chekhov provides an increasingly intimate portrait of the Serebriakóv family and the forces that begin to erode the relationships between family members as each act penetrates deeper into the family’s history and deeper into the interior of the farm. A crisis between Vanya and the professor divides the household. In the play’s second act, Yelena says that there is “something terribly wrong going on in this house.” As tensions grow stronger among the characters, the farm becomes a microcosm of society in general. “You know perfectly well it’s not crime and criminals that are destroying the world,” Yelena explains to Vanya in the second act. “It’s petty little emotions like envy . . . that end up with good people hating one another.”


Garden. Garden adjacent to the farmhouse and just off the veranda. Gardens, and natural settings in general, are common elements in Chekhov’s drama as symbols of the order and beauty of the natural world, providing contrasts to the chaotic lives of his characters. The garden in the play’s first act sets the changing lives of the Serebriakóv family against the passive uniformity of nature and suggests an imbalance among family members. Sonya’s defense of Ástrov’s passion for reforestation emphasizes this imbalance when she explains that people who live in lush natural settings “spend less energy trying to combat nature, so the people themselves are kinder and gentler.”

Historical Context

In 1861, one year after Chekhov was born, Czar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia. Serfs were essentially slaves and were forced to...

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Literary Style

One way to understand the construction of Uncle Vanya is to contrast it with its earlier incarnation,...

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Compare and Contrast

1897: Marxist Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov is exiled to Siberia for three years for smuggling illegal literature from Europe into...

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Topics for Further Study

It has been suggested that Astrov’s initial conversation with the nurse acts as an overture to the play, hinting at the important issues...

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Media Adaptations

In 1994, Louis Malle directed a film version of Uncle Vanya, entitled Vanya on 42nd Street. The film takes an usual approach...

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What Do I Read Next?

The Three Sisters, a Chekhov play first produced at the Moscow Art Theater in 1901, is the story of a wealthy Russian family who...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Bentley, Eric. ‘‘Craftsmanship in Uncle Vanya’’ in Critical Essays on Anton Chekhov,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bentley, Eric. “Craftsmanship in Uncle Vanya.” In Anton Chekhov’s Plays, translated and edited by Eugene K. Bristow. New York: Norton, 1977. Bentley shows that Chekhov’s naturalism in Uncle Vanya is grounded in his mature psychological vision that life has no real endings.

Bordinat, Philip. “Dramatic Structure in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.” In Chekhov’s Great Plays: A Critical Anthology, edited with an introduction by Jean-Pierre Barricelli. New York: New York University Press, 1981. Bordinat argues that Uncle Vanya follows classical dramatic construction if the protagonist is seen as...

(The entire section is 273 words.)