The Birthday of Anton Chekov

29 January 2014

Russia has been the home of many great artists and authors throughout history. These figures are often celebrated for their innovative writings, unique storytelling and great influence they had on later writers. One man who especially embodies these traits was Anton Chekov (Антон Павлович Чехов) who was born 154 years ago today, January 29th.

Born in the southern Russian town of Taganrog in 1860, Chekov was one of six children. His father was a devout Orthodox  Christian, however physically abusive, while his mother was the daughter of a traveling cloth merchant and would often tell her children stories of her travels. Many consider this up bringing to have been highly influential to his later creativity in his satirical writings and short stories.

While attending university in Taganrog, Chekov’s father went bankrupt and the whole family was forced to relocate to Moscow, leaving Chekov behind to finish his studies, but still worked to support his whole family. To earn money, Chekov wrote often for newspapers and other publications, which began to attract more attention and praise for his writing, leading him to write with greater care. Despite the praise, he once said “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress,” even though he never made much money, often even treating the poor free of charge.

After winning the prestigious Pushkin Prize for his work, Chekov branched out and wrote the play Ivanov and the Novella The Steppe. Chekov continued his work as a doctor and writer while traveling all the way across Siberia to the Sakhalin island north of Japan to interview and write about prisoners there. Later in his life, Chekov bought an estate outside of Moscow known as Melikhovo, where he lived with his family until his tuberculosis became worse.

In the last years of his life, he married and moved to an estate in Yalta, where he continued to write and meet with other well known writers such as Lev Tolstoy.  By 1904, his disease had become so bad, that he and his wife Olga traveled to the German spa town of Badenweiler, where he finally died on July 15th of that year.

Nearing death, Chekov was reported to have said he thought no one would read his works seven years after his death. Nonetheless, today Chekov is remembered as one of the great Russian writers, on the order of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and others.


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