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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 4

Makarevich E. F. Was Savva Morozov a Prototypical Chekhovian Capitalist

(Moscow University for the Humanities)

Abstract ♦ Among the works of the Russian writer Anton Chekhov, the so-called ‘Russian capitalist’ appears most conspicuously in the short novel “Three Years”(1895) and in the play “Cherry Orchard” (1903), embodied in the Laptevy brothers in Lopakhin respectively. The author attempts to answer the question whether the prominent Russian industrialist Savva Morozov, whom Chekhov knew personally, was a prototype for all these fictional characters. Who was Morozov to Chekhov when Chekhov was creating the characters of Aleksey Laptev and Yermolay Lopakhin? After all, the writer and the industrialist were not just casual acquaintances: Morozov was involved in the management of the Moscow Art Theatre when Stanislavsky was developing his system there.

To some extent, the life story of Savva Morozov was a blueprint for Chekhov when he was writing “Three Years”. But by the time Chekhov started work on “Cherry Orchard”, Morozov the atypical capitalist had become a kind of a touchstone to assess how realistic and symbolic Lopakhin was in the play. It was through Morozov’s lifestory that Chekhov uncovered the typical traits shared by all the Lopakhins of his time: the Russian ‘mass’ capitalists of the late 19th — early 20th century. Typical for all of them was being driven by predatory instincts and possessing an acute social ambition uninhibited by any reflection. Reflection was completely alien to people who could never finish a book, to those for whom whipping was the order of the day when they were growing up. Thus, Lopakhin had no qualms about putting the cherry orchard ‘to the axe’ so the freed-up land could then be leased out to tenants. It was for the same reason that Russian capitalists preferred trade rather than manufacture. The type of capitalism they eventually built was based on selling natural resources, or any primary product that the earth or its bowels yielded.

Lopakhin was a typical Russian capitalist because he was driven by a desire to become a landowner, while Morozov was an atypical capitalist because he believed that ‘a state must be built on iron girders, our kingdom of straw can’t survive for long.’

Keywords: Anton Chekhov, Savva Morozov, Yermolay Lopakhin, Aleksey Laptev, typical capitalist, Russian capitalists, Moscow Art Theatre, “Cherry Orchard”.

Makarevich Eduard Fyodorovich, Doctor of Social Science, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Culturology and Politology, Moscow University for the Humanities. Postal address: 5 Yunosti St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 111395. Tel.: +7 (499) 374-55-11. E-mail:


Citation: Makarevich, E. F. (2014) Byl li Savva Morozov proobrazom «chekhovskogo» kapitalista? [Was Savva Morozov a Prototypical Chekhovian Capitalist?]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 4, pp. 234–250. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 30.08.2014.



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