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Historical Context in Home

Renowned Russian writer Anton Chekhov first published his short story “Home” in 1887 in the St. Petersburg-based newspaper Novoye Vremya (Новое время). Later, in 1922, Constance Garnett translated this story into English in a compendium of Chekhov’s short stories, entitled The Cook’s Wedding and Other Stories. During the late 19th century, Russia experienced radical changes such as increasing industrialization and the spreading of Western thought which would lay the groundwork for the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Historical Context Examples in Home:

"Home"

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""Votre père vous appelle, allez vite!"..."   ("Home")

“Votre père vous appelle, allez vite!” — [French] “Your father is calling you, go quickly!” The original Russian text included this French phrase, as is. Russian readers, especially of the higher classes, were well-versed in French and did not require translation. France’s long-standing influence in Russian stemmed from Peter the Great and Catherine II’s efforts to open Russia toward Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. The elite Russian class adopted the French language for daily correspondence and read works by such renowned French authors as Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. During the time of Chekhov’s writing, France and Russia held mutual interests in Germany and Austria-Hungary. In 1893, the two countries forged their economic relationship with the French-Russian military pact. The use of French and the presence of a French-speaking governess demonstrate the family’s elite status within society.

"circuit court..."   ("Home")

In 1864, nearly twenty-five years before Chekhov published this short story, Tsar Alexander II approved the Judicial Reform Act, which became the basis for the modern Russian court system. The Reform Act divided the courts into “inferior” and “ordinary” courts. Inferior courts, made up of Justices of the Peace, were the courts of first instance. Cases heard here were appealed to the Sessions of the Peace and the Senate. The ordinary courts, which included the circuit courts, covered several districts and had larger jurisdiction over the more important civil and criminal cases, including labor, employment, family, inheritance, and consumer issues. Circuit-court cases could be appealed to the Sudebnaya Palata (судебная палата) and the Senate. As a prosecutor for the circuit court, Yevgeny would likely oversee many of these important cases on a day-to-day basis.

"Seryozha..."   ("Home")

Seryozha’s name (Серёжа) is a diminutive form of the common Russian name “Sergey” (Сергей). Yevgeny calls his son by this diminutive pet name, which indicates the informality and closeness of their relationship. Later on in the story, however, when Yevgeny tries to chastise his son for his behavior, he calls his son by his proper name, including Seyozha’s patronymic (“Sergey Yevgenitch”), to assert his authority.

"Yevgeny Petrovitch Bykovsky..."   ("Home")

Yevgeny’s full name includes his first name, patronymic, and family name. A long-form name is generally found on official Russian paperwork. However, in this case, Chekhov uses Yevgeny’s complete name, in addition to his job title, to signify two things: the character’s genealogy and his status within society.

"Yevgeny Petrovitch..."   ("Home")

The first speaker, who we shortly learn is Natalya Semyonovna, the governess, addresses Yevgeny by both his first and patronymic names. In Russian, a patronymic is derived from the first name of the child’s father—in this case, “Petr.” A patronymic often accompanies a first name as a sign of respect or distance. In this case, the employee addressing her employer.

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