Chekhov's House – Yalta
The Russians have likened Anton Chekhov to the Shakespeare of Russia. Anton Chekhov was born on 29 January 1860 in Taganrog, a port on the Sea of Azov in southern Russia. He started writing as a young student and was very talented in short stories.
Chekhov qualified in medicine at Moscow State University and intended practicing medicine. Whilst studying he was already successfully writing humorous magazine stories and sketches. When he realised that he had tuberculosis, he began to rely more and more on his writing to provide him with an income. Being a doctor, he chose not to think about his illness or to seek treatment, as a result of which he died at the young age of 44 years.
Chekhov is closely associated with the Crimea as he spent his last years in Yalta. He built a house in the Yalta suburb of Autka and his famous short story “The Lady with the Little Dog” was set in Yalta. He also had a dacha (country cottage) at Gursuf, a few kilometres down the coast.
A visit to Chekhov’s House gives great insight into this talented author. Known as the White Dacha, his Yalta home was frequently visited by other writers of his time including Ivan Bunin, Maksim Gorky and Alexander Kuprin. In the house are lots of pictures, furniture and memorabilia to remind of his times there. There is also the piano which his friend and composer Rachmaninov played when he visited. Chekhov wrote “Three Sisters” and “The Cherry Orchard” here and whenever necessary, he would escape to the peace and quiet of his smaller dacha at Gursuf.
When he died in Germany in 1904, the house passed to his sister Masha. She kept the house as closely as possible to its original form as when Chekhov had lived there. Walking through the house, you get a sense of warmth about the place. The clock in the living room is set at 1:00 p.m. which is when the family had their lunch together. The beautiful garden was laid out by Chekhov himself. He planted some 159 plant species, however today only 40 species remain. The green bench is named “Gorky’s bench”. Chekhov supposedly said to Gorky that if every person would do everything possible on this earth, our planet would be beautiful.
Chekhov was a compassionate man and in spite of his own poor health, he set up a fund to build a health centre for poor people suffering from tuberculosis, now known as the Chekhov Sanatorium. Together with his friend Maxim Gorky he also created another fund to open a town library, which is now Yalta’s Chekhov Library, the biggest in the Crimea.