Would Chekhov have stood up to Putin?

Rosamund Bartlett in The Telegraph:

Anton_2885547bIn recent weeks the world’s attention has been focused on the Crimea, whose annexation by Russia was announced by Vladimir Putin on March 18. Pundits have had recourse to a variety of political and historical figures in their quest to find meaningful historical precedents. Yet none seems to have turned for insight to Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer who spent the last few years of his life living in the main Crimean resort of Yalta at the beginning of the 20th century. The wisdom to be found in the writings of this apparently apolitical writer is typically oblique, but his stance on Russian pre-revolutionary policy in Crimea has a great deal of resonance with what is happening there today. “The sofa is a most inconvenient piece of furniture. It is far more frequently indicted for its role in lechery than is actually the case. I have only once in my life had recourse to a sofa, and I had cause to curse it.” Thus reads the most innocuous part of a letter written by the ebullient young Anton Chekhov to his editor and closest friend, Alexey Suvorin, in November 1888.

Chekhov never imagined that his bracing account of the practical obstacles involved in pursuing amorous liaisons would see the light of day, and for nearly a century after his death it didn’t. Along with salacious accounts of encounters with Japanese prostitutes and outspoken references to indelicate parts of the anatomy, it was surgically excised from editions of his Collected Works first by Chekhov’s squeamish sister, who lived until the Fifties, and then by the Soviet establishment.

More here.