“Here is my address: Lopasnya Station of Moscow-Kursk railroad, village Melikhovo” Anton Chekhov told his correspondent in March 1892
Melikhovo was surrounded with fields and birchwoods; one could see small shallow rivers along the way. There was a wooden church and forty peasant households in the village. There were gentry’s estates in the neighbourhood, each with its own steady way of life. One would think this place was quite unremarkable. But the destiny had its own way. In the beginning of 1892, a young writer and physician A.P. Chekhov saw an advertisement in Courier newspaper about the sale of an estate in Melikhovo village. It was sold by artist N.P. Sorokhtin (at that time he was the owner of the estate).
And so on February 22, 1892 Anton Pavlovich wrote to writer V.V. Bilibin: “By a twist of fate I’m buying a place of my own not in Little Russia but in the cold Serpukhov district, 70 miles from Moscow. And I’m buying not 10-20 dessiatinas as I wanted and dreamt of, but 213. I’d like to be a duke”. Chekhov told all the acquaintances about his purchase. “Here are the details – the woman's life was easy until she made it busy - she bought herself a pig! So we bought a pig, too – a big, bulky estate... A garden. A park. Big trees, long linden alleys” – this is an extract from Anton Pavlovich’s letter to A.S. Kiselev, the owner of Babkino estate, located not far from Zvenigorod, which fascinated young Chekhov with its beauty and cosiness. It was there that he experienced the charm of living in an estate for the first time.
Chekhov lived in Melikhovo for seven years – from 1892 to 1899. It would seem to be quite a short period of time, but Chekhov was destined to live for 44 years only. And when you recall everything that Chekhov created in these seven years, you cannot but wonder how much energy he had and how much he loved life. Life in Melikhovo is thousands of patients who received free medical assistance and medicines from physician Chekhov.
A table with tea accessories. In the foreground there is a gilded white tea set owned by A.P. Chekhov. End of the 19th last years. Behind it there is a little red sugar bowl given to the museum by Maria Pavlovna Chekhova. She said that she remembered this sugar bowl from her childhood in Taganrog. Middle of the 29th century. As told by Olga Leonardovna, Chekhov used this cup in his century.
Father Pavel Egorovich sat in a chair, handed out cards, shook wooden barrels with numbers in a canvas sack. Everyone wishing to play took their places around the table. The echo of these evenings can be found in Chekhov’s Seagull. V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko wrote, “Thanks to the lake and the garden, Melikhovo was beautiful during the moonlit nights and sunset evenings and excited our imagination. Here Chekhov wrote his Seagull, and many details in Seagull were inspired by the Melikhovo’s atmosphere.
At least I cannot escape the impression that the stage made by Treplyov was inspired by this alley leading to the lake, and “they are playing in the house”, and “red moon”, and loto in the fourth act. V. Simov, Moscow Art Theatre’s scene painter who had been to Melikhovo, in his scenes for the first production of Seagull reconstructed some elements of the Chekhov’s living room interior the on the stage. No matter how many films are shot or how many adaptations of Chekhov’s Seagull for stage are made, directors and actors consider it their duty to come to Melikhovo.
But it was not only the owner of the estate and a physician that moved in to Melikhovo – it was a writer that was famous not only in Russia but also abroad in those years. These years were really amazing for Chekhov as a writer. Many things that interested him and moved him were embodied in stories, short novels and plays. Forty-two masterpieces that are among the best works ever written in the world were created here, in Melikhovo:Ward No. 6, The Story of an Unknown Man, Fear, The Black Monk, A Woman's Kingdom, Rothschild’s Violin, The Student, The Teacher of Literature, The House with the Mezzanine, Ionych, Three Years, My Life, The Darling, The Man in a Case, About Love, Gooseberries, Peasants, On Official Duty. His monumental work, Sakhalin Island, as well as two excellent plays – The Seagull and Uncle Vanya – were also written during the Melikhovo years. This was the best place for Chekhov to write at.
“The house is both good and bad. It is more spacious than the flat in Moscow, full of light, warm, roofed with iron, is located in a good place, has a terrace overlooking the garden, Venetian windows, etc., but the bad thing about it is that is it not high enough, not young enough and has quite a silly and naïve appearance on the outside,” writes A.P. Chekhov.
Anton Pavlovich sent a telegram to the composer’s brother saying: “This news has stricken me. It’s such an immense pity... I respected and loved Pyotr Ilyich deeply, and owe much to him. I sympathize with your grief with all my soul.” But Tchaikovsky’s music lived on. The composer’s romances and The Seasons were often played in the Melikhovo house. Anton Pavlovich liked working to music very much. Chekhov devoted his collection of stories entitled Gloomy People to P.I. Tchaikovsky.
A photo of a beautiful woman is lying on the table as well. This is Lika Mizinova. In her book, From The Distant Past, M.P. Chekhova devoted to Lidiya Stakhievna Mizinova a whole chapter entitled My Friend Lika. Maria Pavlovna remembers how they got acquainted at the gymnasium, how she brought Lika to her house and introduced her to the family: “Having got acquainted with our family, Lika became a frequent guest to our house, became our common friend and everyone’s favourite...
When we lived in Melikhovo, Lika often stayed with us. We got used to her so much that even the parents missed her when she left us for a long time.” Lika was very beautiful. Writer V.I. Bibikov who also visited their house quite often wrote that he saw a “girl of extraordinary beauty” at the Chekhov’s place. Anton Pavlovich wrote a number of marvellous letters full of catching Chekhov’s humour and a kind of hidden sadness to “beautiful Lika”.
There is a linen portfolio with an inscription: Census of 1897 on it on the fireplace. Anton Pavlovich realized the great importance of this initiative. He gave instructions to 15 enumerators and himself enumerates peasants in two villages – Melikhovo and Bershovo. “We are having a census. They have served out to the enumerators detestable inkpots, detestable clumsy badges like the labels of a brewery, and portfolios into which the census forms will not fit—giving the effect of a sword that won't go into its sheath. It is a disgrace. From early morning I go from hut to hut, and knock my head in the low doorways which I can't get used to, and as ill-luck will have it my head aches hellishly; I have migraine and influenza”. But he has to forget about all of his complaints as the need to “commit to the common good” becomes the keynote of life in Melikhovo.
A C. Bechstein piano from Vaskino, the estate of the Semenkovich family. Anton Pavlovich often visited his neighbors and listened to Evgenia Mikhailovna, the lady of the house, play the piano. Chekhov took his guests to Vaskino to listen to Beethoven’s works. Notes of pieces of music that were played during the Melikhovo period: romances by P.I. Tchaikovsky and Wallachian Legend of G. Braga. “Beautiful Lika” was good at singing this romance to her own accompaniment, and I.N. Potapenko, Chekhov’s close acquaintance, a writer who was popular at that time, played the second violin part.
Anton Pavlovich found this song somewhat mystical and full of beautiful romanticism,” Mikhail Pavlovich remembered. Some time will pass and this melody will sound in Chekhov’s mysterious story entitled The Black Monk. And wonderful tulips and apple trees in bloom described in this story will remind of the blossom of the Chekhov’s garden.
Pavel Egorovich Chekhov died in October 1898. At that time Anton Pavlovich was in Yalta. He was broken by his father’s death and concerned about his helpless mother and for Masha who suffered from such overwhelming grief. In those days Anton Pavlovich had to think about the future of the estate that seemed to lose its integral part: “It seems to me that after father’s death life in Melikhovo won’t ever be the same, like with the last page of his diary the life in Melikhovo ceased to flow.” After a while a decision was taken to sell Melikhovo and move to Yalta.
A chest suitcase. Anton Pavlovich took it with him to Sakhalin in the spring of 1890. The suitcase only reached Tomsk, as it was bulky and very inconvenient. A.P. Chekhov sent it back to Moscow. Many years later a famous actress of Moscow Art Theatre, A.P. Chekhov’s wife, O.L. Knipper-Chekhova used this suitcase with pleasure while on tour, as all of her theatre dresses and other things fit into it.