Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is considered one of Russia's most important writers as well as one of the world's greatest playwrights. He was born on January 17, 1860, in Taganrog, a small seaport town in Southern Russia. His father was a grocer, his grandfather a serf who had bought his own freedom. His mother, Yevgenia Morozov, was the daughter of a cloth merchant. The author was only one year old when Czar Nicholas II freed Russia's serfs. This historic event, generally referred to as the Liberation, plays a central role in many of Chekhov's writings, including The Cherry Orchard.
After his father was forced to declare bankruptcy, the family moved to Moscow, which presented young Chekhov with the opportunity to gain a good education. He began attending medical school at the University of Moscow when he was twenty years old and while there began to publish humorous articles for newspapers and magazines in an effort to alleviate his family's financial difficulties. Deeply influenced by famous novelist and short story writer Tolstoy, at this time Chekhov also began to write short stories. In time he became a master of this literary genre.
Chekhov graduated from medical school in 1884 and spent the rest of his life engaged in medicine as well as writing. In 1888, Chekhov wrote the popular short story "The Bear" and two years later he published "The Wedding." In 1887, he wrote "The Wood Demon," which was not well received critically but which in time he would rewrite as the enormously popular Uncle Vanya.
For much of his life, Chekhov suffered from bad health and was forced to travel to more healthful climates, such places as Singapore, India, Ceylon, and Egypt among them. He especially enjoyed France and utilized the opportunity to study other literary forms in depth, especially French theatre, aspects of which he incorporated into his own work. By the turn of the century Chekhov had authored four plays which were to bring him lasting repute: The Sea Gull in 1896, Uncle Vanya that same year, The Three Sisters in 1901, and The Cherry Orchard, his last play. The Cherry Orchard was staged in Moscow on his birthday, January 17, 1904, and featured his wife Olga Knipper, whom he had married in 1901, in the leading role. Six months later, Chekhov died in Germany.
In addition to his dramatic works, Chekhov is highly regarded for his short stories which also combine comedy and tragedy. In addition, he is greatly admired for his use of ordinary conversations and verbal pauses to reveal reality in inconsequential words and everyday life.
Oftentimes, his characters, like those in The Cherry Orchard, are provincial aristocratic landowners of the era before the Russian Liberation who are unable to take action in times of crisis. In addition, Chekhov's intermingling of the comic and tragic genres characterizes him as one of the greatest playwrights of all time. In addition, he remains highly regarded for his technique, which has come to be called "indirect action." This technique emphasizes the off-stage action which the audience never sees but hears about from the onstage characters.