One hundred years ago, when news about Anton Chekhov's death reached Leo Tolstoy on July 15, 1904, Tolstoy became the first to call Chekhov not only a great Russian writer, but also one of the best writers in the world.
In Bandeweiler, a health resort in Germany, 44-year-old Anton Chekhov, a genius writer and playwright, died from tuberculosis at the peak of his career. He was buried in the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.
During his life, Chekhov was well known, respected and popular but he was not famous. Then Leo Tolstoy said, Chekhov created new forms of writing, which I did not encounter anywhere else in the world. I must say without false modesty that Chekhov's technique is much better than mine."
Tolstoy's contemporaries were skeptical about his praise for Chekhov and believed that the old count had over estimated Chekhov's abilities. Today, 100 years later, it is evident that Tolstoy's words were prophetic. Anton Chekhov ranks among the great Russian writers - Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy - and as a playwright, Chekhov is an equal of William Shakespeare.
Chekhov began writing plays almost by chance. He sold the rights to all of his written and unwritten prose works to Marx, a publisher, but reserved the rights to his plays, which he had just started writing. And through this loophole, the masterpieces, "The Seagull," "The Three Sisters," "The Cherry Orchard," "Uncle Vanya," and "Ivanov" emerged.
Today, Chekhov's name appears in news reports from all over the world.
The last year dozens of Chekhov conferences were held: a Chekhov seminar in London; Chekhov Days in North Carolina; conferences in Hofgeismar and Warsaw; and an international conference in Chekhov's village of Melikhovo (Moscow region) just closed.
Today, new and rather exotic versions of Chekhov's well-known plays are being performed. For example, Regina Taylor's "Drowning Crow," which premiered at Biltmore Theatre in New York this winter, is a hip-hop version of Chekhov's "The Seagull."
Three years ago in India, "The Three Sisters" was set in the Maurya period.
Twelve different versions of Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" were staged in Germany and Switzerland during the 2003-2004 season. Michael Talheimer's (German Theatre Berlin), Antoine Uitdehaag's (Leipzig Drama Theatre), and Peter Helling's (Lucerne) versions of the play were the most remarkable.
"The Oxford Companion to English Literature" placed Anton Chekhov between Geoffrey Chaucer and Chesterfield.
Prominent Irish playwright Brian Friel turned to Chekhov's works over 30 years ago. In 1972 and 1998, he wrote his own versions of "The Three Sisters" and "Uncle Vanya." In 2001, he adapted the story, "Lady with a Little Dog," for the stage under the title, "The Yalta Game" and created a new version of "The Bear." In 2002, Brian Friel wrote "Afterplay," in which the characters Andrei Prozorov from "The Three Sisters" and Sonya from "Uncle Vanya" meet in Soviet Moscow of the 1920s.
Chekhov's name is being eternalized across Russia and Europe: Chekhov's house in Melikhovo, destroyed during the revolution, was recently rebuilt; Chekhov's house and his hillside garden in Yalta are very popular with tourists; the Nice authorities have developed a plan to keep Anton Chekhov's name alive; and the hotel in Badenweiler where he died is under reconstruction.
The number of Chekhov's monuments in Russia continues to grow. The most recent monument was unveiled to mark the 100th anniversary of the writer's death.
The writer had never been to Samara, but its citizens respect him. In 1898 Anton Chekhov collected money for the famine-stricken Samara region and saved the lives of hundreds of peasant children.
Humanitarianism was an important aspect of his life and work.
According to John Murray, a Chekhov researcher, 19th century Western literature was unable to see the nature of its disease and fervently rushed from one dead end to another, meanwhile Chekhov, still unknown in the West, clearly understood which ways to choose. Today, we begin to feel how close Chekhov is to us and tomorrow we will probably see how far ahead he is.