Kutcherov is the engineer in charge of building a bridge across the river two miles from the village of Obrutchanovo. He decides he likes the countryside so much that he buys some land and builds a house (the new villa) for his family near the village. The engineer and his wife attempt to befriend the local people, but the villagers continually complain about their own poverty and misuse the newcomers' good will.

Some villagers, led by Volodka, the blacksmith's son, act out their anger and desperation by insulting the engineer's wife and allowing their animals to graze around the new villa. These peasants complain that they never wanted the bridge in the first place; it only represents governmental interference.

Other villagers, represented by Rodion, the blacksmith, advise the Kutcherovs to be patient--in the long run, the peasants will learn to accept them. Eventually, after several incidents of vandalism, Kutcherov gets fed up and moves his family back to Moscow. The new villa lies empty.


Many Russian intellectuals of Chekhov's day held the Romantic belief that the peasants of Mother Russia were naturally virtuous and pure--noble savages, so to speak. They rhapsodized about peasant values and lifestyle. Chekhov, the grandson of serfs and keen observer of human nature, had no such illusions. He understood that ignorance and poverty had far reaching consequences that could not easily be reversed. In "The New Villa" the engineer and his family (representatives of the technocratic or middle class) encounter a quasi-tribal world, in which moral rules only apply to members of the tribe. People outside the tribe are fair game.

The peasants typically acquiesce to the rich landowning class because they realize that the landowners have the power to hurt them. But these strange bridge-building people do not seem to have that kind of power. From the peasants' perspective, the engineer and his wife's attempts to be friendly reveal their underlying weakness. Moreover, the new bridge is seen as threatening to a society in which any change is suspect. Thus, the noble peasants (or many of them, at least) prove to be nasty, brutish, and mean.


Translated by Constance Garnett. First published: 1899

Primary Source

Later Short Stories, 1888-1903


The Modern Library

Place Published

New York




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