RUSSIA: 1860s and70s


A map of European Russia
Public DomainA map of European Russia

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenin is mainly set in the Russia of the 1860s and 1870s, in the twin cities of Moscow and Petersburg. Some of its action takes place in Europe, particularly in Germany and Italy. During this period, the country was ruled by imperial rulers known as Tsars. Among the notable tsars were Catherine the Great who turned Russia into one of the greatest powers in continental Europe and Alexander II who emancipated serfs (servants) in 1861 and enacted laws to help them own property and operate businesses. This emancipation proved to be the beginning of the end of classes in Tsarist Russia. Most Russians at the time were Orthodox Christians including Tolstoy himself though he was later excommunicated.


Statue of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg.
Public DomainStatue of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg.


Moscow, Russia
Moscow Landmarks
Public DomainMoscow Landmarks

Moscow is the capital city of Russia. The city lies by the Moskva river in the central federal district. The city was founded in the 12th century by Yuri Dolgoruki. The city has been burned several times since then only to be rebuilt by the resilient Muscovites, its inhabitants. The montage shows various landmarks in present day moscow:


The first row: The Spasskaya tower of Moscow's Kremlin, Ostankino Tower, and St. Basil's Cathedral.

The second row is the red square.

The third row shows Moscow state university, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and the Moscow Kremlin.

The bottom line shows the Moscow International Business Centre.

The Moscow Kremlin is the seat of power and houses the Russian Government. Among key events that take place in Moscow is Kitty giving birth to a son.

Moscow seen from the Moskva River
Public DomainMoscow seen from the Moskva River



St. Petersburg


St Petersburg Landmarks
Public DomainSt Petersburg Landmarks

The city was founded by Tsar Peter I on May 27th 1703 and rose to become the Capital city of the Russian federation until the revolution of 1917. It is the second largest city in Russia and was at some pouint known as Leningrad and Petrograd. Much of the action in the novel takes place in St. Petersburg. The montage attached shows the following:


First row - The Bronze horseman statue of Peter the Great, the cruiser Aurora, and the cathedral of our lady of Kazan.

Second row - Palace Square

Third row - The palace embankment and St. Isaacs cathedral

Last row - Peter and Paul Fortress with the Trinity bridge. A substantial part of the novel is set in St. Petersburg where Karenin works. Its also in this city that he notices his wife's affair with Count Vronsky.



Europe after the Russian revolution of 1917
Public DomainEurope after the Russian revolution of 1917

Part of the action takes place in Europe. Russians had a high affinity for Europe particularly Italy, Germany and France. Speaking French was fashionable among urban Russians living in the twin cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, hence the many French statements in the novel and quotes from French literature. A notable example is Kitty who goes to Germany to be healed after she falls sick. While in Germany she meets Levin's brother Nikolai who is also recuperating. Tolstoy himself had more than once visited France and Italy where he met the famous French author, Victor Hugo.