Children of the Sun (play)

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Maxim Gorky reading his drama Children of the Sun at The Penates, the house of the artist Ilya Repin, who did the drawing in 1905. Gorky in the Penates by Repin.jpg
Maxim Gorky reading his drama Children of the Sun at The Penates, the house of the artist Ilya Repin, who did the drawing in 1905.

Children of the Sun (Russian : Дети солнца, Deti solntsa/Deti solnca) is a 1905 play by Maxim Gorky, written while he was briefly imprisoned in Saint Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress during the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

Maxim Gorky Russian and Soviet writer

Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, primarily known as Maxim Gorky, was a Russian and Soviet writer, a founder of the socialist realism literary method, and a political activist. He was also a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Around fifteen years before success as a writer, he frequently changed jobs and roamed across the Russian Empire; these experiences would later influence his writing. Gorky's most famous works were The Lower Depths (1902), Twenty-six Men and a Girl (1899), The Song of the Stormy Petrel (1901), My Childhood (1913–1914), Mother (1906), Summerfolk (1904) and Children of the Sun (1905). He had an association with fellow Russian writers Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov; Gorky would later mention them in his memoirs.

Saint Petersburg Federal city in Northwestern, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.


Gorky appears to have written the play chiefly during the last eight days of his imprisonment, before his February 2, 1905 release, in response to the international protests over the imprisonment of such a prominent writer. It was nominally set during an 1862 cholera epidemic, but was universally understood to relate to contemporary events.

Cholera Bacterial infection of the small intestine

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms may range from none, to mild, to severe. The classic symptom is large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This may result in sunken eyes, cold skin, decreased skin elasticity, and wrinkling of the hands and feet. Dehydration can cause the skin to turn bluish. Symptoms start two hours to five days after exposure.


The play was initially banned, but imperial authorities allowed it to premiere October 24, 1905 at the Moscow Art Theater. Given conditions in the city, the atmosphere was so tense that the audience began to panic in response to the mob noises in Act III. Kachalov had to stop the play to assure them that, while his character might be in danger from a mob, the audience was not.


Maria Fyodorovna Andreyeva Russian actress and politician

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Maria Germanova actor

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Plot summary

The title refers to the privileged intellectual elite of Russia, epitomised by Protassoff, high-minded and idealistic, but basically unaware of what is going on around them in the lower depths. Lisa, in contrast, is sickly, nervous, and prophetically aware of impending crisis. It is set during an 1862 cholera epidemic in Russia in which fear drove people to mob action.

Prophet person claiming to speak for divine beings

In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.

Protassov's detachment leaves him oblivious to the nearly mad Melanya's love for him; to his wife's confused love for his best friend and artist, Dmitri Vaguin; to the brutality of his assistant Yegor, and ultimately to the danger of the armed mob that comes to attack him.

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