Russian Short Stories

Russian short stories are known for being melancholy, often dealing with suffering. However, they can also be funny and absurd.

Some common subjects include class distinctions, the plight of the underdog, and a rejection of authoritarianism and bureaucracy.

Short Stories from Russia

Silence | Leonid Andreyev

Father Ignatius and his wife try to find out what is wrong with Vera, their daughter, who stays in bed. She has recently returned from St. Petersburg, a trip her father didn’t approve of. Her condition has a powerful effect on everyone.

Read “Silence”

An Evening in Spring | Ivan Bunin

A beggar walks around a village, but the people aren’t generous. He ends up in a tavern where he is accosted by a peasant who gives him a hard time.

A Chameleon | Anton Chekhov

A police superintendent comes across a commotion in the street. A man has chased down a dog that had bitten his finger. He wants justice so the superintendent tries to identify the dog’s owner.

Read “A Chameleon”

An Incident | Anton Chekhov

Two children wake up one morning, tired and unmotivated, until they hear that the cat has had kittens. The children become focused on the kittens, losing interest in their usual activities. The rest of the family doesn’t care very much.

Read “An Incident”

The Malefactor | Anton Chekhov

Denis Grigoriev is brought before a magistrate after being spotted stealing nuts from the rails by the railroad watchmen. Grigoriev is questioned about his crime, and he explains himself.

Read “The Malefactor”

The Man in a Case | Anton Chekhov

Byelikov is a teacher, strict, narrow-minded and obsessed with propriety and following the rules. When a new teacher, Kovalenko, moves into the area, some people think his sister, Varinka, would make a good match for Byelikov.

Read “The Man in a Case”

A Problem | Anton Chekhov

The Uskov family has a serious matter to discuss, so they send their servants away for the evening. Sasha Uskov has forged a promissory note and is now in debt. His uncles have gathered to debate the merits of their options: paying the debt to avoid scandal or letting Sasha go to trial and face the consequences of his crime.

Read “A Problem”

A Work of Art | Anton Chekhov

A doctor saves the life of a boy, the only son of his mother. They are poor bronze dealers, so they have no money to pay. To express their deep gratitude, the boy presents the doctor with an antique bronze work of art. It’s not to the doctor’s taste.

Read “A Work of Art”

Misery | Anton Chekhov

Iona Potapov is the driver of a horse-drawn sleigh. His mind isn’t on his work due to a recent tragedy. He tries to talk to his passengers about his feelings.

Read “Misery”

The Bet | Anton Chekhov

At a dinner party, a banker argues that capital punishment is preferable to life imprisonment. A young lawyer disagrees, saying that he would rather life in prison than death. They bet two million rubles that the lawyer can’t stay isolated for fifteen years.

Read “The Bet”

Vanka | Anton Chekhov

An orphan apprenticed to a shoemaker surreptitiously writes a letter to his grandfather, asking to be taken to live with him, so he can escape his life of deprivation and mistreatment.

Read “Vanka”

A Boring Story | Anton Chekhov

Nikolai Stepanovich is an aged, renowned medical professor. Despite his success, he’s unsatisfied; his heath is poor, he’s annoyed with his family, and sick of the conversation of his associates.

Read “A Boring Story”

The Kiss | Anton Chekhov

A man at a dinner party is mistaken for someone else and kissed by an unknown woman in the dark. It affects him deeply and fires his imagination.

Read “The Kiss”

The Huntsman | Anton Chekhov

A hunter is walking down a country road when a woman whom he doesn’t see often – his wife – starts talking to him.

Read “The Huntsman”

Sleepy | Anton Chekhov

Varka, a servant girl of thirteen, is obligated to do numerous household chores during the day and tend to the baby at night.

Read “Sleepy”

Small Fry | Anton Chekhov

Nevyrazimov is a lowly government clerk, working on Easter eve. He’s trying to write a note of congratulations to a higher ranking man, with the hope of getting a small promotion. He resents his lot in life.

Read “Small Fry”

A Day in the Country | Anton Chekhov

A young girl goes to a cobbler for some help for her brother. He has his arm stuck in a tree, and there’s a storm coming. They walk together and talk about nature.

Read “A Day in the Country”

Gooseberries | Anton Chekhov

Nicolai wants his own farm with gooseberry bushes where he can live out his life. He makes it his entire focus; he becomes stingy and marries an old, wealthy widow whom he has no feelings for.

Read “Gooseberries”

A Slander | Anton Chekhov

A schoolmaster is at the wedding reception he has arranged for his daughter. He is outraged when a false rumor about him spreads.

Read “A Slander”

Anyuta | Anton Chekhov

Anyuta lives in a cheap hotel room with a medical student, Klotchkov. She’s lived with several men like him; they all leave her behind when they move on to a better life.

Read “Anyuta”

Panikhida | Anton Chekhov

After a church service, Andrei Andreich, a shopkeeper, is accosted by Father Grigory. Andreich’s daughter had recently died, and the priest is upset over the way Andreich described her in his commemoration.

Read “Panikhida” (Scroll down)

The Lady with the Pet Dog | Anton Chekhov

Dmitri is unhappily married, unfaithful to his wife, and has a low opinion of women. While on vacation he meets a young woman, also married, and they have an affair. After Dmitri returns to his routine he finds that he can’t stop thinking about her.

Read “The Lady with the Pet Dog”

Easter Night (Eve) | Anton Chekhov

The narrator takes a ferry across the river to attend an Easter service. The monk who works on the ferry is mourning the death of his friend, a fellow monk.

Read “Easter Night”

The Death of a Government Clerk | Anton Chekhov

A government clerk sneezes while at the opera, accidentally spraying the man in front of him. Although he apologizes several times, he’s worried that the matter isn’t closed.

Read “The Death of a Government Clerk”

Fat and Thin | Anton Chekhov

Two men – schoolmates as boys – meet unexpectedly at a train station and are delighted to see each other. They talk about their lives; one bit of information changes the thin man’s view of his old friend.

Read “Fat and Thin”

The Bridge | Nicolai Chukovski

Kostya is seventeen, awkward and shy, and his family has little confidence in him. He is going to Siberia to work for his uncle, but his grandmother and aunt don’t think he is rugged enough for the change. He takes his bicycle out for his last ride before leaving.

The Christmas Tree and the Wedding | Fyodor Dostoevsky

At a New Year’s children’s ball, a guest tries to get into the good graces of the family of a young girl who is said to have a large dowry. He fawns over her and tries to oust her young lower-class playmate.

Read “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding”

The Crocodile | Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ivan goes with his wife and friend, Semyon, to an exhibition to see a crocodile. It swallows Ivan, but he remains alive inside it. There is a discussion about getting him out, but monetary concerns take priority.

Read “The Crocodile”

The Peasant Marey | Fyodor Dostoevsky

The narrator, a noble, remembers an incident from his childhood. While walking in the woods, he heard someone shouting a warning about a wolf. He ran off in a panic, until he reached a peasant man, Marey.

Read “The Peasant Marey”

The Signal | Vsevolod Garshin

Semyon works as a track-walker, diligently attending to his section of railroad. A neighbor, Vasily, complains about his work and low pay. Vasily’s temper leads to an emergency and Semyon must act decisively.

Read “The Signal”

The Nose | Nikolai Gogol

A barber, Ivan, cuts into a loaf of freshly baked bread only to find a nose inside. He recognizes the nose as belonging to a regular customer of his, Platon. Fearing he will be in trouble, Ivan thinks about how to get rid of the nose. Meanwhile, Platon wakes up in his home and the absurdities continue.

Read “The Nose”

The Carriage | Nikolai Gogol

A town is very dull until a cavalry regiment is stationed there. The brigadier general throws a dinner party, inviting some prominent officers and local landowners. Among the guests is Pythagor Chertokutsky, an aristocrat and former officer who retired after an unfortunate social incident.

The Overcoat | Nikolai Gogol

A poor government clerk, Akaky, gets teased at work over his ragged overcoat. He tries to get it repaired, but the tailor declares it a lost cause. Akaky lives on a strict budget to save up for a new one.

Read “The Overcoat”

The Diary of a Madman | Nikolai Gogol

A middle-aged government clerk keeps a diary that includes the times he is marginalized by others, with his fanciful explanations for what’s really happening. His perceptions become increasingly outrageous as he loses grip on reality.

Her Lover | Maxim Gorky

A student lives across from a woman with a questionable reputation. She greets him but he tries to avoid her. One day she asks him for a favor – she wants him to write a letter for her.

Read “Her Lover”

One Autumn Night | Maxim Gorky

A man arrives in town without money or any acquaintances in the area. He goes looking for food, and comes across a woman in a similar situation.

Read “One Autumn Night”

In the Steppes | Maxim Gorky

Three drifters are walking across the steppe looking for a shepherd to beg some bread. They walk on, their hunger getting worse. Eventually, they decide they have to stop and make a fire.

Read “In the Steppes”

Symphony No. 2 | Daniil Kharms

A fickle narrator begins telling the story of Anton Mikhailovich but doesn’t get far.

Read “Symphony No. 2”

The Old Bell-Ringer | Vladimir Korolenko

Mikheyich is the bell-ringer in the church in a small community. He has outlived his peers and many younger family members. As he prepares to ring the bell once more, he thinks about the occasion and his life.

Read “The Old Bell-Ringer”

Taman | Mikhail Lermontov

The narrator relates his narrow escape in Taman. As an officer traveling on government business he is given lodging at a private residence. It is an eerie place with no master, a blind servant boy, and a daughter who has run away. At night a shadow flickering across his room gets his attention.

Read “Taman”

That in Aleppo Once… | Vladimir Nabokov

The narrator writes a letter to his Russian friend working as a novelist in America. He chronicles his failed marriage, including a separation that occurs during a train trip and his jealousy.

Read “That in Aleppo Once…”

Symbols and Signs | Vladimir Nabokov

An elderly couple intends to visit their son in a mental institution, but because of a recent suicide attempt, they are not allowed to see him. The husband decides to remove the son from the facility.

Read “Symbols and Signs”

The Shot | Alexander Pushkin

A regiment of Russian soldiers often goes to the home of Silvio, a mysterious man, to play cards and drink. A young soldier insults Silvio, but he lets it pass; he doesn’t challenge him to a duel as honor demands. This lowers his esteem in the eyes of his guests.

Read “The Shot”

The Queen of Spades | Alexander Pushkin

Hermann is an engineer in the Russian army. Tomsky tells him a story about his grandmother, a countess, who won a large sum playing cards because she knows a three card secret. The countess is still alive, so Hermann schemes to learn the secret from her.

Read “The Queen of Spades”

The Stationmaster | Alexander Pushkin

The stationmaster is a member of the fourteenth rank – the lowest rank among government workers. He has a beautiful daughter, Dunia. The narrator meets the stationmaster during his travels. When the narrator returns years later he asks about the stationmaster and his daughter.

Read “The Stationmaster”

How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials | Mikhail Saltykov

Two life-long white collar government workers find themselves transported to a deserted island. Their skills of keeping records and writing reports prove useless in their new environment. They realize that if they could just find a peasant he could look after everything.

Read “How a Muzhik Fed Two Officials”

Night | Tatyana Tolstaya

Mamochka is eighty-years-old and looks after her middle-aged retarded son, Alexie. She gets him through his daily routine, sets up his work space, and tries to guide his interactions with others.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich | Leo Tolstoy

Ivan Ilyich lives simply, focusing on making advancement at work as he’s not eager to be around his family. One day while hanging curtains, he falls and hurts his side. When he gets it checked out, the doctor has bad news.

This story is a novella.

Read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”

Three Questions | Leo Tolstoy

A king wants the answers to three very important questions. He finds a wise hermit who helps him discover the answers.

Read “Three Questions”

Bezhin Meadow | Ivan Turgenev

The narrator, having finished grouse shooting for the day, heads home but gets lost. He ends up in Bezhin Meadow with five boys who are watching some horses. He rests while the boys tell superstitious stories.

Read “Bezhin Meadow”

The District Doctor | Ivan Turgenev

A doctor makes an urgent house call where a beautiful young woman is in a bad condition. He tries to reassure her family even though a recovery is unlikely.

Read “The District Doctor”

Yermolai and the Miller’s Wife | Ivan Turgenev

The narrator and Yermolai go out hunting. They seek shelter at a miller’s home, and Yermolai seems to know the miller’s wife.

Read “Yermolai and the Miller’s Wife”

I hope you found a great Russian story to read. I will add more as I find them.