Anna Karenina

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Title page of the first edition

Anna Karenina ( Russian Анна Каренина , pronunciation : [ ˈaˑnnə kɐˈrʲeˑnʲɪnə ]) is a novel by Lev Tolstoy , which was written between 1873 and 1878 in the era of Russian realism and is considered one of Tolstoy's most important works. The book was published in 1877/78 and is about marriage and morals in aristocratic Russian society in the 19th century .



The eight-part novel epic interweaves the stories of three noble families: Prince Stepan Oblonski and his wife Darja Oblonskaja, called Dolly, their younger sister Jekatarina Shcherbazkaja, called Kitty, and the landlord Levin, and above all Anna Kareninas, the Prince's sister, who with married to the civil servant Alexei Karenin. Anna's love affair with Count Alexej Vronsky leads to the breakup of the marriage and her suicide . The failure of the Karenins' relationship on the one hand and the development of Kitty's marriage with Levin on the other form the focus of the action. The Oblonski story complements and contrasts the two main plots. There are different opinions in literary studies about the question of whether Anna Karenina is a typical Tolstoian double novel or a three-part work.


The action begins in Moscow with Princess Dolly Oblonskaya, who was betrayed by her husband Stepan. She is extremely unhappy and plans to divorce Stepan. From her sister-in-law Anna Karenina, who pays the Oblonskis a special visit, she takes the advice to give her love for Stepan a second chance. In this way she succeeds in saving the marriage, which was believed to have been ruined.

In the same days, Anna Karenina accompanied 18-year-old Kitty, Dolly's sister, to a ball. Out of love for Count Alexej Vronsky, Kitty had already turned down a marriage proposal from Kostja Levin, who has long been in love with her. Her mother once felt that a marriage between the two was not befitting. However, Kitty waits in vain for Vronsky's marriage proposal, to which her mother is very fond.

When Anna and Vronsky meet on a platform, they both develop an unexpected attraction. Vronsky, who imagines a future as an eternal bachelor and does not consider proposing to Kitty or any other woman, follows Anna every step of the way. Kitty, who feels spurned by Vronsky, gets into a life crisis, especially since she has dumped Levin in favor of Vronsky. Levin, in turn, is ashamed of her rejection and throws himself into work.

In Saint Petersburg  , Anna and Vronsky are getting closer and closer. However, because Anna fears losing her son Serjoscha to her husband Alexej Karenin, she holds on to her marriage. When Anna becomes pregnant, they can no longer hide their affair from society. The truth-loving Anna explains herself to her husband, who, in order to save his social position, gives her the chance to atone for the deception before God. Anna is desperate. With the birth of her daughter Anny close to death, she confesses to her husband for the sake of her soul. Vronsky then tries to take his own life. When Anna unexpectedly gets better, her husband changes his mind and agrees to the divorce. However, because Anna still has to fear losing her son to Karenin, Anna and Vronsky take Karenin's change of heart - renouncing the immediate divorce - as an opportunity to leave the city and travel to Italy together. Anna leaves her son Serjoscha behind for a year.

Meanwhile, Kitty, who has regained her mental balance through a cure, and Levin find each other again through an arranged meeting. After a private discussion, they start preparing for their wedding.

Driven by the longing for her son, Anna returns to Saint Petersburg with Vronsky. But Karenin, influenced by Countess Lydia Ivanovna, refuses to meet her. Only once does she manage to sneak into the house they once shared to see her son. Excluded from society and disappointed, the pair of lovers retreats to an estate, where they soon discover that they are no longer enough for themselves. Vronsky throws herself into work and develops political ambition, while Anna falls into delusional ideas due to the constant psychological stress, driven by intense jealousy and violent self-doubt.

Vronsky is pushing for his daughter Annie to be legitimized and for her to be rehabilitated in society through a divorce of the Karenins. Anna, however, fears that she will lose her son Serjoscha completely if she dissolves her marriage to Karenin. However, when the relationship problems caused by her emotional fluctuations get out of hand, she finally agrees.

Meanwhile, Levin, who describes himself as an atheist, is confronted with the question of the meaning of life when his brother dies and his son is born. Since he denies the existence of a god, he is thrown off course and again gets into a crisis of meaning.

Anna suspects that Karenin, under the influence of Countess Lydia, has lost his willingness to divorce after all. At the same time, their delusions become more and more violent. Jealous of nonexistent rivals, their love eventually turns into hatred and the desire to "punish" Vronsky with her suicide. Ironsky and overwhelmed by Anna's change of character, Vronsky is no longer able to dissuade her from her delusional ideas. Believing that Vronsky refused his presence, Anna - shocked by her own behavior - throws herself in front of a train, similar to what she once witnessed in an accident.

Vronsky went to war, knowing that his life would no longer have any meaning without Anna, in order - already doomed to die - to give his body one last benefit.

After months of sadness close to suicide, Levin finds an answer to his questions about working on his country estate. Every person's very own idea of ​​devotion to the good, in accordance with a divine will, can remove his doubts in life.


Thematically (marriage / adultery), the novel is next to other significant realistic novels in Europe, which shows how important the subject was at this time. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert , Effi Briest and L'Adultera by Theodor Fontane can be used as a comparison for this type of “ seductive novel ” at the end of the 19th century in the era of realism .

Among Tolstoy's novels, Anna Karenina is considered the most artistically perfect. He presented the moral values ​​and beliefs of the Russian writer in a wide-ranging manner and immediately began with the core sentence “All happy families are alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. (This phrase is also known as the Anna Karenina principle .)

Side effects

In passing, the novel gives a kaleidoscopic overview of the life experience accumulated by the author in relation to the tsarist state in the middle of the nineteenth century: This is based on questions of the peasant liberation , which did not take place in Russia until 1861, and the practical problems it raised (the mainly in the person of Levin), about the politics of the state commissions (described with the help of Karenins), which more or less effectively held the huge country together, describing how ingeniously political decisions are brought about or prevented (see e.g. Part 4, Chapter 6), through legal issues (e.g. Part 4, Chapter 5, described on the basis of divorce problems) to social life in the aristocratic circles of St. Petersburg and Moscow . In doing so, the author repeatedly shows subliminal humor and self-irony.

The most important families and people in the novel

Person constellation
The Oblonskijs
  • Prince Stepan Arkadevich Oblonskij (called Stiwa), senior official
  • Princess Darja Alexandrovna Oblonskaja (nee Shcherbazkaya, called Dolly), his wife
  • Tanja Stepanovna Oblonskaya, his daughter
  • Grischa Stepanowitsch Oblonskij, his son
  • Lilli Stepanovna Oblonskaya, his daughter
  • Nikolaj Stepanowitsch Oblonskij, his son
  • Masha Stepanovna Oblonskaya, his daughter
The Karenins
  • Alexej Alexandrovich Karenin, senior civil servant
  • Anna Arkadjewna Karenina, his wife (née Oblonskaja, sister of Stepan A. Oblonskij)
  • Sergej Alexejewitsch Karenin, (called Serjoscha), their two son
  • Anna Alexejewna Karenina (called Anny), the illegitimate daughter of Anna A. Karenina and Alexej Vronskijs
The Vronskys
  • Count Alexej Kirillowitsch Vronsky, (called Aljoscha), the lover Anna A. Kareninas, Colonel a. D. and large landowners
  • Count Alexander Kirillowitsch Vronsky, his older brother
  • Countess Varya Vronskaya, his sister-in-law
  • Countess Vronskaya, his mother
The Shcherbatskys
  • Prince Alexander Shcherbatsky
  • Princess Shcherbatskaya, his wife
  • Darja Alexandrovna Shcherbazkaya, his daughter (m. Oblonskaya, called Dolly)
  • Natalia Alexandrovna Shcherbazkaya, his daughter (married Ljwowa)
  • Yekatarina Alexandrovna Shcherbazkaya, his daughter (married Levina, called Kitty)
The Levins
  • Konstantin Dmitrijewitsch Levin, (called Kostja), landowner and childhood friend Stepan A. Oblonskijs
  • Jekatarina Alexandrovna Levina, (nee Shcherbazkaya, called Kitty), his wife
  • Dmitrij Konstantinowitsch Levin, (called Mitja), his son
  • Nikolaj Dmitrijewitsch Levin, his brother
  • Vanya Nikolayevich Levin, his nephew
  • Sergei Ivanovich Kosnyschew, his stepbrother, famous writer
other people
  • Princess Betsy Tverskaya, Vronsky's cousin
  • Countess Lydia Ivanovna, lady of the St. Petersburg Society
  • Marja Nikolajewna (called Mascha), partner of Nikolaj Dmitrijewitsch Levin


Translations into German

Hanser, Munich, ISBN 978-3-446-23409-3 .
Paperback edition: dtv, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-423-13995-3 .
Omnibus Verlag, Vienna
most recently: Nymphenburger, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-485-00601-7
  • 1978: Hertha Lorenz
New Kaiser Verlag, Klagenfurt.
New edition 2000, ISBN 978-3-704-32027-8 .
most recently: Insel Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-458-35207-5 .
  • 1956: Hermann Asemissen
most recently: Aufbau-Taschenbuch, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-7466-6111-7 .
most recently: Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2007, ISBN 978-3-538-06349-5 .
Paperback edition dtv, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-423-02045-8 .
  • around 1935: Arnold Wittig
Schreitersche Verlagbuchhandlung, Leipzig
most recently: Diogenes Taschenbuch, Zurich 1985, ISBN 978-3-257-21371-3
German Book Association GmbH, Berlin
most recently: Anaconda, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-86647-475-8 (print); Null Papier Verlag, Düsseldorf / Neuss 2014, ISBN 978-3-943466-13-3 (Kindle), ISBN 978-3-95418-000-4 (EPub), ISBN 978-3-95418-001-1 (PDF)
  • 1900: Hans Moser (1853-1918)
Printed and published by Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig

Film adaptations

radio play

1968: Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln , Hessischer Rundfunk . 6 parts, 268 minutes. Director: Ludwig Cremer ; Adaptation (word): Anneliese Falck under the pseudonym Palma; Music: Hans Martin Majewski .

role speaker
teller Walter Andreas Schwarz
Anna Karenina Johanna von Koczian
Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin Romuald Pekny
Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky Rudolf Melichar
Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin Paul Albert Krumm
Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya Marianne Mosa
Princess Shcherbatskaya Anita May
Prince Shcherbatsky Alois Garg
Prince Serpukhovsky Günter Neutze
Prince Tversky Edwin Dorner
Princess Mjakaja Marlene Riphahn
Princess Betsy Tverskaya, Vronsky's cousin Ingrid Plitz
Count Alexej Kirillowitsch Vronskij Hansjörg Felmy
Countess Lydia Annelie Jansen
Countess Vronskaya Ilde Overhoff
Countess Nordston Marianne Kehlau
Nikolaus Shcherbatsky Bodo Primus
Princess Dolly Oblonskaya Ricarda Benndorf
Korsunsky Curt Faber
Princess Golitsyn Elfriede Rückert
Serjosha Wolfgang Peau
as well as Jaromír Borek , Heinz von Cleve , Hans Freitag , Arno Görke , Paul Höfer and Hans Neubert

Audio book


Anna Karenina was edited several times for the theater stage.


See also


  • Gary Adelman: Anna Karenina, the bitterness of ecstasy. Twayne, Boston 1990, ISBN 0-8057-8083-1 .
  • Vladimir E. Alexandrov: Limits to interpretation. The meanings of Anna Karenina. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 2004, ISBN 0-299-19540-6 .
  • Judith M. Armstrong: The unsaid Anna Karenina. Macmillan, Basingstoke 1988, ISBN 0-333-44395-0 .
  • Friedemann Buddensiek : Anna Karenina: The Philosopheme , their context and their aesthetic function. In: Z. Zeitschrift für Kultur- und Geisteswissenschaften , issue 10, 3rd year of Fosse , Hanover 1995/96 ISSN  0945-0580 pp. 15–24.
  • Mary Evans: Reflecting on Anna Karenina. Routledge, London 1989, ISBN 0-415-01719-X .
  • Gary Saul Morson: Anna Karenina in our time. Yale University Press, New Haven 2007, ISBN 0-300-10070-1 .
  • Anthony Piraino: A psychological study of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. EmText, San Francisco 1993, ISBN 0-7734-1943-8 .
  • Anthony Thorlby: Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987, ISBN 0-521-32819-5 .
  • CJG Turner: A Karenina companion. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo 1993, ISBN 0-88920-225-7 .

Web links

Commons : Anna Karenina  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. - "Anna Karenina": Elaborate ORF / ARD remake of Leo Tolstoy's love classic with Puccini, Sadler and von Thun ( Memento from December 31, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  2. ^ Anna Karenina (2013). Internet Movie Database , accessed May 22, 2015 .
  3. FAZ January 3, 2014 (p. 35) / Thomas Thiel : Review
  4. Nestroys: A great festival for the theater. In: Kleine Zeitung , November 2, 2015.
  5. Anna Karenina between love and despair , Main Post , January 25, 2015