Museum

MuseumThe Estate of Melikhovo. Melikhovo school

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Here you are one more interesting page of public activity of Chekhov. “It would be good if each one of us leaves after him a school, a water well, or something like that so his life would not pass by and go into eternity without leaving a trace”, - This is what Anton Pavlovich wrote in his notebook.

Almost five years Chekhov devoted to the construction of local schools. Through his efforts there were built three Zemstvo (local government) schools in Serpukhov uyezd (district): in the village of Talezh (1896), in the village of Novoselki (1897) and here, in Melikhovo village (1899). They were considered to be the best in this district. Chekhov, as a doctor and a member of the Serpukhov Sanitary Council, was well aware of poor situation of rural public schools in the district. Schools, for the most part, were arranged in village huts hired by the Zemstvo administration from local peasants. The buildings were rather cramped with low ceilings and poorly lit. Besides that they did not have necessary school furniture and equipment.

On the contrary, Chekhov schools were built with due account of the recommendations of the Zemstvo Sanitary Councils. Anton Pavlovich insisted on using the best material, stone foundation and iron roofs for the buildings. Spacious classrooms with high ceilings and large South-facing windows were heated by Dutch style tiled stoves. All school buildings had separate apartments for teachers. They were of several rooms. Before starting to build schools, Chekhov addressed the local Zemstvo with petitions for allowances and loans for construction, drew plans for buildings, made estimates, purchased construction materials, hired workers and monitored the progress of the work. Construction of each school cost several thousand rubles. The Zemstvo gave one thousand rubles, several hundred rubles were raised by local peasants, and the rest of the money had to be "procured". This matter of concern also fell on the shoulders of the writer, and every time Chekhov not only organized a fundraising "from everywhere in parts", but also donated significant amounts of money from his literary and theatrical fees.

For instance, although the Melikhovo school was smaller than the first two ones, it cost more than 2000 rubles just because the Serpukhov Zemstvo did not allot any financial aid and Anton Pavlovich had to donate his seasonal theatrical fee (more than 1300 rubles) he gained from performances of his plays "Ivanov" and "The Seagull". Besides that Chekhov used money he earned from selling apples from his own garden to pay for the construction of this school. Furthermore, on the initiative of the writer and his sister Maria Pavlovna, who was the curator of the Melikhovo school, they arranged amateur performances, concerts in a benefit for the school. Moreover, they organized a special lottery where a close friend of Chekhov, famous artist Isaac Levitan, offered two of his sketch paintings for sale. Many friends and acquaintances of Chekhov willingly took part in the fundraising. According to the reports of the Serpukhov District Zemstvo Council, among such society activists were: the writer Vladimir A. Gilyarovsky, artists Isaac I. Levitan, Vasily V. Pereplyotchikov, Porfirii I. Seregin, Alexandra A. Khotyaintseva, Maria T. Drozdova, the teacher Maria F. Terentyeva and Partnership of Ivan Sytin (Tovarischestvo I. D. Sytina). Eventually the Melikhovo school was opened on September 1, 1899 and served its teaching purpose until 1974. After that the building was transferred as a branch under administration of the Museum-Reserve of A.P. Chekhov.

In a letter dated 26 June 1899 Anton Chekhov writes to his publisher Alexey S. Suvorin: "I have built three schools, and they are reputed to be exemplary. They are built of the best material, with rooms of 5 arshins (3.556 meters) in the height, with Dutch style tiled stoves, a teacher has a fireplace, and the apartment for a teacher is not small, it has 3-4 rooms. Two schools cost 3 thousand each, while the third one, which is smaller, - a little more than 2 thousand".

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