( ) is a 20th century
, first published in 1957
. The novel is named after its
, Yuri Zhivago, a medical
doctor and poet. It tells the story of a man torn between two
women, set primarily against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917
the subsequent Russian Civil War
of 1918–1920. More deeply, the novel discusses the plight of a man
as the life that he has always known is dramatically torn apart by
forces beyond his control. The book was made into a film
in 1965 and has also been adapted numerous times for
television, most recently as a mini-series for Russian TV in
First Italian edition cover
Although it contains passages written in the 1910s and 1920s,
was not completed until 1956. The novel was
submitted to the journal Novy mir
and rejected because of
Pasternak's political viewpoint opposed by the Soviet authorities.
The author, like Dr Zhivago, showed more concern with the welfare
of individuals than with the welfare of society. Soviet censors
construed some passages as anti-Marxist
There are implied criticisms of Stalinism and references to prison
1957, the Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli smuggled the
book manuscript from the Soviet Union and simultaneously published editions in both
Russian and Italian in Milan,
The next year, it was published in English,
(translated from the Russian by Manya Harari and Max Hayward
) and was eventually published in a
total of eighteen different languages. The publication of this
novel led partly to Pasternak's being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
1958. The Soviet government asked the committee not to award him
the prize. Pasternak rejected the Nobel Prize in order to prevent a
scandal in the Soviet Union. Boris Pasternak died on 30 May 1960,
of natural causes.
Zhivago was finally published in the Soviet Union in 1988, in the pages of Novy mir,
although earlier samizdat editions
Yuri Zhivago is sensitive and poetic nearly to the point of
. In medical school, one of his
professors reminds him that bacteria
beautiful under the microscope, but they do ugly things to
Zhivago's idealism and principles stand in contrast to the
brutality and horror of World War I
the subsequent Russian Civil War
A major theme of the novel is how mysticism and idealism are
destroyed by both the Bolsheviks
alike, as both sides commit
horrible atrocities. Yuri witnesses dismemberment and other horrors
suffered by the innocent civilian population during the turmoil.
Even the love of his life, Lara, is taken from him.
He ponders on how war can turn the whole world senseless, and make
an otherwise reasonable group of people destroy each other with no
regard for life. His journey through Russia has an epic,
dreamlike, almost surreal feeling because of his traveling through
a world which is in such striking contrast to himself, relatively
uncorrupted by the violence, and to his desire to find a place away
from it all, which drives him across the Arctic Siberia of Russia,
and eventually back to Moscow. Pasternak
gives subtle criticism of Soviet
ideology: he disagrees with the idea of "building a new man," which
is against nature.
Lara's life is also dealt with in considerable detail. Lara, whose
full name is Larissa Feodorovna Guishar (later Antipova), is the
daughter of a bourgeois mother. She becomes involved in an affair
with Viktor Komarovsky, a powerful lawyer with political
connections, who both repulses and attracts her. Lara is engaged to
Pavel "Pasha" Antipov, an idealistic young student who becomes
involved in Bolshevism through his father. To gain independence
from Komarovsky, Lara spends three years working as a live-in nanny
for a wealthy family (the Kologrivovs). Upon returning her brother
begs her to get 700 rubles from Komarovsky to repay money that he
has gambled away. Lara gets the money for her brother from her
generous employer, Kologrivov. However, when her pupil Lipa
graduates, she feels like she is on charity instead of working for
her keep in the Kologrivov household. She decides that Komarovsky
"owes her" and she will get money from him with which she will
become independent. She goes to a party to demand the money from
Komarovsky. He is playing cards all evening and she does not get
his attention. She finally walks in and attempts to shoot him but
Zhivago briefly encounters Lara while assisting his mentor who has
been called by Komarovsky to the scene of the attempted suicide of
Lara's mother in response to Lara's and Komarovsky's scandalous
relationship. Zhivago also sees Lara at the Christmas party where
she tries to shoot Komarovsky. Lara and Zhivago truly meet
following a roadside encounter between First World War troop
columns, one group being miserable retreating Russian Army
deserting veterans and the other group are new recruits bound for
the hopeless conditions at the Front. Lara has been serving as
nurse while searching for her assumed-dead husband Antipov. The two
fall in love as they serve together in a makeshift field hospital.
They do not consummate their relationship until much later, meeting
in the town of Yuriatin
Pasha and Komarovsky continue to play important roles in the story.
Pasha is assumed killed in World War I, but is actually captured by
the Germans and escapes. He joins the Bolsheviks and becomes
Strelnikov (the shooter), a fearsome Red Army general who becomes
infamous for executing White prisoners (hence his nickname).
However, he is never a true Bolshevik and yearns for the fighting
to be over so he can return to Lara. (The film version would change
his character significantly, making him a hard-line
Another major character is Liberius, commander of the "Forest
Brotherhood", the Red Partisan band which conscripts Yuri into
service. Liberius is depicted as loud-mouthed and vain, a dedicated
and heroic revolutionary, who bores Yuri with his continuous
lectures on the justice of their cause and the inevitability of
their victory. He is also addicted to cocaine
Komarovsky reappears towards the end of the story. He has gained
some influence in the Bolshevik government and been appointed head
of the Far Eastern Republic
Bolshevik puppet state in Siberia. He offers Zhivago and Lara
transit out of Russia. They initially refuse, but by lying about
Antipov's death Komarovsky privately persuades Zhivago that it is
in Lara's best interests to leave; Zhivago convinces Lara to go
with Komarovsky, telling her (falsely) that he will follow her
Meanwhile, Antipov/Strelnikov falls from grace, loses his position
in the Red Army, and returns to Varykino
near Yuriatin, where he hopes to find Lara. She, however, has just
left with Komarovsky. After having a lengthy conversation with
Zhivago, he commits suicide and is found the next morning by
Zhivago. (In the movie Komarovsky tells Zhivago that he was
captured 5 miles outside of Yuriatin and on the way to his
execution he grabbed a pistol from a guard and killed himself.)
Zhivago's life and health go downhill from this point; he lives
with another woman and has two children with her, plans numerous
writing projects but does not finish them, and is increasingly
absent-minded, erratic, and unwell. Lara eventually returns to
Russia on the day of Zhivago's funeral. She gets Yevgraf, his half
brother, to try to find her daughter but then disappears.
During World War II Zhivago's old friends Nika Dudorov and Misha
Gordon meet up. One of their discussions revolves around a local
laundress named Tonya, a bezprizornaya
child, one of many left by the Civil War, and her resemblance to
Zhivago. Much later they meet over the first edition of Zhivago's
poems. It's unclear in the book why they haven't been published
before or why they have been published now.
Other major characters include Tonya Gromeko, Zhivago's wife, and
her parents Alexander and Anna, with whom Zhivago lived after he
lost his parents as a child. Yevgraf (Evgraf) Zhivago, Yuri's
younger illegitimate half-brother (son of his father and a
Mongolian princess), is a mysterious figure who gains power and
influence with the Bolsheviks and helps his brother evade arrest
throughout the course of the story.
The book is packed full of odd coincidences; characters disappear
and reappear seemingly at random, encountering each other in the
most unlikely places.
Pasternak's description of the singer Kubarikha in the chapter
"Iced Rowanberries" is almost identical to the description of the
gypsy singer Nadezhda
(1884–1940) by Sofia
(sister-in-law and cousin of Sergei Rachmaninoff
). Since Rachmaninoff
was a friend of the Pasternak family, and Plevitskaya a friend of
Rachmaninoff, Plevitskaya was probably Pasternak's "mind image"
when he wrote the chapter; something which also shows how Pasternak
had roots in music.
Names and places
Pushkin Library, Perm
- Zhivago (Живаго): the Russian root zhiv is
similar to 'life'
- Larissa: a Greek name suggesting 'bright,
- Komarovsky (Комаровский): komar (комар) is
the Russian for 'mosquito'
- Pasha (Паша): the diminutive form of 'Pavel' (Павел),
Russian rendering of the name Paul.
- Strelnikov (Стрельников): strelok means 'the
- Yuriatin (Юрятин): the fictional
town was based on the real Perm, near by
which Pasternak had lived for several months in 1916.
- The original of the public reading room at Yuriatin was the
Pushkin Library, Perm
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
has been adapted for film and stage several
- A 1959 Brazilian television film (currently unavailable) was
the first film version. 
- The most famous adaptation is the 1965 film adaptation by David Lean, featuring the Egyptian actor Omar Sharif as Zhivago and English actress
Julie Christie as Lara, with Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya and Alec Guinness as Yevgraf. The film was
commercially successful and won five Oscars, but was a critical
failure; currently, it is widely considered to be a classic popular
film. Maurice Jarre's score, featuring
the romantic "Lara's Theme," is a big part of the film's appeal.
Though faithful to the novel's plot, depictions of several
characters and events are noticeably different.
Instead of the 1965 movie – where Zhivago has a daughter by his
mistress, and a half-brother to tell the teenage girl about her
father – the 2002 TV/Netflix DVD version depicts him as having a
son who is almost the spitting image of Yuri Zhivago. Instead of
dying of a heart attack in the streets of Moscow chasing after a
woman he believes to be his beloved Lara, he dies of a heart attack
trying to leave a restaurant all the while eyeing through the
window his near-duplicate almost cloned son, and then right before
his death, seeing his lover Lara calling out to her son, Yuri
(named after him naturally!)
Then the TV/DVD version shows Lara and son at Zhivago's funeral and
the boy looking into the casket of his father. Then the final
ending leaves one completely up in the air as to what happens to
the little boy, now about 6–8 years old. Lara is caught and
arrested and sent off to a work camp (in Siberia?) because she left
the Sam Neill character, and the little boy is left to fend for
himself, running down the streets of Moscow, clutching a
leather-bound copy of the poems handwritten by his father Zhivago,
about his mother, Lara. There is no mention or accounting for the
young Yuri's half-sister – sired by the infamous Strelnikov with
Lara. Presumably Yuri Jr. survives somehow because Yuri Jr. is the
narrator of this ending.
The 2002 TV/DVD version also dwells in its opening scenes on the
little boy Yuri Zhivago, who witnesses on a railroad train the
suicide of his own father, after the father there learns from his
scheming lawyer (coincidentally who is a younger version of the
same Sam Neill character) that he has been financially ruined by
some nefarious scheme – which the viewer is drawn to conclude has
been presumably concocted by his own lawyer.
This TV version seems to depict a triumph of pragmatic self-serving
chicanery (Sam Neill as Kamorovsky)over naieve saintly
humanity-serving goodness (Hans Matheson as Zhivago) as the two
really central characters. Lara and Strelnikov are but side players
to fill in the ongoing clash between dedicated good and
- A made-for-cable film remake was announced in 2002, and was to
include Joseph Fiennes as Zhivago and
Jeremy Irons as Komarovsky, but was
canceled. It is unclear whether or not it was the Masterpiece
Theatre production or a different version altogether. 
- An eleven-part Russian mini-series was released in 2006 as
produced by Mosfilm.
- Zhivago, a musical adaptation of
Pasternak's novel rather than Lean's film, debuted at the La Jolla
Playhouse in 2005 as a Page-To-Stage workshop, and then in a
main-stage production which opened in May 2006. A Broadway
debut was planned for 2007. It features music by Lucy Simon ("The Secret Garden"), a book by
Michael Weller ("Hair," "Ragtime" screenplays), and lyrics by
Michael Korie ("Doll" and the "Harvey Milk" opera libretto), and
Amy Powers ("Lizzie Borden" and songs for "Sunset Boulevard").
musical called "Doktor Zhivago" was scheduled to premier in the
Urals city of Perm' on 22 March
2007, and to remain in the repertoire of Perm' Drama Theatre
throughout the 50th Anniversary year  . Perm' claims many links with
the novel since Pasternak was evacuated there during WW2. Perm'
features in the novel under the name "Yuriatin" (which is a
fictional city invented by Pasternak for the book) and many
locations for events in the book can be accurately traced in Perm',
since Pasternak left the street-names mostly unchanged. For
example, the Public Reading-Room in which Yuri and Larissa have
their chance meeting in "Yuriatin" is exactly where the book places
it in contemporary Perm'.
- An opera called "Doktor Zhivago" will be premiering on the
- A new Russian movie adaptation that will be called "Doktor
Zhivago" will be made and released by Mosfilm based on the original American 1965 Doctor
Zhivago film and the original novel. It will be the first
big-screen adaptation of the Russian novel to be in the Russian
language and originally made in Russia.
In popular culture
- Dr. Zhivago is mentioned in the lyrics of the Opio song "with
or without you"
- Dr. Zhivago is mentioned in the lyrics of The Beta Band song "Won."
- Dr. Zhivago was mentioned in the lyrics of 98 Degrees' hit song "The Hardest Thing".
- Dr. Zhivago was mentioned in the infamous Unforgivable
online video series.
- In the movie Nine Months Hugh Grant and Julianne
Moore's characters are told by Robin Williams' character that they
should get rid of the cat if they want to keep the baby and Hugh
Grant's character says not to believe Dr. Zhivago, given the fact
that Robin Williams character is from Russia.
- In the film True Romance, when
referencing the large quantity of cocaine he has brought with him
to California, Clarence Worley refers to the stash over the
telephone as "Dr. Zhivago"; a metaphor the film producer on the
other side of the telephone conversation would easily understand
without explanation. This is an obvious reference to the snowy
landscapes seen throughout the 1965 film.
- Lana Lang is shown reading a paperback copy of Dr.
Zhivago in the Smallville episode,
- In the film Red Heat (1988)
James Belushi's character tells Schwarzenegger's character after
ordering him tea in a glass with lemon: "I saw Doctor
- In the film Must Love
Dogs, John Cusack's character repeatedly watches Dr.
Zhivago while lamenting the sorry state of his own love life.
- In a Calvin and
Hobbes strip, when Calvin is taking a walk in the snow
with his parents against his will, he complains, "I feel like I'm
in "Dr. Zhivago"."
- The song Pictures of People by the band Black Lab has the lines "My heart gets so full /
Driving around this town / I feel like Dr. Zhivago, lost in
- One of the few recurring villains in the animated television
series George of the Jungle was
named "Dr. Chicago."
- In the Youtube series "Unforgivable" the film adaptation of
Dr. Zhivago is referred to.
- Dr. Zhivago was one of the books read by Michael for Hanna
Schmitz in The Reader.
- Dr. Zhivago was mentioned in the British sitcom series
One Foot in the Grave
when Victor Meldrew's wife Margaret complains about the picture
settings on their television set stating that "Everything looks
like Doctor Zhivago."