Places: Tevye the Dairyman

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Tevye der Milkhiger, 1894-1914 (English translation, 1949, 1987)

Type of work: Short fiction

Places DiscussedBoiberik

Boiberik. Tevye the DairymanSmall Russian town, modeled on Boyarka near Kiev, where Tevye travels in his horse-drawn wagon to sell cheese, cream, and butter to the wealthy who eat, drink, and enjoy their leisure in luxury. This is where the rich migrate to relax in their summer dachas. Boiberik forms a contrast to the impoverished, unnamed community nearby where Tevye lives with Golde and their unmarried daughters.

In “Tevye Strikes It Rich,” which first appeared in 1894 and was revised in 1897, Tevye transports two women to a dacha by a pond at the far end of the woods. Tevye fantasizes about starting a grocery store in Boiberik, which he hopes will lead to a dry-goods store, a woodlot, and a tax concession. At the end, he simply buys a milch cow.


Yehupetz. Russian city that is a fictional representation of Kiev and supposedly a place where fortunes thrive. The rich live in mansions with walls to keep out beggars. When not traveling to German health resorts when their wives have even so trivial a complaint as a stomachache, they ride around town in rubber-wheeled droshkies. The most famous rich person ironically happens to be Brodsky, a Jew, but his name is invoked simply to demarcate the separation of rich Jews, who are immune to suffering, from poor ones, who experience great dangers inside and outside the Pale of Settlement.


Anatevka. One of the small Russian towns, declared a village, in “Today’s Children,” so that Jews could be more easily expelled from it. A place unified by Jewish religion and tradition. The richest man is Lazar Wolf, the widower-butcher who asks for Tsaytl’s hand in marriage. His house has a cupboard full of copper, two samovars, a brass tray, a set of gilt-edged cups, a pair of silver candlesticks, a cast-iron menorah, a chest for cash, and an attic filled with hides. However, even these emblems of prosperity are not enough for him to win Tsaytl, who goes, instead, to Motl the tailor.

BibliographyGittleman, Sol. From Shtetl to Suburbia: The Family in Jewish Literary Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press, 1978. Discusses Aleichem and others as pioneers of the tradition. The extended chapter on Aleichem examines the crisis of contemporary family life as conveyed through the Tevye stories.Liptzin, Solomon. The Flowering of Yiddish Literature. New York: T. Yoseloff, 1963. Offers an exhaustive historical narrative of Yiddish literature from the 1860’s to World War I. The chapter on Aleichem examines the historical, literary, and social values of his work.Samuel, Maurice. The World of Sholom Aleichem. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943. Samuel re-creates Aleichem’s milieu, with explorations of Tevye’s personality, landscape, philosophy, and family life. A very anecdotal volume that includes warm retellings of the Tevye stories.Waife-Goldberg, Marie. My Father, Sholom Aleichem. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968. An interesting and revealing memoir by Aleichem’s daughter, full of anecdotes about Aleichem and examining the parallels between him and his fictional persona, Tevye.Wisse, Ruth R. The Schlemiel as Modern Hero. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971. This slim book includes a chapter on Aleichem entitled “Ironic Balance for Psychic Survival,” in which Wisse discusses the uses of irony and satire and the polarization of faith and fact as reflected in Tevye’s philosophical dialogues.
Categories: Places