Chekhov’s examination of the problem of ‘wringing the slave out of oneself’ within a society like that of nineteenth century Russia is based on a philosophical approach that has its antecedents in philosophies of inner freedom. These include Stoic, Christian and Eastern philosophies. Chekhov studied Ancient Greek philosophy and also knew the work of European thinkers, including Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Kant, Proudhon, Lessing and Nietzsche (Eekman 1960: 30). He wrote in a letter to Pleshcheyev in 1889:

I’ll keep to the framework which is nearer to the heart and which has already been tested by people stronger and more intelligent than I – this framework is man’s absolute freedom – freedom from coercion, from prejudices, ignorance, the devil; freedom from passions and so forth.