Sensual, rebellious Anna falls deeply and passionately in love with the handsome Count Vronsky. When she refuses to conduct the discreet affair that her cold, ambitious husband - and Russian high society - would condone, she is doomed. Set against the tragic love of Anna and Vronsky, the plight of the melancholy nobleman Konstantine Levin unfolds. In doubt about the meaning of life - a mirror of Tolstoy’s own spiritual crisis - Konstantine is haunted by thoughts of suicide.
In the setting of what is present-day Kazakhstan, Tolstoy examines two psychological problems. The first dilemma is that of a young man who desires both fulfilling love and a place as a respected member of society. The other is the difficulty of a primitive society to accept domination by a higher culture that has no understanding of the traditions it asks its colonists to cast aside.