gypsy camp roams the steppes of Bessarabia. At the campfire, a gypsy family prepares dinner, horses are grazing in the distance, and behind the tent is a tame bear. Gradually, everything stops and falls into a dream. Only in one tent does not sleep an old man, waiting for his daughter Zemfira, left to walk in the field. And so Zemfira appears with the unfamiliar old man. Zemfira explains that she met him behind the mound and invited him to the camp that he was being persecuted by the law and he wants to be a gypsy. His name is Aleko. The old man cordially invites the young man to stay for as long as he likes, and says that he is ready to share bread and shelter with him.
In the morning the old man wakes Zemfira and Aleko, the tabor awakens and sets
Two years Aleko rode along with the camp, free, like the Gypsies themselves, not regretting the abandoned. He leads through the villages of the bear and thereby earns bread. Nothing disturbs the peace of his soul, but one day he hears how Zemfira sings a song that leads him into confusion. In this song, Zemfira admits that she stopped loving him. Aleko asks her to stop singing, but Zemfira continues, and then Aleko realizes that Zemfira is untrue to him. Zemfira confirms the most terrible assumptions Aleko.
The old gypsy asks Aleko not to mourn and assures that longing will ruin him. Aleko admits that the reason for his sadness is Zemfira’s indifference to him. The old man comforts Aleko, says that Zemfira is a child, that the woman’s heart loves joking, that no one is free to order the woman’s heart to love one, how to order the moon to freeze on the spot. But Aleko, remembering the hours of love spent with Zemfira, is inconsolable. He laments that “Zemfira has cooled down”, that “Zemfira is incorrect.” To edify the old man tells Aleko about himself, about how young he was, how he loved the beautiful Mariola and how he finally achieved reciprocity. But quickly passed the youth, even faster – the love of Mariula. Once she left with another camp, leaving her little daughter, this same Zemfira. And since then, “all the virgins of the world” have grown old. Aleko asks, how could the old man not take revenge on the offenders, how could he not stab the dagger in the heart of the kidnapper and the unfaithful wife. The old man responds that nothing can keep love, nothing can be returned, “what was, it will not be again.” Aleko assures the old man that he himself is not such that he can not give up his rights or even enjoy revenge.
And at this time Zemfira on a date with a young gypsy. They are conditioned on a new date this night after the moon sets.
Aleko anxiously sleeps and, awakened, does not find Zemfira nearby. He gets up, comes out of the tent, he is seized by suspicion and fear, he wanders around the tent and sees a trace that is barely perceptible in the starlight, leading to the mounds, and Aleko is sent along this trail. Suddenly he sees two shadows and hears the voices of two lovers who can not part with each other. He recognizes Zemfira, who asks her lover to flee, but Aleko stabs him in the knife… In horror, Zemfira says that she despises the threats of Aleko, and curses him. Aleko also kills her.
Dawn found Aleko sitting behind a hill with a bloody knife in his hand. Before him are two corpses. The tribesmen say goodbye to the dead and dig their graves for them. In the reverie sits an old gypsy. After the bodies of lovers were betrayed to the ground, he approaches Aleko and says: “Leave us, proud man!” He says that gypsies do not want to live next to the murderer, with a man who “wants only himself” for himself.
The old man said this, and the camp soon withdrew and disappeared into the steppe. Only one cart remained in the fatal field. The night came, but no one laid out the fire before her and no one spent the night under her roof.