The novel takes place in the winter of 1918-19 in a certain City, in which Kiev is clearly guessed. The city is occupied by German occupation forces, the hetman of “All Ukraine” is in power. However, from day to day the city of Petliura can enter the city – the battles are already twelve kilometers from the City. The city lives a strange, unnatural life: it is full of visitors from Moscow and St. Petersburg – bankers, businessmen, journalists, lawyers, poets – who have rushed there since the election of the hetman, since the spring of 1918.
Alexei Turbin, a doctor, his younger brother Nikolka, a non-commissioned officer, their sister Elena and friends of the family-lieutenant Myshlaevsky, lieutenant Stepanov, nicknamed Carp and lieutenant Shervinsky,
Elena’s husband, the captain of the General Staff, Sergei Ivanovich Talberg, announces to his wife that the Germans are leaving the City and his, Thalberg, are taken to the staff train departing tonight. Talberg is sure that in less than three months he will return to the city with the army of Denikin, who is now forming on the Don. In the meantime, he can not take Elena into the unknown, and she will have to stay in the City.
To protect against the advancing Petlyura troops in the City, the formation of Russian military formations begins. Karas, Myshlaevsky and Alexei Turbin are to the commander of the forming Mortar Division Colonel Malyshev and enter the service: Karas and Myshlyevsky as officers, Turbin as divisional doctor. However, the next night
By December 10, Colonel Nai-Tours is completing the formation of the second department of the first squad. Considering the conduct of a war without winter equipment of soldiers impossible, Colonel Nai-Tours, threatening the Colt with the chief of the supply department, gets valenki and papakhas for his hundred and fifty cadets. On the morning of December 14 Petlyura attacks the City; Nai-Tours receives an order to guard the Polytechnic Highway and, in the event of the enemy’s appearance, take the fight. Nai-Tours, having entered into battle with the advanced detachments of the enemy, sends three cadets to find out where the hetman’s units are. The sent ones return with the message that there are no parts anywhere, in the rear – machine-gun shooting, and the enemy cavalry enters the City. Nye realizes that they are trapped.
An hour earlier, Nikolai Turbin, corporal of the third division of the first infantry squad, received orders to lead the team along the route. Arriving at the appointed place, Nikolka sees the running junkers with horror and hears the command of Colonel Nai-Tours, ordering all the cadets-both his own and the team of Nikolka-to tear off epaulets, cockades, throw weapons, tear documents, run and hide. The colonel himself covers the departure of the cadets. In front of Nikolka, the deadly wounded colonel dies. Shocked Nikolka, leaving Nai-Tours, makes their way to the house with their backyards and alleys.
Meanwhile, Alexei, who was not informed about the dissolution of the division, appeared, as he was ordered, by two o’clock, to find an empty building with abandoned guns. Having found Colonel Malyshev, he gets an explanation of what is happening: The city is taken by Petliura’s troops. Alexei, having broken his epaulettes, goes home, but encounters Petlyura soldiers who, having recognized him as an officer, pursue him. Alexei, wounded in his hand, is hiding in his house a stranger named Julia Reis. The next day, after dressing Alexei in a civilian dress, Julia takes him home with a cab. Simultaneously with Alexei to Turbin comes from Zhitomir cousin Talberg Larion, survived a personal drama: his wife left him. Larion is very fond of the Turbins’ house, and all Turbines find him very cute.
Vasily Ivanovich Lisovich, nicknamed Vasilisa, the owner of the house in which Turbins live, occupies the first floor in the same house, while the Turbines live in the second. On the eve of the day when Petliura entered the City, Vasilisa is building a cache in which she hides money and jewelry. However, through the gap in the densely curtained window, Vasilisa’s actions are watched by an unknown person. The next day three armed men come to Vasilisa with a search warrant. First of all, they open the hiding place, and then take away the watch, costume and shoes of Vasilisa. After the departure of the “guests” Vasilisa and his wife guess that they were bandits. Vasilisa runs to the Turbins, and to protect against a possible new attack, Carp is sent to them. Usually sparse Vanda Mikhailovna, Vasilisa’s wife, is not stingy: there are cognac, veal, and pickled mushrooms on the table.
Three days later Nikolka, having learned the address of the Nai-Tours family, went to the colonel’s relatives. He informs his mother and sister Nye of the details of his death. Together with the sister of Colonel Irina Nikola, she finds the body of Nai-Tours in the morgue, and on the same night in the chapel at the Nai-Tours anatomical theater.
A few days later Alexei’s wound becomes inflamed, and besides, he has typhus: high fever, nonsense. According to the conclusion of the consultation, the patient is hopeless; December 22 begins the agony. Elena locked herself in her bedroom and passionately prayed to the Blessed Virgin, begging to save her brother from death. “Let Sergei not come back,” she whispers, “but do not punish this death.” To the amazement of the doctor who was on duty with him, Alexei comes to consciousness – the crisis has passed.
After a month and a half finally recovered Alexei goes to Julia Reis, who saved him from death, and gives her a bracelet to her late mother. Alexei asks Julia permission to visit her. Departing from Julia, he meets Nikolka, returning from Irina Nai-Tours.
Elena receives a letter from a friend from Warsaw, in which she informs her about the upcoming marriage of Thalberg on their common acquaintance. Helen, sobbing, remembers her prayer.
On the night of 2 to 3 February the Petlyura troops leave the City. The sound of the guns of the Bolsheviks coming to the City is heard.