The original printed illustrations by Sergei Korolkov to the first fully printed edition of Sholokhov's famous novel in 1934, for which Sholokhov was awarded the Stalin Prize. Sholokhov and Korolkov were good friends, and Sholokhov requested requested that Korolkov make the illustations for the book.
The novel deals with the life of the Cossacks living in the Don River valley during the early 20th century, probably around 1912, just prior to World War I. The plot revolves around the Melekhov family of Tatarsk, who are descendants of a cossack who, to the horror of many, took a Turkish captive as a wife during the Crimean War.
Accused of witchcraft by Melekhov's superstitious neighbours, she is killed. Their descendants, the son and grandsons, who are the protagonists of the story, are therefore often nicknamed "Turks". Nevertheless, they command a high amount of respect among people in Tatarsk. The second eldest son of the house, Grigori Panteleevich Melekhov, is a promising young soldier who falls in love with Aksinia, the wife of Stepan Astakhov, a family friend. There is no love between them and Stepan regularly beats her. Grigori and Aksinia's romance and elopement raises a feud between her husband and his family.
The outcome of this romance is the focus of the plot as well as the impending World and Civil Wars which draw up the best young Cossack men for what will be two of Russia's bloodiest wars. The action moves to the Austro-Hungarian front, where Grigory ends up saving Stepan's life, but that doesn't end the feud. Grigory, at his father's insistence, has taken a wife, Natalya, but is unhappy, as he still loves Aksinia.