Ivan, a poor Russian student, lives in Switzerland. He is unexpectedly invited to Russia by a distant relative, Princess Wirsky. To finance the journey, he works as a messenger for revolutionaries who want to depose Grand Duke Wirsky. In Moscow, he delivers the message and falls in love with Marja, the daughter of the revolutionary, but Marja's father loves Princess Wirsky and wants to betray the revolutionaries. The princess falls in love with Ivan, and jealously deports Marja to Siberia. In revenge, Ivan strangles the princess. He spends the rest of his life yearning for Marja, whom he has never kissed. When he receives the news of Marja's death, he commits suicide.