Sergei Ivanovich is Levin’s older brother, and their relationship oscillates between varying levels of distance and closeness throughout the novel. Konstantin Levin is blunt and somewhat conservative, preferring the material world to the cerebral one, but his brother differs from him in many of these qualities. Sergei is a famous philosopher and political thinker – his cerebral world is rich and exciting, but his interpersonal relationships suffer due to the intellectual gulf that separates him from others. His philosophy generally aims to aid Russia and the greater good, and he often argues with his brother on this matter, attempting to convince him to take on more communal responsibilities for the good of the Russian populace. A seasoned debater, Sergei brings argument with him wherever he goes, and he can often outwit his opponents with his superior rhetoric, regardless of the validity of his own arguments. These traits make Sergei both admirable and annoying to Levin and to his peers.

Sergei finds a romantic match in Varenka, who is a similarly deep thinker and shares Sergei’s Christian values. However, although the two are in love with each other, Sergei cannot bring himself to propose to her. Additionally, unlike Levin, Sergei is less concerned with maintaining a relationship with their shamed younger brother, and he does not come to Nikolai’s deathbed. His high-profile, political life keeps him from finding true connection with other people, and by the end of the novel, he is and will likely remain a bachelor despite already being middle-aged. Despite his distant nature, Sergei is an important figure in Levin’s life. While the two don’t always understand each other, they do listen and speak honestly to the other. They may never reach true emotional intimacy, but their brotherly relationship is one of respect, and they both enjoy sharing the most important parts of their lives and professions with one another.