Hadji Murad (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]


With the resumption of Russia's military action in Chechnya in the 1990s, Hadji Murad gains new relevance, and anyone following global terrorism today will find Tolstoy's description of the nineteenth-century war all too familiar. The work provides a wealth of information about the Caucasus and on one of the most colorful figures of the nineteenth-century Russo-Caucasian war, the Avar chieftan, Hadji Maurad. Changing allegiances, inter-ethnic tensions, raids on villages, inaccurately reported war casualties, ...
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Hadji Murad (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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With the resumption of Russia's military action in Chechnya in the 1990s, Hadji Murad gains new relevance, and anyone following global terrorism today will find Tolstoy's description of the nineteenth-century war all too familiar. The work provides a wealth of information about the Caucasus and on one of the most colorful figures of the nineteenth-century Russo-Caucasian war, the Avar chieftan, Hadji Maurad. Changing allegiances, inter-ethnic tensions, raids on villages, inaccurately reported war casualties, grieving mothers, and even the gruesome beheadings described so vividly in Hadji Murad still occur. Rarely are they described in prose as powerful as Tolstoy's.
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Meet the Author

Leo Tolstoy

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879 82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Books LTD.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 9, 1828
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tula Province, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      November 20, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Astapovo, Russia


Leo Tolstoy's Hadji Murad is an exciting account of war, vengeance, treason, murder, exotic locales, luxurious indulgence, and political plotting. When Tolstoy wrote the novel, which was to be his last, he was the world's most influential pacifist and had rejected a life of luxury. Although Hadji Murad is only about one-tenth the length of War and Peace, it went through eleven manuscript versions, nearly 2,200 draft pages, and took Tolstoy about a decade to write. Yet, for all its un-Tolstoyan brevity, the novel manages to raise some very Tolstoyan questions about life and death, war and peace, government, social class, religion, and family values. It also provides a wealth of ethnographic information about a fascinating region, the Caucasus. Hadji Murad, an Avar chieftain, was one of the most colorful figures in the nineteenth-century Russo-Caucasian war. Tolstoy, who participated in this war, was in Tiflis in 1851 during Hadji Murad's surrender and described him then as "the leading dare-devil and 'brave' in all Circassia." The novel begins with Hadji Murad's desertion to the Russian side and the rest of the book relates his amazing reasons and the bloody aftermath. With the resumption of Russia's military action in Chechnya in the 1990s, Hadji Murad gains new relevance, and anyone following global terrorism today will find Tolstoy's description of the nineteenth-century war all too familiar. Changing allegiances, inter-ethnic tensions, raids on villages, inaccurately reported war casualties, grieving mothers, and even the gruesome beheadings described so vividly in Hadji Murad still occur. Rarely are they described in prose as powerful as Tolstoy's.

In 1828, Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born into the Russian nobility and the wealth and privilege that entailed. In 1910, at age eighty-two, he denounced his wealth and privilege and set out on the road as the poor wanderer he would have preferred to be--only to die. For most of his life he vacillated between the privileged lifestyle of a nobleman and regrets about enjoying it at a time when the majority of Russians suffered poverty and almost half of them were serfs. He lived most of his life on the family estate he was to inherit, Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow, with periods spent in Kazan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and travel abroad. Despite being a dropout from Kazan and St. Petersburg universities, where he studied oriental languages and law, Tolstoy was a voracious reader and self-educator, a talented linguist, a promising musician, a committed pedagogue who soon after quitting his studies did a stint in a low-level civil-service job and opened schools for serf children at Yasnaya Polyana--all of which alternated with carousing and gambling. His start as a writer came in 1851, when he accompanied his brother to the Caucasus and spent four years in the army, first as a volunteer-observer, later as a commissioned officer. His conduct on the battlefield was outstanding and in an 1851 letter (the same letter in which he first mentions Hadji Murad) he vowed to "assist with the aid of a cannon in destroying the predatory and turbulent Asiatics." Often, however, he was less enthusiastic and already in 1853 he wrote in his diary that war is "so ugly and unjust that anybody who wages it has to stifle the voice of his conscience." Though his Caucasian activities were a far cry from his pious preoccupations while writing Hadji Murad almost fifty years later, his feelings about the war were ambivalent from the beginning.

War and peace were constant themes in Tolstoy's fiction. His first published works on peaceful gentry life, including Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1851-1857), were written in tandem with works inspired by the Southern wars: "The Raid" (1853), "The Woodfelling" (1855), The Cossacks (1852-1863), and Sevastopol Sketches (1855-56). "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" was published about twenty years later. By the time he officially resigned from the army in 1856 he was already a famous author and moved in the highest literary circles in St. Petersburg and Moscow. But concerts, operas, intellectual circles, literary salons, celebrity, and even his fellow writers soon lost their appeal for Tolstoy and he turned from literature to more "useful" work: managing Yasnaya Polyana and resuming his pedagogy, as well as traveling abroad to study educational practices-a pattern that was to repeat itself. In 1862, he married Sophia Behrs and embarked on a rich family life, which was to include thirteen children and numerous relatives and friends. Between writing his most famous novels, War and Peace (first published in 1865-69) and Anna Karenina (the first complete edition appeared in 1878), he again abandoned literature in favor of pedagogy and wrote numerous works on religion, philosophy, education, and social issues.

Tolstoy's bouts with depression and a general existential agony came to a head in the mid-1870s and he went through a profound moral crisis or rebirth, which he described in Confession (1882) and "What I Believe." These were followed by a series of religious works, including A Harmony and translation of the Gospels, also known as The Gospels in Brief. Tolstoy rethought his literary credo and published it as What Is Art? (1898). Together with Greek tragedies and the works of Shakespeare, Dante, Beethoven, and Michelangelo he denounced his own masterpieces as elitist and hence bad art. Some of his subsequent works were indeed written in the simpler style he now advocated (readings for children, "Father Sergius," "Master and Man"), and he wrote plays for popular audiences, The Power of Darkness (1886) being his only success on stage. However, he also produced "canonical" works, which were artistically akin to his earlier fiction, notably The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), Resurrection (1899), and Hadji Murad (which he worked on intermittently from 1896 to 1905). As Edward Wasiolek quips, "Tolstoy could only be a great writer even though he was the only writer trying not to be." But he felt guilty for working on Hadji Murad, confessing his enjoyment in a whisper, and referring to it as "indulgence and foolishness." As if anticipating obstacles to publication, Tolstoy did not release Hadji Murad for publication during his lifetime and when it appeared posthumously in 1912, it was heavily censored, especially the chapters about the tsar and the Russian raid on Sado's village. Uncensored editions appeared only after the 1917 Revolution.

Tolstoy had become a thorn in the side of both state and church and many of his works were censored, forbidden, and often initially published abroad. By 1901, when the Russian Orthodox Church excommunicated Tolstoy, Yasnaya Polyana had become a literary and religious pilgrimage site, and many Tolstoyan colonies had been founded (and persecuted) in Russia and abroad. The old curmudgeon had denounced industrialism, money, private property, landownership, institutionalized laws, governments, and the church. He was in lively contact with intellectuals worldwide, engaged in physical labor, was a committed vegetarian, gave up smoking and drinking, did gymnastics, played tennis, rode horses, and learned to ride a bike and cobble boots. He continued his voracious reading and language study-he learned Hebrew and even took a stab at Dutch-as well as his religious ruminations, teaching, philanthropy, and famine relief work. He polemicized against imperialist wars and criticized autocracy. In 1905, he protested against Jewish pogroms and revolutionary violence-and this was also the last year he tinkered with Hadji Murad.

By this time Tolstoy's family was managing his estates and publications, while he had relinquished his rights to recent works. Domestic squabbles grew in frequency as he became increasingly idiosyncratic and his moral convictions won out over wealth and privilege. By and large he managed to live the hard-working life of a peasant, even though family considerations kept him at his estate and his status as "the sage at Yasnaya Polyana" assured a constant dialogue with leading writers, painters, thinkers, and Tolstoyans. Wandering off to leave all that behind, he caught pneumonia and died. But even in death Tolstoy could not escape fame, attracting crowds and creating an unintentional sensation at the Astapovo railroad station, which has since been renamed in his honor.

Hadji Murad is set in the Caucasus, a mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian and between three historical empires-Turkey, Persia, and Russia-each of which has coveted the region for its strategic location, natural riches, and beauty. When Tolstoy headed for the Caucasus, the Russian empire had been expanding southwards for three centuries. The conquest reached a particularly intense stage in the drawn-out "holy war" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, led on the Caucasian side by charismatic imams who united diverse ethnic groups against Russia under the banner of Islam. The defeat in 1859 of Shamil, the most legendary imam, ended this stage of the conquest. The events Tolstoy describes in Hadji Murad took place during this last stage when some Caucasians had gone over to the Russian side, while others continued to fight. Hadji Murad is caught in a double bind between two unpalatable despots: Shamil and Nicholas I, both of whom (but especially the tsar) Tolstoy ruthlessly castigates. Hadji Murad had crossed over to the Russians in his youth in retaliation for the murder of the Avar khans by a rival. While in the Russian camp, Hadji Murad was again betrayed by a fellow Caucasian (allied with Russia) and he returned to the Caucasian side, now united under Shamil. We meet him, en route to a second surrender to the Russians, after his grudges against Shamil proved stronger than his ethnic loyalty. His family remained under Shamil's control, and by the end of the novel he again leaves the Russian camp to save them. He is attacked by a combination of Russians and allied Caucasians and beheaded, ironically, by one of his own. Through Hadji Murad's stormy encounters with mountaineers and Russians, Tolstoy shows the complex interactions between Russians and North Caucasians and the evils of war and imperialist power plays.

Hadji Murad lends symmetry to Tolstoy's oeuvre: He ended his literary career where he began it-in the Southern war zone. Ironically, he returned to the theme of war when he was most intensely preoccupied with pacifism and non-resistance to evil. This is expressed most forcefully in The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894), which influenced Mahatma Gandhi, who corresponded with Tolstoy. His initial war enthusiasm had by now given way to sharply anti-war feelings. Hadji Murad combines a theme from his youth with ideas from his old age.

Hadji Murad is a historical novel. Tolstoy did meticulous background research-down to details like Hadji Murad's limp-but used his eighty-odd sources selectively and mingled historical data with fiction, much as he had in War and Peace. The Caucasian leaders (Shamil, Hadji Murad) and the Russian leaders (Nicholas I, courtiers, local dignitaries, the Vorontsovs, Loris-Melikov) are real historical personages and Tolstoy even used their actual documents. Other people and events are transformed to fit Tolstoy's artistic needs. Sado, for example, is loosely based on Tolstoy's Chechen blood brother, Sado Miserbiev, who sided with the Russians. Their specific gifts to each other are recreated in the novel as the dagger and watch exchange between Hadji Murad and the Vorontsovs. Even the nickname of Vorontsov's son, Bulka, recycles the name of Tolstoy's black bulldog who had accompanied him to the Caucasus. Other elements (e.g., the Avdeev family) are entirely fictional, yet plausible.

Tolstoy uses three main devices to structure his ideas: reversed chronology, comparison, and framing. The novel is a contemplation of life in light of inevitable death, a theme Tolstoy had long grappled with, most famously in "Three Deaths" and "The Death of Ivan Ilych." In Hadji Murad he uses reversed chronology to feature his hero's death before we see his life, and he shows his death three times: first metaphorically as a dying thistle, next as a decapitated head (echoing his own first ritual head shaving and that of his son, Yusuf, in a masterful evocation of generational cycles), and finally his death on the battlefield. Tolstoy invites us to contemplate the hero's life in all its excitement, since his death, when finally revealed in detail, comes as no surprise.

Hadji Murad's life is defined by the company he keeps and the events he participates in, especially the war. Tolstoy evaluates the imperial conquest and the main actors on both sides by using a second structuring device: multiple comparisons-between Russians and Caucasians, as well as comparisons by class within each camp. His comparisons are echoed throughout the text. The married Nicholas' tryst with a young girl is compared to Shamil's futile pursuit of his youngest wife, and both rulers are easily flattered and deceived. Within the Russian camp, Nicholas' womanizing is echoed by the Uhlan officer who has his own amorous tête-à-tête in the tsar's box, by Poltoratsky's flirtation with Vorontsov's wife, Butler's romancing Mary Dmitrievna, and Avdeev's wife's affair with the shopkeeper. Among the lower classes, the Avdeev serf family echoes the simple villager Sado and his family, and the cameo appearance of Nazarov provides a fainter echo of these suffering families. This intricate pattern of comparisons and ripple effects, extending potentially forever, yields a condensed novel, yet creates the same kind of "saturation reality" that characterizes Tolstoy's long novels. This structure gives the novel depth and conveys the sense that all of life is interconnected and part of a larger, still relevant, reality. Tolstoy avoids the kind of direct sermonizing that some readers have found objectionable in, for instance, the disquisitions on history in War and Peace. Through an intense accumulation of comparisons and echoes, Tolstoy voices his scorn for the upper classes on both sides and his sympathies for the (by no means entirely virtuous) lower classes, who lead simpler, more moral and productive lives and bear the brunt of the suffering. The echoes reiterate facets of the same message and make it all the more compelling. The Russians as a whole are depicted more negatively than the Caucasians and Tolstoy shows how the southward-marching empire disrupts the lives of both colonizers and colonized, how power corrupts, and how rulers make poor role models. He depicts good actions and cruelties on both sides and thus seems objective.

Tolstoy is less eager than before to show any positive aspect of war-there is little bravery on the Russian side and though the Caucasians, especially Hadji Murad, are valiant fighters, they do not gain from their prowess. In his earlier Caucasian stories Tolstoy praised unostentatious bravery and admired the "submissive" soldier in contrast to the wannabe "oriental" he mercilessly parodied. He did not directly speak up against war or the powers that wage war. In Hadji Murad he condemns the cruelty, sensuality, and hypocrisy of the Russian government in no uncertain terms, and implicitly confesses his own complicity and guilt. By showing the evils of war and the destructive effects of conscription, he voices his pacifist belief in non-resistance to evil.

Perhaps the most obvious device Tolstoy uses is the traditional frame story (about the narrator picking flowers), which introduces the core story and hints at many of its themes. The plot of the frame story is simple: A man wanders across newly plowed fields between hay and rye harvests. He picks a bouquet of wildflowers and spots a weed: a beautiful "Tatar" thistle. He tries to add it to his bouquet, but finds the prickly plant impossible to pick. He (and the plow before him) has mangled the thistle, and he discards it. He remembers "a Caucasian episode of years ago." The frame resumes at the conclusion of the novel and the botanical plot is laid bare as a metaphor for the Caucasian war and Hadji Murad. The narrator and his thistle are metonymies for the Russian army and its victims: as parts, they stand for and anticipate a larger whole. The frame introduces the major themes and provides a key for interpreting Hadji Murad. It is ingeniously integrated with the core story.

The images of plowing and fertile black fields are distinctly positive Tolstoyan symbols for productive peasant life. As is well known, plowing was one of his favorite occupations. The painter Ilya Repin even eternalized Tolstoy as "The Plowman." In Hadji Murad, however, plowing is destructive. Cultivating fields for harvesting destroys natural wildflowers (the older Tolstoy was a serious vegetarian, at one point even swayed not to eat plants that had been "slaughtered"). "Cultivation" foreshadows the war as a mission to bring "culture" and "civilizing" technology to the Caucasus. Though the narrator enthusiastically describes the Russian flora and harvests, his focus turns to weeds mangled by plows. The thistle is a "Tatar" thistle, relating it directly to the Tatars in the Caucasus. Tolstoy sets up the reader's sympathies for the "mangled" "natural" natives, rather than the "cultivating/cultured" Russians. From the title on, Tolstoy emphasizes the victims, and we sympathize with them before we actually meet them. He personifies the thistle with graphic images of human mutilation and blinding, which recur in the description of Hadji Murad's death and Shamil's threat to blind his son. The Russian conquest brings only death, and the plowed "black earth" becomes a Caucasian grave in Khanefi's song. Even the life-giving, pollinating "velvety bumble-bee," driven from the thistle by the narrator, anticipates the apiaries the Russians burn in the raid. The plow and the wheel (hallowed symbols for human progress) used for cultivation in the frame story anticipate the imperial army's arsenal of military technology used to fell trees, raid villages, and kill innocent children. Technological "progress" in Hadji Murad is deadly even when it produces gadgets, such as the impressive cogs-and-wheels mechanism of the watch Vorontsov gives Hadji Murad. It is a useless part of "bad" elite culture. Its chimes echo the silver bells humans had attached to a tamed falcon who was pecked to death when returning to the wild in the Tavlinian fable cited.

Tolstoy criticizes "cultivation" as upper-class culture, "art for art's sake." The narrator is an aesthete, appreciative of natural beauty, lovingly detailing the names, shapes, colors, and fragrances of each flower and the design of his bouquet. Ornamentation and sensual pleasure are later negatively echoed in Russian upper-class mores: the women's colorful décolleté dresses and fragrant perfumes, the Vorontsovs' ostentatious luxury, the card playing, flirtation, and Frenchified foppishness. High culture and "cultured" theatricality (culminating in the tsar's rapacious masquerades and theatre) is revealed in all its falsity through Hadji Murad's eyes. "Making strange" (ostranenie) is one of the devices Tolstoy excels at: He has a knack for alerting us to what goes unnoticed by using unusual perspectives. Here Tolstoy uses ostranenie to reevaluate aristocratic habits and culture.

"Cultivation" is also linked to another aspect of "bad" elite culture. As Susan Layton has shown, Hadji Murad is a condemnation of cultural literacy. The most positive characters (Hadji Murad, Avdeev, and his mother) are illiterate, while the villains (the tsar, Shamil, their courtiers) write badly (Nicholas cannot spell) and use writing to order war and murder, falsify history, exaggerate war casualties, and impede communication (letters are not received, written orders are twisted). To the written word Tolstoy contrasts "natural" communication, spoken language, folk poetry, and bird song. Although Avdeev never receives his mother's letter, Hadji Murad remembers his mother's song. Singing nightingales give him solace and an eloquent requiem. In showing simple communication as superior to elite (non)communication, Tolstoy illustrates what he preached in What is Art? He is, however, caught in the double bind of having to do so in writing.

The frame story symbolically renounces the Russian rape of the beautiful "virginal" Caucasus. Flower picking is a cruel activity (like a violated woman, the thistle is plucked and discarded) and the plow's "fertile" mission is no less sexual. Tolstoy was obsessed with negative aspects of sex, to the extent of preaching chastity even in marriage-most famously in The Kreutzer Sonata, "The Devil," and "Father Sergius." In Hadji Murad, he uses sexual imagery to describe the ills of war and territorial conquest. The image of a plucked flower is a literary cliché for rape, and sexual imagery of penetrating and cultivating "virgin" territory often symbolizes imperial conquest in Western "orientalist" literature. It is no accident that the men in charge are sexual predators. Shamil's polygamy is ridiculed, but Nicholas is Tolstoy's prime rapist-conqueror. His rape of the Swedish "twenty-year-old virgin" together with his de facto murder of the Polish student, told as episodes within a story of the Caucasian war, build up to Tolstoy's sharpest indictment of Russian imperialist expansion to the North, West, and South. Nicholas' subordinates of all classes have similar sexual/colonizing appetites, and his greed for power and Caucasian land is paralleled on a smaller scale by Shamil's and even Hadji Murad's hunger to rule their smaller realms, as evil perpetuates-an important aspect of Tolstoy's doctrine of non-resistance. Even the most positive Russian character, Mary Dmitrievna, the only one to directly condemn the war, is herself a target of Russian erotic desire. War wreaks havoc on marriages and kills children: Shamil sadistically holds Hadji Murad's family hostage and tsarist troops bayonet Sado's son in the back. Hadji Murad's death in trying to save his family becomes particularly heroic and tragic against this background.

Tolstoy's Caucasian works fit within a distinct literary tradition. In 1824, Alexander Pushkin's verse tale "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" unleashed a flood of romantic literature set in the exotic South (Mikhail Lermontov's "Izmael Bey," Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinskii's "Ammalat Bek," Elena Gan's "Dzhellaledin"). Russia followed the European vogue for the oriental tale, and Russia's southern frontier became its most literary Orient. These texts give romanticized pictures of Caucasian nature, native braves, noble savages, and willing love-slaves, and they tend to present the Russian conquest positively as an escape from upper-class Byronic ennui, courtship, or a civilizing mission. Tolstoy's early Caucasian texts served as realist rebuttals to the romantic canon.

One way Tolstoy turns the romantic canon on its head is through his equation of conquest and rape. Traditionally the Caucasus was personified as an eager bride to a Russian groom as in Aleksandr Odoevskii's poem "The Marriage of Georgia to the Russian Tsardom." "Oriental" harem odalisques were eager to satisfy Russian males' erotic desires, as in Aleksandr Polezhaev's description of a harem in "The Renegade," and loving native women sacrificed their lives for jaded Russian captives in the various "Prisoners of the Caucasus." Often Caucasian men posed a danger to blonde Russian women, as for instance Izmael Bey, or were raging Othellos like Ammalat-Bek or Dzhellaledin. In Hadji Murad none of the Caucasian men show any desire for Russian women and their libidos are, if anything, low. Hadji Murad himself thinks more often about his mother than his wife.

Tolstoy also battles the romantic canon by creating realistic pictures of life in the war zone. He broadens the traditional focus on the upper classes by providing a cross-section of society. In Hadji Murad he moves from serf to tsar. He disabuses his literary heroes of their literature-induced romantic dreams by naming previous heroes as bad examples and showing the harmful effects of romantic stories. Olenin's dreams (in The Cossacks) "were mingled with pictures of Amalat-Beks, Circassian women, mountains, precipices, terrible torrents, and perils." His subsequent life in the Cossack village is quite different. Butler in Hadji Murad is a descendant of Tolstoy's parodic self-orientalizers. He seeks the company of Caucasians, is as enthralled by their songs as he is by their horses and weapons, and he even buys himself Circassian clothing to become a native brave. But Butler reverts to his "civilized" ways of womanizing and card playing.

The earlier romantic works, however, were surprisingly tenacious. Even at the end of the nineteenth century (despite the dominance of literary realism) the canonical Caucasian works were more popular than Tolstoy's rebuttals. In Hadji Murad he renews his rebuttal on moral grounds, while at the same time implementing his predecessors' successful style and featuring their kind of colorful hero. This strategy worked: Hadji Murad has been well received. Harold Bloom, for instance, features Hadji Murad as the only Russian work in his Western Canon, calling it "my personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction, to me the best story in the world, or at least the best that I have ever read." Bloom's canonization is of course ironical, given Tolstoy's own rejection of the Western canon in What is Art?

Tolstoy's Caucasian works have become cultural icons and inspired further variations on the Caucasus theme. Anatoly Pristavkin's novel The Inseparable Twins (Nochevala tuchka zolotaia,1987) equates Soviet twin orphans (exiled to the Caucasus) to the Chechen population (exiled by Stalin in 1944), whose villages (like that of Sado) are occupied by the Russians. The twins embark on their journey with Lermontov, Pushkin, and Tolstoy as guides, including an image of "the crazy black-bearded mountain warrior Hadji Murat [who] had blazed away at his enemies," and they play games impersonating Hadji Murat and Budyonny, anachronistically recreating a child-sized Butler and a two-pronged imperial conquest. Like Tolstoy's characters, the twins are disabused of their dreams. One of them becomes the mutilated victim of Chechen vengeance. Vladimir Makanin's Prisoner from the Caucasus (Kavkazskii plennyi,1995) updates Tolstoy's tale to show the absurdities of the twentieth-century Caucasian war, with both friendly and unfriendly Chechens and confusion as to who arms whom. Sex has homoerotic overtones and is deadly. Sergei Bodrov's film The Prisoner of the Mountains (Kavkazskii plennik, 1996) also relocates Tolstoy's prisoners into the current Chechen war, and Pushkin's native love-slave who saves his Russian captive is turned into a thirteen-year-old with a crush on one of the Russians. As in Hadji Murad, parents grieve for captured children and the Caucasian father Abdul Murat (an obvious descendant of Hadji Murad) behaves more nobly than his Russian adversaries. Boris Akunin's "East and West" (2001) is a postmodernist descendant of Hadji Murad in which Tolstoy's hero is Russianized into Hadji Muratov (reflecting the Russification of the region). Akunin develops Tolstoy's hints at modern technology by overloading his version with missiles, helicopters, airplanes, telephones, microphones, and televisions. Muratov occupies a hospital in an urbanized version of Sado's village, with Loris-Melikov anachronistically serving as the Russian prime minister who disarms the Chechens and is presented with Hadji Muratov's decapitated head in a description eerily reminiscent of Tolstoy's. Akunin reminds us that "collateral damage" includes pregnant women, innocent children, and bloody beheadings. Imperialist tactics are questionable and when Akunin's Loris-Melikov contemplates Muratov's head, he concludes: "evidently we ought to free these wild children of nature. Let them live as they please. Love cannot be forced." Hadji Murad's narrator "felt sorry to have vainly destroyed a flower that looked beautiful in its proper place." Perhaps Tolstoy is telling us that Russia is not suited to be a melting-pot empire and ought to leave Chechnya alone. Akunin seems to advocate this interpretation of Hadji Murad with his Kiplingesque title, "East and West"-perhaps the twain are not fated to meet.

Gitta Hammarberg is DeWitt Wallace Professor of Russian at Macalester College, where she teaches nineteenth-century Russian literature and culture. She is the author of From the Idyll to the Novel. Karamzin's Sentimentalist Prose (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and articles and book chapters about Russian literature on topics such as the feminization of the late eighteenth-century literary canon, the first women's journals, the inception of literary criticism, album verse, literary games, literary polemics, dandyism, and spa culture.
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    Great Read, Quick Read (Especially for Tolstoy)

    Tolstoy's last novel, Hadji Murad, is an accessible read that provides a framework within which to interpret not only the events of the novel but also serves to provide a framework within which one may interpret the events of one's own life. Tolstoy's Hadji Murad contains a microcosm of the inherent difficulties and the innate devotion connected with family. Further, anyone can find the power-hungry Shamil, the cutthroat Hadji Aga, and the overindulgent Tsar Nicholas among the characters in one's own living novel. Beyond the historical significance of the novel and the amazing prose of Tolstoy, the framework encasing the plight of Hadji Murad provides an amusing perspective when applied to the idiosyncrasies of daily life. After reading War and Peace and Anna Karenina, this is a fun one for Tolstoy. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Very enjoyable. Short by Tolstoy standards but very well written and clearly helped to understand the conflict that still exists.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2001

    Last Master Piece of the Greatest Novelist

    Hadji Murad was Tolstoy's favorite story --a precious work of art. The tale is about the last days of the great Chechen warrior Hadji Murad who spent his courageous life fighting for his beliefs and for the independence of his people against the Russians only to be betrayed by his own. This tale is truly one of the greatest stories ever written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2010

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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