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In 1851 Leo Tolstoy enlisted in the Russian army and was sent to the Caucasus to help defeat the Chechens. During this war a great Avar chieftain, Hadji Murád, broke with the Chechen leader Shamil and fled to the Russians for safety. Months later, while attempting to rescue his family from Shamil’s prison, Hadji Murád was pursued by those he had betrayed and, after fighting the most heroic battle of his life, was killed. Tolstoy, witness to many of the events leading to Hadji Murád’s death, set down this story with painstaking accuracy to preserve for future generations the horror, nobility, and destruction inherent in war.
Kate Lochte says:
“Tolstoy died before his final work Hadji Murad was published in 1912. Critics say that the loneliness of the book’s romantic Cacausian Avar hero (based on the actual person Hadji Murad) brings to mind that of Tolstoy himself who died apart from family and friends.
“Hadji Murad‘s antagonists are rival Avar tribesman Shamil, who led between 1834 and 1859 and Russian Czar Nicholas 1. Murad surrenders himself to the Russians when Shamil kidnaps Murad’s family. Murad’s mission is to ally himself with the Russians in an effort to save them. The novel pits the noble, but conniving tribesman against the corrupt and scheming Russians. There’s pressing danger in the cold air for the colorful, but ascetic Murad and those who assist him. The story is fresh and pertinent in light of our own era’s clash of Western and Eastern civilizations. Humankind doesn’t learn.”