Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude
Hadji Murat is a short novel written by Leo Tolstoy from 1896 to 1904 and published posthumously in 1912 (though not in full until 1917). It is Tolstoy's final work. The protagonist is Hadji Murat, an Avar rebel commander who, for reasons of personal revenge, forges an uneasy alliance with the Russians he had been fighting.
The narrator prefaces the story with his comments on a crushed, but still living thistle he finds in a field (a symbol for the main character), after which he begins to tell the story of Hadji Murat, a successful and famed separatist guerrilla who falls out with his own commander and eventually sides with the Russians in hope of saving his family. Hadji Murat's family is being contained and controlled by the Chechen leader who abducted his mother, two wives, and five children. Aside from the fact that Murat wants to save his family, he additionally wants to avenge the deaths of other family members. The story opens with Murat and two of his followers fleeing from Shamil, the commander of the Caucasian separatists, who is at war with the Russians. They find refuge at the house of Sado, a loyal supporter of Murat. The local people learn of his presence and chase him out of the village.
His lieutenant succeeds in making contact with the Russians, who promise to meet Murat. He eventually arrives at the fortress of Vozdvizhenskaya to join the Russian forces, in hopes of drawing their support in order to overthrow Shamil and save his family. Before his arrival, a small skirmish occurs with some Chechens outside the fortress, and Petrukha Avdeyev, a young Russian soldier bleeds out in a local military hospital after being shot. Tolstoy makes a chapter-length aside about Petrukha: childless, he volunteered as a conscript in place of his brother who had a family of his own. Petrukha's father regrets this because he was a dutiful worker compared to his complacent brother.
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