Tolstoy’s novella blends fiction and historical fact to portray a legendary Avar chieftain who switched sides in the nineteenth-century Russo-Caucasian war. Inspired by the author’s military service, Hadji Murád offers riveting views of warfare and treason, murder and vengeance, and behind-the-scenes political plotting. An uncharacteristically brief story by the creator of War and Peace, it voices Tolstoy’s pacifist beliefs.
This novella also provides a compelling depiction of the Caucasus, a mountainous territory between the Black Sea and the Caspian, prized for its strategic location and natural resources. Located at the crossroads of three empires — Turkey, Persia, and Russia — the region has long struggled with incursions by its neighbors and remains a troubled corner of the world to this day. Tolstoy’s realistic pictures of life in a war zone raise enduringly relevant issues of life and death.