Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. With that quote from Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy owns one of the more pointed observations of family life. I wonder if Hadji Murad has similar brilliance:

Hadji Murat, one of the most feared and venerated mountain chiefs in the Chechen struggle against the Russians, defects from the Muslim rebels after feuding with his ruling Imam, Shamil. Hoping to protect his family, he joins the Russians, who accept him but never put their trust in him – and so Murat must find another way to end the struggle.

Could be interesting. . .

9 thoughts on “Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy”

  1. A great read of Historical fiction from Tolstoy, which I enjoyed immensely. It shows how history repeats itself without lessons really being learned.

    I was in my early teens when I read his War and Peace epic, I have also read each of his books, and with the exception of his ‘Short Stories’ I have enjoyed them all.

    Talking of Tolstoy…
    The Russian film industry has long been ‘out of favour’ due to its historical links with the old Soviet Union.
    If you don’t mind reading sub titles whilst you watch a film then I would suggest seeking out of some of their classical films; soak up a bit of foreign culture and experience life from a different prospective, it will certainly make you appreciate your own life and the style it offers.

    Some favourite military classics such as…

    * Battleship Potemkim. 1925.
    A silent B&W movie on the dramatized account story of a Russian Battleships crew that mutinied. The film is a mix of actual footage, which even today is captivating to watch.

    * Come and see. 1985.
    A young peasant boy finds a rifle and runs off to join the Soviet Army of WW2. This film has to be an absolute nightmare for the Health & safety fraternity as most of the war scenes actually used live ammunition for greater effect.

    Just about to place my feet back on the ground before I get carried away… Done!

    Yours Aye.

    1. What interesting comments, Ex Bootneck…I find most things Russian something on a par with German opera…dark, foreboding, long, tedious and almost archetypical…the similarities of course are amazing…I recall one time while stationed in Hawaii, one of my co-workers (who had been a former Russian linguist, Navy One) recommended watching the German opera, Siegfried on PBS…you want to talk bathroom busting….I sat there for hours denying myself that bathroom break and ultimately had to turn it off…about a spoiled young man, raised by a dwarf…those subtitles and the opera itself were about the most boring aspect of the entire thing….sorry, I had to endure many years of translating German (it was my initial major after Biology) and tedium is just part of the game….
      So, I haven’t as you can surmise, had the wherewithal to read a Tolstoy novel or even short story in my lifetime. I did however get to read some Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn which has proved, at least to me, Russian authors are beyond my own personal comprehension…I’m just not smart enough or depressed enough to get into it….k

      1. Kristen, I agree with you; but from an ex military point of view, I do find the Russian film (and other non English speaking nations) industry a fascinating subject in general, as it shows just how they all ‘tick’.

        The German film industry also offers the same insight, which reveals so much about its dark Teutonic background. As you know yourself, such a powerful nation today came about by being heavily defeated in two World Wars.
        Suppression by The German Emperor and members of the Royal Family as well as its Prussian hierarchy (followed by an abominable dictator whose name I will not grace here) left its people torn to pieces.

        Once they were lifted by the freethinking capitalist west the German industrial work force prospered, and in most heavy industries today they tend to dominate the world in quality and quantity.
        (Please note I do not include Russia as liberators).

        Some times I think we take our freedom for granted, and forget what it must be like to live under a dictator…
        (I can read your mind Kristen and I take into account your present leaders position)!

        My Father used to say; “Culture is a two way thing, it is education that opens a persons mind, it is also a bacteria that grows on cheese; too much of both can make you feel ill”!

        I know when I have had my fill, I tend to put my walking boots on and head for a grassy hill, or take a ‘bimble’ through heavy woodland.

        [bimble (verb) : to walk in a relaxed but purposeful fashion from one location to another].


  2. Speaking of Russian literature, when I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for the second time in my life, one thing struck me: The Russian characters seemed easily offended by the slightest remark and held grudges. I wondered if that was only in the 19th-Century and if they had changed. Later I was on a two-week trip to Russia and found they are still that way on the whole. I know I’m stereotyping, and that perhaps nott every Russian is like this, but in general I found it to be true. Later I got to know a Russian-born woman in the U.S. and after several years of acquaintance, and seeming to be a really great person, the easily-offended side appeared, in spades! This is politically incorrect, of course, but this is what I’ve experienced.

    1. Clerk
      I feel you are correct in your quantification of stereotype, and in my book there is no Political Correctness, so I feel you are correct all round.

      Not wishing to teach anyone to suck eggs… I leave these words in a simplistic form for those outside of the thinking box.

      Like you I have had dealings with the same ‘natured’ people from old Mother Russia (first hand experience).

      My belief is that their “flash to bang” temperament stems from past and present hardships laid down by the cruel, very often brutal, ways of the state. It goes back over hundreds of years (even when the Royal Family sat on the roost), and it appears to be engrained within each sex at every level, even after the advent of Capitalism it only simmers just under the surface.

      When the Russian Federation was born, it’s people achieved freedom in the way of Capitalism, which was an unknown quantity that actually terrified the general populace. They had no schooling in such ways, and the majority simply sat back and watched the elite succeed on a huge scale. The little people prospered only from the crumbs the elite offered in the way of work in low paid jobs. Any lower class worker with visions of grandeur was quickly stomped on by the neighbourhood Mafia’s who sought power them selves.

      Russian Capitalism brought its unique form of corruption as the old Police state slowly crumbled and declined.

      The Mafia’s are now threatening the ‘Elite’; the Elite in turn now wish to see a return of old state values in the shape of a “Super-State ‘incorruptible’ Police Force”. Mr. Putin will guarantee them their wish, (just as he planned it as he was the one who initiated the dark side to place fear into the peasant stock).

      Obviously the Elite will be ‘taxed’ for this favour, which will probably be deductible and returned through a nod and a wink!

      A Judicial system will only work with the enforcement of its Police authority and Government combined. Low & behold; Putin owns them both, and once the mighty Russian Bear awakes from its [pretence] slumber, I believe we will eventually hear of atrocities that would make the Taliban & Al Qaeda blush.

      Putin requires his Billionaires (and more so their funds and interests) away from London & Europe, and placed back into the coffers of the Mother country. Monaco kicked them out a couple of years ago and cleared their conscience by doing so; Cyprus is now undergoing the same process, as are several other European states. Like it or not Russia will be back on the International scene as a player (not as a toothless cuddly bear as it now is).

      Putin knows where the next major threat is coming from, which Russia as a country alone cannot control. The Islamic nations that sit around its borders are now looking deep within, eyeing up a lazy corrupt (almost bankrupt) Nation. It is simply a matter of time before they assemble as one horde and start moving forward and inward.

      Chechnya alone has well over 100 years worth of grudges to release. The conscript Russian Federation army do not have the heart, soul, or the commitment to repel it.

      One of Russia’s main problems is that the Islamic enemy around its long border all use the same weapons, ammunition, aircraft, tanks, and spare parts. Logistically they have assisted those of the ‘ill disposed’ in bringing them selves down, in spades!


      1. Ex Bootneck,
        You certainly have a deep historical/psychological/politico/strategic understanding of that giant bear of a country, and of the Muslim conglomerate. I thank you for that analysis. You could probably add to that scenario of Muslim forces vs Mother Russia the fact that Russian fertility is very low, and their population is small compared to the vast tracts of land on which it sits.

        I’m wondering which will come first: Muslims encroaching/invading vast Russia, or Russia moving to dominate the oil-rich, equally vast in territory (if not more), high fertility Muslim lands. Perhaps what will happen, unfortunately for us in the West, is that Russia’s method of dominating the Muslim world will be by placating them in everything, being their ally. This would place one tremendous chunk of land area and hordes of people (including fanatical Jihadis) in conflict with the Western World.

        I believe the Muslims who are Russian citizens within Russia, and with the Russian military, are increasing at a rate much higher than Christian and atheist actual Russians. But this is happening in Western Europe too, it seems to me.

        And then again, the billion and a half Chinese no doubt look hungrily at the tremendous stretches of under-inhabited lands of Russia. Perhaps they will one day invade Russia.

        The only certainty is that, unfortunately, the future will be very interesting. The ancient Chinese curse is: “May you live in interesting times.”


  3. EB: I had a great teacher of Russian lit in college and she opened my eyes to Russian writing. Gogol, Dosty, Tolstoy. I can’t say I have ventured into their cinema though.
    Kris: Linguists do strange things. Before the internet really came on, we were desperate for language material that was new. I’ve seen hundred of hours of cartoons in Arabic!
    Clark: In the Brothers K, the section on Alyosha is positively transcendental. And I rarely use that term. . .

  4. Navy One,
    Russian literature, especially (perhaps only?) of the nineteenth century, is fascinating.

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read The Brothers Karamazov. I’ll have to catch up on that, especially the part on Alyosha. Thanks for the tip.
    Kris, Do you speak Arabic or Russian? In the last couple of years I’ve been teaching myself Russian and Japanese, orally only, using Pimsleur’s method. Might be a mistake to learn two languages at once. Sometimes I stick a word from Japanese into a Russian sentence, and vice versa.
    Best wishes to all,

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