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Friday, August 28, 2009

Tolstoy’s Thistle

In the last years of his life, the great novelist began his final work inspired by an intractable thistle and an 18th C. Muslim chieftan, just as tough.

imageLeo Tolstoy with hyacinths and one of his grandchildren

Photo: via Lance Mannion

The conflict between Russia and Chechnya goes back at least two centuries. A young Leo Tolstoy, in his years as a soldier, served in the Caucuses and learned first hand of the Muslim tribes’ resistance to Russian rule. 

Many decades later, he wrote,  “I remembered a Caucasian episode of years ago which I had partly seen myself, partly heard from eyewitnesses, and in part imagined.” From 1896-1904, Tolstoy wrote his fictionalized account of Hadji Murad, a tribal chieftan and warrior whose life was wrenched apart by the strife between his homeland and the great power to the East. This story was the author’s final work. Tolstoy said that catching sight of a wild thistle, he remembered the great Muslim, his resistance, endurance and tragic end.

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Posted by Julie on 08/28 at 03:03 PM
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