What is the main conflict in Haji Murad?

The main conflict in Hadji Murad is the individual versus society. The title character and protagonist is torn between his loyalty to his own people, the Avar, and the Russians. His decision to join the Russians is prompted not only by an individual conflict with another Avar man but by his need to rescue his family. The primary conflict, however, is the one that Murad experiences after his defection as he struggles in vain for credibility.

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Leo Tolstoy’s novella Hadji Murad highlights a personal dilemma that occurs within a wartime setting. Murad, the protagonist, is an Avar (or Chechen) man who decides the join the opposing, Russian side in a last-resort attempt to save his family. Because his rival, Shamil, is not only holding his family hostage but is also the Avars’ leader, Murad understands that he cannot depend on his own people for support. Believing he has no choice but to appeal to the Russians, he defects along with some followers.

Tolstoy presents this heart-wrenching decision as a true dilemma in that it has no viable solution. The Russians are initially suspicious of Murad’s motives, despite the ring of truth in the story about his family. They know that in the past, he had fought in earnest against them. The Russian prince, Vorontsov, and his father both hope to manipulate Murad into helping them, but they are not committed to reciprocating by helping rescue his family.

Murad must come to terms with the fact that he and the Russians do not—and indeed cannot—trust each other. Rejecting the prospect of aiding the Russian cause, Murad tries to escape from his confinement at the fort. He fails to outrun or fight off his pursuers, who not only kill but also decapitate him.

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