Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov was born in Moscow on January 15, 1795. His father, Sergey Ivanovich, was a retired captain of the dragoons. His mother, Nastasya Fyodorovna (née Griboyedova), was from a more prominent branch of the same family. Although not wealthy, the Griboyedovs were comfortable. They belonged to high society, and Alexander received a good education.
In accordance with the custom of the time, Griboyedov was taught at home by German tutors. His first tutor, Johann Petrosilius, was later the librarian at Moscow University, while a subsequent tutor, Johann Ion, had been a student at Göttingen University. Griboyedov spent several years in the University School in Moscow before entering Moscow University in 1806, when he was only eleven. He completed courses in literature and in law, studied physics and mathematics, and was ready to embark on a doctorate in 1812 when the Napoleonic invasion interrupted his studies. By this time, he was fluent in French, German, English, and Italian and was also a fine pianist.
Following limited service in the Napoleonic Wars, Griboyedov moved to St. Petersburg and entered the College of Foreign Affairs. A talented musician and a dandy, he spent considerable time with actors and playwrights, and it was at this time that he wrote, either alone or in collaboration with friends, the short comedies that were the precursors of The Mischief of Being Clever. He joined the same Masonic lodge, Des Amis Réunis (the assembled friends), to which the philosopher Peter Chaadayev and the future Decembrist Pavel Pestel belonged.
Griboyedov’s connections with the theatrical world and his involvement with the ballerina Istomina led to a quarrel and later a duel in which Griboyedov and Count Zavadovsky were paired against A. I. Yakubovich and A. I. Sheremetev. Zavadovsky killed Sheremetev, and the encounter between Griboyedov and Yakubovich was delayed. The surviving principals were punished; Zavadovsky was exiled, and Yakubovich was sent to the Caucasus with the Nizhny-Novgorod Dragoons. Yakubovich and Griboyedov subsequently fought in the Caucasus, and Griboyedov was wounded in the hand.
Griboyedov’s facility with languages having enabled him to acquire knowledge of Persian, he was given the post of secretary in the Russian Legation in Teheran. Griboyedov spent nearly two years, from early 1819 until the end of 1821, in Persia. He intensely disliked his situation and was able to obtain the post of diplomatic secretary to the proconsul of the Caucasus, General A. P. Yermolov, serving in Tiflis, Georgia, through 1822 and the beginning of 1823. He subsequently spent most of 1823 and part of 1824 in Moscow on extended leave, followed by a stay in...
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