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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 261

The principal characters of Tolstoy's novella are:

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  • Hadji Murat. (I have spelled the name with a "t" because this orthographically corresponds to Tolstoy's Russian spelling. "Hadji" is a title for a leader or commander). Murat is an Avar (or possibly Chechen, as in present-day Chechnya: one of the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus) leader who has come into conflict with his own people and who "goes over" to the Russians who, however, are the ones who end up killing him.
  • Shamil. Another Muslim leader with whom Murat comes into conflict. Shamil has abducted Murat's family and thus caused Murat's defection to the Russians for help.
  • Vorontsov. A Russian prince, a member of the military stationed in the Caucasus who befriends Murat.
  • Loris-Melikov. Another Russian (probably of Armenian descent) officer to whom Murat dictates his life-story.
  • Gamzat. Another of the Caucasus leaders who when killed is replaced by Shamil as commander.
  • Czar Nicholas I. Tolstoy's depiction of the Czar, who reigned from 1825 to 1855, is quite negative. As with much of the Russian ruling class in general in Tolstoy's writings, the Czar is shown as cynical, lazy, power-hungry, and amoral (the latter especially with regard to women). He sees nothing wrong with attacking the Caucasus people, burning them out of their villages, destroying their crops, and so on, in the interests of Russian expansion.
  • The Avar (or Muslim north-Caucasus) people as a whole. They form a "character" overall in their resistance to the Russian aggressors. In my view, the crushed thistle described in the frame of Tolstoy's narrative is symbolic of them.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1174

Hadji Murad

Hadji Murad (KHAH-jih MEW-rahn), a Turkish Caucasian warrior-leader, formerly a Russian-appointed governor of Avaria and more recently the insurgent Shamil’s chief representative there. With widely separated black eyes, a shaven head, a slender frame, muscular arms and small, sunburned hands, and a limp as a result of a fall over a precipice during an escape from Akhmet Khan, the turbaned Hadji Murad cuts an impressive figure astride a horse. Intimidating when serious and disarming when smiling, Hadji Murad is fearless, uncomplicated, devoutly religious, and instinctively optimistic. The narrative revolves around his decision to join forces with the Russians in an effort to defeat Shamil, who holds his aged mother, two wives, and six children captive. The politically naïve Hadji Murad, caught between the Russians and their Caucasian foes, appears doomed from the outset to a tragic end.


Shamil (shah-MIHL), the spiritual and military leader (imam) of the Chechen Caucasian Turks. A tall, slender, powerful, plainly clad, and charismatic figure, Shamil is dedicated to an ascetic Muslim faith and to the defeat of the “infidel” Russian foreigners. Russia’s most formidable regional foe of the day, Shamil is a calculating, realistic leader who, though he regrets Hadji Murad’s defection, realizes that victory is impossible without his former associate’s death. His threat to kill or blind Hadji Murad’s son Yusuf succeeds in drawing Hadji Murad into a fatal rescue attempt.

Prince Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov

Prince Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov (seh-MYO-noh-vihch voh-ROH -tsov), the aging, aristocratic Russian commander in chief at Tiflis. Vorontsov’s ambition, wealth, connections, abilities, and kindness toward inferiors have brought him great success. Still agile and mentally alert at more than seventy years of age, although readily susceptible to flattery, he is the only sirdar (commander) to whom Hadji Murad is willing to surrender himself. Vorontsov does not act on Hadji Murad’s request for an exchange of prisoners of war for the...

(The entire section contains 2066 words.)

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