Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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 latter’s family members in Shamil’s custody, nor does he believe the latter’s declaration of loyalty to the czar. He treats Hadji Murad well nevertheless and allows him to move about the region in an effort to find a way to secure his family’s release.

Prince Semen Mikhailovich Vorontsov

Prince Semen Mikhailovich Vorontsov (seh-MYON mih-KHAH-ih-loh-vihch), the Russian commander of the Kurinsky regiment stationed at Vozdvighensk and the commander in chief’s son. A fair-haired and long-faced...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Though Hadji Murad is a short novel or novella, it has a panoramic scope and a large cast of characters. Writing as a detached omniscient third-person narrator, Leo Tolstoy moves among the characters freely. Hadji Murad, although the title figure, is present in only about half the novella, but his character dominates the narrative. A devout Moslem (a Hadji is one who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca), he never fails to make the prescribed Islamic prayers. In one sense, he is a turncoat and renegade. Yet, he also appears as a man of honor, driven twice into defection through betrayal by his allies. As a warrior, he is bold, resolute, and fearless; his prowess is legendary. In person, he is tall and slender, with a shaved head and black wide-set eyes. Despite his limp, he moves with the sinuous grace of an untamed panther. He is a man of action rather than contemplation. Thus, the reader rarely gets into his mind. Charismatic, Hadji Murad is a natural leader: haughty and contemptuous toward those he scorns, charming toward those he admires. His generosity and courtesy are Homeric. Whatever his faults, he is more admirable than either the czar or Shamil, to whose power plays he is victim.

Czar Nicholas I, who appears in several chapters, and Shamil, who makes only a brief appearance when he threatens to mutilate Hadji Murad’s son, but whose presence is felt throughout the narrative, are both evil manipulators of power. As the critic Henri Troyat...

(The entire section is 600 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bayley, John. Tolstoy and the Novel, 1966.

Crankshaw, Edward. Tolstoy: The Making of a Novelist, 1974.

Simmons, Ernest J. Leo Tolstoy, 1946.

Tolstoy, Leo. The Portable Tolstoy, 1978. Edited by John Bayley.

Troyat, Henri. Tolstoy, 1967.