Alexandr Griboyedov
Aleksander Sergeyevich Griboyedov (January 15, 1795 – February 11, 1829) was a Russian diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

, playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, and composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

. He is recognized as homo unius libri
Homo unius libri
Homo unius libri is a phrase that is generally attributed to Thomas Aquinas. According to a literary tradition at least three centuries old, Saint Thomas Aquinas is reputed to have employed the phrase "hominem unius libri timeo" .-Interpretations:Aquinas's phrase has been interpreted in various ways...

, a writer of one book, whose fame rests on the brilliant verse comedy Woe from Wit
Woe from Wit
Woe from Wit is Alexander Griboyedov's comedy in verse, satirizing the society of post-Napoleonic Moscow, or, as a high official in the play styled it, "a pasquinade on Moscow."The play, written in 1823 in the countryside and in Tiflis, was not passed by the censorship for the stage, and...

(or: The Woes of Wit), still one of the most often staged plays in Russia. He was Russia's ambassador to Qajar
Qajar dynasty
The Qajar dynasty was an Iranian royal family of Turkic descent who ruled Persia from 1785 to 1925....

 Persia, where he was massacred along with the whole embassy by the angry local mob.

Early life

Born in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, Griboyedov studied at the Moscow University from 1810 to 1812. He then obtained a commission in a hussar
Hussar refers to a number of types of light cavalry which originated in Hungary in the 14th century, tracing its roots from Serbian medieval cavalry tradition, brought to Hungary in the course of the Serb migrations, which began in the late 14th century....

A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

, but resigned it in 1816. Next year, Griboyedov entered the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

, and in 1818 was appointed secretary of the Russian legation
A legation was the term used in diplomacy to denote a diplomatic representative office lower than an embassy. Where an embassy was headed by an Ambassador, a legation was headed by a Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary....

 in Persia, and was transferred to Georgia. He had commenced writing early and, in 1816, had produced on the stage at St.Petersburg a comedy in verse
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 called The Young Spouses (Молодые супруги), which was followed by other works of the same kind. But neither these nor the essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s and verses which he wrote would have been long remembered but for the immense success gained by his comedy in verse Woe from Wit
Woe from Wit
Woe from Wit is Alexander Griboyedov's comedy in verse, satirizing the society of post-Napoleonic Moscow, or, as a high official in the play styled it, "a pasquinade on Moscow."The play, written in 1823 in the countryside and in Tiflis, was not passed by the censorship for the stage, and...

(Горе от ума, or Gore ot uma), a satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 upon Russian aristocratic
Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India,...

As a high official depicted in the play styles it, this work is "a pasquinade
Pasquino or Pasquin is the name used by Romans to describe a battered Hellenistic-style statue dating to the 3rd century BC, which was unearthed in the Parione district of Rome in the 15th century...

 on Moscow". The play's merits are in its accurate representation of certain social and official types-such as Famusov, the lover of old abuses, the hater of reforms; his secretary, Molchalin, servile fawner upon all in office; the aristocratic young liberal and Anglomaniac, Repetilov; contrasted with whom is the hero of the piece, Chatsky, the ironic satirist, just returned from the west of Europe, who exposes and ridicules the weaknesses of the rest, his words echoing that outcry of the young generation of 1820 which reached its climax in the military insurrection of 1825, and was then sternly silenced by Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

. Although rooted in the classical French comedy of Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

, the characters are as much individuals as types, and the interplay between society and individual is a sparkling dialectical give-and-take.

Griboyedov spent the summer of 1823 in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, completed his play and took it to St.Petersburg. There it was rejected by the censors
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

. Many copies were made and privately circulated, but Griboyedov never saw it published. The first edition was printed in 1833, four years after his death. Only once did he see it on the stage, when it was acted by the officers of the garrison at Yerevan
Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country...

. Soured by disappointment, he returned to Georgia, made himself useful by his linguistic
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 knowledge to his relative general Ivan Paskevich
Ivan Paskevich
Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich was a Ukrainian-born military leader. For his victories, he was made Count of Erivan in 1828 and Namestnik of the Kingdom of Poland in 1831...

 during a campaign against Persia
Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828
The Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828 was the last major military conflict between the Russian Empire and the Persian Empire.After the Treaty of Gulistan concluded the previous Russo-Persian War in 1813, peace reigned in the Caucasus for thirteen years...

, and was sent to St. Petersburg with the Treaty of Turkmenchay
Treaty of Turkmenchay
The Treaty of Turkmenchay was a treaty negotiated in Turkmenchay by which the Qajar Empire recognized Russian suzerainty over the Erivan khanate, the Nakhchivan khanate, and the remainder of the Talysh khanate, establishing the Aras River as the common boundary between the empires, after its...

 of 1828. Brilliantly received there, he thought of devoting himself to literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, and commenced a romantic drama, A Georgian Night (Грузинская ночь, or Gruzinskaya noch').


Several months after his wedding to the 16-year-old daughter of his friend Prince Chavchavadze
Alexander Chavchavadze
Prince Alexander Chavchavadze was a notable Georgian poet, public benefactor and military figure. Regarded as the "father of Georgian romanticism," he was also known as a preeminent aristocrat of Georgia and a talented general in the Imperial Russian service.-Early life:Alexander Chavchavadze was...

, Griboyedov was suddenly sent to Persia as Minister Plenipotentiary. In the aftermath of the war and humiliating Treaty of Turkmenchay
Treaty of Turkmenchay
The Treaty of Turkmenchay was a treaty negotiated in Turkmenchay by which the Qajar Empire recognized Russian suzerainty over the Erivan khanate, the Nakhchivan khanate, and the remainder of the Talysh khanate, establishing the Aras River as the common boundary between the empires, after its...

, anti-Russian sentiment in Persia was rampant and, soon after Griboyedov's arrival at Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

, a mob stormed the Russian embassy.
The incident began when an Armenian
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 eunuch escaped from the harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

 of Persian shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

 Fath Ali Shah, and two Armenian girls escaped from that of his son-in-law. All three sought refuge at the Russian embassy. As agreed to in the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Armenians living in Persia were permitted to return to Eastern Armenia
Eastern Armenia
Eastern Armenia or Caucasian Armenia was the portion of Ottoman Armenia and Persian Armenia that was ceded to the Russian Empire following the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829...

. However, the Shah demanded that Griboyedov return the three. Griboyedov refused. This caused an uproar throughout the city and several thousand Persians encircled the Russian compound demanding their release.

Griboyedov and other members of his mission, seeing that the situation was bad, prepared for a siege and sealed all the windows and doors, armed and in full uniform, resolved to defend to the last drop of blood. The Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

 detachment assigned to protect the embassy was too small in number but held off the mob for over an hour until finally being driven back to Griboyedov's office. There, he and the rest of the Cossacks held out even further until the mob broke through and slaughtered them all. Griboyedov was among the first who were shot to death. Second secretary of the mission Adelung and, in particular, a young doctor (name unknown) fought hard, but the fight was too unequal, and soon the scene was that of butchered, decapitated corpses.

The mob grabbed the corpse of Griboyedov, distinguished by his uniform, and dragged it through the streets and bazaars of the city, with cries of celebration. The eunuch was one of the first killed in the assault on the embassy; the fate of the two Armenian girls remains unknown. His body was for three days so ill-treated by the mob that it was recognized only by an old scar on the hand, due to a wound received in a duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

. His body was taken to Tiflis and buried in the monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 of Saint David (Mtatsminda Pantheon
Mtatsminda Pantheon
The Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures is a necropolis in Tbilisi, Georgia, where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried. It is located in the churchyard around St. David’s Church "Mamadaviti" on the slope of Mount Mtatsminda...

). His 16-year-old widow, Nino
Nino Chavchavadze
Princess Nino Chavchavadze , was a daughter of the famous Georgian Knyaz and poet Alexander Chavchavadze and wife of Russian diplomat and playwright Alexandr Griboyedov....

, on hearing of his death, gave premature birth to a child who died a few hours later. She lived another thirty years after her husband's death, rejecting all suitors and winning universal admiration for her fidelity to his memory.

In a move to placate Russia for the attack and the death of its ambassador, Persia presented the Tsar with a large diamond, now known as the Shah Diamond
Shah Diamond
The Diamond Shah is 88.7 carat , 3 cm long, yellow diamond, extremely clear. This diamond was found in Central India, probably in 1450....

, as a gift. The mission was carried out by Shah's younger son, Khosrow Mirza
Khosrow Mirza
Prince Khosro Mirza , Persian Prince of Qajar Dynasty, was the 7th son of Abbas Mirza and brother of Djahangir Mirza.In 1829 Alexander Griboyedov, the Russian diplomat and play writer was killed in the encirclement of the Russia embassy in Tehran...



One expert, Angela Brintlinger, argues that "not only did Griboedov's contemporaries conceive of his life as the life of a literary hero—ultimately writing a number of narratives featuring him as an essential character—but indeed Griboedov saw himself as a hero and his life as a narrative. Although there is not a literary artifact to prove this, by examining Griboedov's letters and dispatches, one is able to build a historical narrative that fits the literary and behavioural paradigms of his time and that reads like a real adventure novel set in the wild, wild East."

One of the main settings for the satire of Mikhail Bulgakov
Mikhail Bulgakov
Mikhaíl Afanásyevich Bulgákov was a Soviet Russian writer and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, which The Times of London has called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.-Biography:Mikhail Bulgakov was born on...

's novel The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consider the book to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires, directed against a...

is named after Griboyedov, as is the Griboyedov Canal
Griboedov Canal
Griboyedov Canal or Kanal Griboyedova is a canal in Saint Petersburg, constructed in 1739 on the basis of the existing river Krivusha. In 1764–1790, the canal was deepened, and the banks were reinforced and covered with granite....

 in Central Saint Petersburg
Central Saint Petersburg
Central Saint Petersburg is the central and the leading part of Saint Petersburg, Russia. It looks nothing like the downtown district of a typical major city, and has no skyscrapers...



  • Brintlinger, Angela. "The Persian Frontier: Griboedov as Orientalist and Literary Hero". Canadian Slavonic Papers 45, no. 3 (2003): 371–393.
  • Kelly, Laurence
    Laurence Kelly
    Laurence Kelly is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He was elected as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for the Cork North West constituency at the 1989 general election. He lost his seat at the 1992 general election.-References:...

    . Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran.

Further reading

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