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Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran Paperback – 25 Aug 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tauris Parke Paperbacks (25 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845111966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845111960
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,352,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Kelly's highly readable and enjoyable book is the first biography in English of this intriguing figure.' - Jan Dalley, Financial Times 'Laurence Kelly, the prize-winning author of a life of Lermontov, has spent many years delving into Russian and Persian archives and found hitherto uncovered telling details. But he wears his meticulous scholarship lightly and tells a riveting tale that reads like a Russian novel'. Shusha Guppy Times, Higer Educational Supplement (THES)

About the Author

Laurence Kelly is the author of a distinguished biography of Lermontov. He has studied and lived in Russia.

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First Sentence
In the spring of 1829, Alexander Pushkin was travelling to the Caucasus, on his way to see his brother, who was serving on the Russo-Turkish front. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Spilsbury on 1 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
Quoting the official review:
'When a Tehran mob broke into the Russian embassy and murdered all the diplomats there, the dead included one of the most brilliant and promising writers of 19th-century Russia. In this first biography of Griboyedov in English, Laurence Kelly paints a vivid picture of his remarkable literary and diplomatic gifts which were nevertheless overshadowed by ill-fortune. He narrowly escaped punishment for involvement with the 1825 Decembrist plot to overthrow the Tsarist state. After this he was despatched to Georgia and Iran, to further Russia's expansionist agenda in the Caucasus and beyond. But while in Tehran Griboyedov fell foul of the zealous mobs. This book makes an invaluable contribution to the diplomatic history of Russia, the Caucasus and Iran at the same time illuminating the life and works of a writer who was among 19th-century Russia's most respected and prominent writers. ''

Griboyedov was an Aristocrat famous in Russia as a playwright ' Woe from Wit' his most well known if only work, and widely played to this day. He was also instrumental in the Persians signing away of most of the Caucasus during the Treaty of Turmanchai in 1828, when the Qajar Dynasty already weak and ineffective, finally surrendered millions of Muslims to the Russian Empire after a disastrous war with Russia. He, as Minister Plenipotentiary, presided over the humiliating treaty, thus triggering the backlash which culminated in his and the Russian legations brutal murders at the hands of an enraged Tehran mob. His famous last words being 'je m'en fous' - I don't give a damn. He was torn to bits, beheaded and his body dumped in a rubbish pit.
The pacification of the Muslim Caucasus struggles even today as a new incarnation of Islamic resistance manifests.
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By ALI HASSAN on 23 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Quite good, for those who enjoy history as well us relating to the Main character of the Book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran : Alexander Griboyedov and the Tsar's Mission to the Shah of Persia 8 Mar. 2006
By Michael Rubin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A century and a half before Iranian radicals seized the U.S. embassy and took fifty-two hostages, a frenzied Iranian mob spurred on by the mullahs stormed the Russian legation in Tehran and massacred all but one member of the mission. Among those murdered was Alexander Griboyedov, playwright and Russia's chief diplomat in Tehran. While largely forgotten, the massacre illustrates yet another example of the Iranian clergy's xenophobic and violent reaction to foreign challenges.

In 1828, the tsar dispatched Griboyedov to Iran in order to implement the humiliating Treaty of Turkmanchai that ended the second Russo-Iranian war. Under terms of the treaty, Iran forever forfeited its claim to what is now Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia; paid exorbitant reparations; and granted diplomatic immunity and other privileges for Russian merchants.

The treaty's implementation was complicated by a culture clash. Griboyedov offended the royal court by not removing his boots in front of the shah and further antagonized the shah by demanding the release of numerous Christian slaves seized by Iran in the preceding decades.

Well-written, with extensive notes and sixty-five illustrations, Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran is worth the price for those interested in the tragic life of a young writer and diplomat. For historians of Iran, however, the value will be limited. Kelly seeks to absolve the English from persistent accusations that they egged on the Iranian mobs who slaughtered the Griboyedov mission. Point taken, but irrelevant to all but one hundred or so historians of Qajar-era Iran.

Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran is not for those seeking a more general introduction into Iranian history. Less than one-quarter of the text follows Griboyedov's experiences in Tehran and Tabriz. Other chapters cover his experiences in Georgia and the Crimea and Griboyedov's early life in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Far more engaging for those interested in the great diplomatic competition between Russia and Britain over Iran and Central Asia will be Peter Hopkirk's Great Game, a broader account of the spies and diplomats sent into deadly competition in the region. Also excellent is Denis Wright's The English amongst the Persians, which reproduces excerpts and accounts from a number of early visitors. While many accounts exist of Europeans' experiences in the Middle East, readers may enjoy the opposite in English translation of the diary of Nasir ad-Din Shah (r. 1848-96) during his 1873 European tour.

Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2003
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