Hadji Murat (or alternatively Hadji Murad (Turkish: Hacı Murat), although the first spelling better captures the original title in Russian: Хаджи-Мурат [Khadzhi-Murat]) was a short novel written by Leo Tolstoy from 1896–1904 and published posthumously in 1912 (though not in full until 1917). It is Tolstoy’s final work. The protagonist is Hadji Murat, an Avar rebel commander who, for reasons of personal revenge, forges an uneasy alliance with the Russians he had been fighting.
Tolstoy seems to have first heard of the historical Hadji Murad while he was serving in the Caucasus, according to letters he wrote to his brother Sergei. The thistle described at the opening of the story was actually encountered by Tolstoy near his country estate and led him to remember the character and create a story about him. The theme of struggle while remaining faithful resonated with Tolstoy even though he was in ailing health; later letters suggest this work gave him a brief, final moment of vigor. Just as the author was struggling with his near death, his extended meditation on the concept of the individual refusing to give in to the demands of the world helped him to complete the book, although he...