— Alexander Griboedov, known to everyone primarily as a great Russian writer, also served as a diplomat. In 1818, he was appointed secretary to the tsar's charge d'affaires in Persia, and then minister plenipotentiary of the Russian Imperial Mission. What exactly was he doing in Tehran?

— Griboedov tried to ensure a strong and sustainable peace between Russia and Iran, in particular, to resolve border disputes, which was quite difficult to do, since the Iranian authorities were dissatisfied with the conditions of the Gulistan Peace of 1813 and contributed to destabilizing the situation on the Russian-Iranian border. The heir to the throne, Abbas Mirza, paid 20 thousand rubles to the Dagestan khans so that they would rebel against Russian power.

General Alexei Ermolov, who was Russia's ambassador to Iran in 1817-1818, believed that Abbas Mirza was anti-Russian and at the right moment was ready to start a war against the empire. Griboedov was of the same opinion.

After the Second Russian-Persian War of 1826-1828, Griboedov was promoted to the position of Russian Ambassador to Iran and was entrusted with the mission of obtaining from the Shah the implementation of the articles of the peace treaty - first of all, the payment of indemnity. In addition, Griboyedov had to achieve Iran's neutrality in the next Russian-Turkish war.

In order to pay Russia 20 million rubles in indemnity for the defeat in the war, the Iranian authorities increased taxes on the population, including the poorest. This outraged the common Persians. It is known that before leaving for his place of duty, Griboyedov, taking into account the tense situation in Persian society, proposed to Foreign Minister Karl Nesselrode to postpone the payment of the remainder of the indemnity by the Shah, but received a categorical refusal.

— How did

relations between Russia and Persia develop at the beginning of

the 19th century?

Is it true that Tehran at that time was under strong British influence, and this left its mark on the political position of the Persian authorities?

— Russian-Iranian relations at that time were very unstable and unfriendly; two Russian-Persian wars took place between the countries in a short period: 1804-1813 and 1826-1828, as a result of which Iran lost significant territories - Azerbaijan, Armenia and part of Dagestan . 

Since the beginning of the 19th century, England has been trying to strengthen its influence in the Middle East and oust Russia from there. Therefore, it sought to become a mediator between Iran and a number of other countries: Afghanistan, Russia and especially Turkey in resolving border disputes in order to increase its influence and compete with Russia in the region, creating a coalition of states opposing it. But the Iranian-Turkish contradictions were too strong, so attempts by some politicians in both countries to create an anti-Russian alliance came to nothing.

At the same time, Iran was indeed under strong British influence. The conductors of this influence were English diplomats, officers, doctors, and merchants. England armed and trained the Iranian army, preparing it for war with Russia, using the desire of the Iranian authorities for revanchism. England also supported any steps by Iran aimed at aggravating relations with Russia. However, after the British captured the island of Qeshm, some Iranians decided that it was worth strengthening ties with Russia to counter England, although the policy of the Iranian authorities remained unchanged.

  • Alexander Griboyedov. Portrait by I. Kramskoy, 1875

  • © Public domain

— What events created the preconditions for the massacre at the Russian embassy in 1829 and became its immediate cause? Who could be behind the riots?

— Active opponents of Russia were Allayar Khan, who held the position of Sadr-Azam (head of government) in 1824-1827, and the most fanatical Shiite theologians. They blamed Russia for all of Iran's troubles. It was also beneficial for the British to strengthen anti-Russian sentiment in Iran. Negotiations between Griboyedov and the Shah's court were very difficult, although in the end there was some progress and the authorities agreed with many of Russia's demands.

The reason for the massacre at the Russian embassy can be considered the case associated with the eunuch Yakub Markarian, who expressed a desire to go to his homeland in Yerevan and took refuge in the Russian embassy. The Shah demanded his extradition, as he feared that Markarian might divulge many of the secrets of the court. Griboyedov refused to extradite the fugitive, citing the Turkmanchay Treaty, which allows the protection of Iranian citizens who turned to Russia for support. In addition, two Armenian women from Allayar Khan’s harem came to the Russian embassy, ​​which further increased his anger.

The idea to destroy the Russian embassy was submitted by Iranian Foreign Minister Abd-ol-Hasan Khan, who received money from the British, and the radical part of the Shiite clergy issued a fatwa (in Islam, a decision on any issue. - RT


- permission to destroy the mission . Allayar Khan's people took part in organizing the defeat.

There are conflicting versions about the actions of the ruler of Iran, Feth Ali Shah himself: some historians believe that he did not interfere with the pogrom, while others believe that he, on the contrary, wanted to stop the pogrom, even sending his sons to convince the people to disperse, but he could not curb the anger of the mob.

In general, the events preceding the massacre at the embassy are still interpreted differently by Russian and Iranian historians. Some Iranian historians believe that women from the harems of the Iranian nobility were allegedly taken by Griboedov to the embassy against their will, which aroused the anger of the Iranians. Russian scientists point out that Griboyedov was the best expert on Iran in the Russian Empire and carried out his mission very carefully and restrainedly and, thus, he could not deliberately provoke a conflict, much less take away other people’s wives without their consent. That is, these women themselves wanted to leave the harems and therefore voluntarily took refuge in the Russian embassy.

  • V. Moshkov. The first meeting of I. F. Paskevich with the heir to the Persian throne Abbas-Mirza (Griboedov is fifth from the right)

  • © Public domain

— How did the attack on the Russian embassy happen? Under what circumstances did Alexander Griboyedov die?

— The tragic events occurred on February 11. It is mentioned that on the day of the attack on the Russian diplomatic mission, one of the influential representatives of the Shiite clergy, Mirza Masih Mojtahed, from the mosque pulpit called to go to the embassy and take the women from there.

When the rioters left the mosque, there were about 500 of them, and when they approached the embassy, ​​their number had already reached 10 thousand. The organizers of the attack on the embassy soon lost control over the rioters themselves.

According to one version, when there was a knock on the embassy doors, Griboyedov, who took command, gave the order to shoot. The mission's convoy of 16 Cossacks tried to resist the attackers, but to no avail. As a result, almost all 37 people of the mission were killed, except for the first secretary Ivan Maltsov and two couriers. According to data found in the archives by orientalist Vladimir Kosogovsky, Griboyedov himself, in self-defense, killed 18 fanatics armed with daggers. The house in which the mission was located was destroyed. Some of the Russians were killed on the territory of the nearby British mission. At the same time, the property of the Russians was plundered, but the property of the British was untouched, which confirms the version of England’s indirect participation in these events.

  • Church of St. David and the tomb of A. S. Griboedov in Tiflis. Late 19th century

  • © Public domain

— What were the consequences of the attack on the Russian embassy? 

— The death of Griboyedov was an incident because of which the new Sadr-azam Mirza Abulqasim Farahani, together with Abbas Mirza, were forced to send an explanatory letter to Nicholas I. However, the events that ended in the death of Griboyedov were called accidental and unintentional.

Thanks to the successful choice of words in the letter, it found a positive response among Russians. An expression of friendly feelings on the part of the Iranian authorities, a report on the circumstances of the incident by the secretary of the Russian embassy in Iran, Maltsov, who survived the murder of Griboyedov, as well as a description of the allegedly inappropriate and harsh, according to the Iranian side, behavior of Griboyedov towards Iranian citizens - all this contributed to this that Russia did not take any angry action against Iran for this incident.

At the same time, it is worth noting that Russian historians believe that due to fears for his fate, Maltsov unfairly slandered Griboedov. However, Russia insisted on an official settlement of the incident, and therefore Abbas Mirza's son Khosrow-Mirza, along with his companions, including Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir and Mirza's secretary Abolqasim Farahani, went to St. Petersburg to make an official apology. According to historians, Mirza Masih Mojtahed was sent into exile, and one of the people seen on the day of the attack with a bloody weapon in his hands was captured and killed in retaliation for the death of the head of the Russian diplomatic mission.

In turn, Prince Khosrow-Mirza presented Nicholas I with the Shah diamond, one of the largest diamonds in the world. The prince also visited Griboedov's mother and tearfully asked for forgiveness on behalf of his people.

After the visit of Khosrow-Mirza, Emperor Nicholas I forgave Persia the remainder of the indemnity. Moreover, he gave the Iranian diplomatic mission such rich gifts from the Russian crown that 193 horses and 16 carts were required to transport them. The main reason for such leniency of the emperor was the neutrality occupied by Persia during the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829. After this, Russian-Iranian relations began to gradually improve.

  • Diamond "Shah" from the Diamond Fund of the Russian Federation in Moscow

  • RIA News

  • © Yuri Somov

— There are two versions of how Griboyedov’s body was delivered to the Russian Empire for burial. One of them is recorded in official documents and describes military honors, the other, which was followed, in particular, by Alexander Pushkin, says that the body of the great writer was delivered to Russia in much more modest conditions. Which one do you think is closer to the truth?

— In the scientific literature, Pushkin’s version of Griboedov’s funeral is not confirmed. It contradicts documentary evidence of the military honors with which Griboedov’s coffin was transported. According to the report of the Russian Consul General in Tabriz, Andrei Amburger, from Tehran to the border with Russia, the diplomat’s body was accompanied by a detachment of 50 horsemen led by Keib Ali Sultan, and from the border to Tiflis - a battalion of the 2nd Tiflis Regiment led by Major General Merlini .

In addition, historians emphasize that Pushkin first announced his meeting with Griboyedov in “Travel to Arzrum,” published six whole years after the attack on the embassy in Tehran. Previously, Pushkin did not mention this event, which casts doubt on the reliability of his version of Griboyedov’s funeral. Most likely, it was his artistic invention. Griboedov's grave in Tbilisi is in the pantheon of Georgian writers and public figures, and today it serves as a place of worship for Georgians, who hold Griboedov very well not only because of his outstanding writing talent, but also because of his marriage to Georgian Nina Chavchavadze.