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Rare publications of the Presidential Library illustrate Alexander Griboyedov in memories of contemporaries

15 January 2021

"The attentive reader will comprehend and understand a lot from what we wanted to describe in our book. The most important, he will observe the living Griboyedov... his loyalty to a friend, his "chill courage" and civic convictions", writes the historian and writer Zinovy ​​Davydov in the preface to the collection A. S. Griboyedov: His Life and Death in the Memoirs of His Contemporaries (1929). Its digital copy is available on the Presidential Library's portal in the electronic collection devoted to the author of the immortal comedy Woe from Wit.

January 15, 2021, marks the 226th anniversary of Alexander Sergeevich Griboyedov, diplomat, poet, playwright, translator and composer. The materials of the relevant electronic collection amplifie the tally of his oeuvre. First of all, it features the complete works of the writer. It includes poetry, prose, travel notes, correspondence with famous literary and state figures. Besides, the collection comprises a manuscript copy of the popular comedy, critical works about Griboyedov's oeuvre, biographical materials, which reflect the details of his diplomatic activities and tragic death.

Griboyedov refers to the nobility of the Pushkin generation. He was one of the most educated people of his time, fluent in French, English, German, Italian, Greek, Latin, later he mastered Arabic, Persian and Turkish. He was an excellent pianist and had a talent for composing.

Having entered the Irkutsk Hussars Regiment, Griboyedov made friends with General Kologrivov's adjutant Stepan Begichev. They became friends for life. In their youth, they sometimes allowed themselves something indecent. The chapter "Сhronological Information for A. S. Griboyedov's Biographical Survey" of "The Complete Works of A. S. Griboyedov. T. 1" (1889) mentions an accident that occurred in 1813: "Once Griboyedov and Begichev rushed into the first floor of the house, to the ball, on horseback. Another time Griboyedov and Begichev got into the Roman Catholic church, it seems, that it was the Jesuit monastery in Brest-Litovsk, even before the service... Griboyedov went to the choir to the organ. The music for mass was already there. <…> When there was the time for music, Griboyedov began to play and played perfectly for a long time. Suddenly, the sacred sounds ceased, and everyone could listen to... our native folk song Kamarinskaya!".

In 1815, Griboyedov settled in Saint-Petersburg. He launched his service at the State Collegium for Foreign Affairs. But in 1818, he left the capital and went to Persia as the secretary of the Russian diplomatic mission. Alexander Pushkin notes in the collection A. S. Griboyedov: His Life and Death in the Memoirs of His Contemporaries: "He desired to end with his youth and change his life drastically. He said goodbye to Petersburg and idle life... ".

After three years of service in Tabriz, Griboyedov moved to Tiflis to General Alexei Yermolov, the Chief Commander of Georgia. Here he created the 1st and 2nd acts of his most famous work - the comedy Woe from Wit.

By the autumn of 1824, it was completed, but the censors approved only several fragments for publishing. They were issued by the writer Faddey Bulgarin in the anthology Russian Thalia. Since then, Bulgarin has become the best friend of the talented playwright. After Griboyedov's death, he wrote memoirs published in the collection A. S. Griboyedov: His Life and Death in the Memoirs of His Contemporaries. In particular, Bulgarin recalled an outstanding talent of the author of Woe from Wit: "There is nothing that Griboyedov would not dare to make for friendship - friends made everything for Griboyedov. There was possible only passionate love because his burning soul warmed and lighted everything around him".

Griboyedov's comedy became popular not only in both capitals but also abroad. The success came even before its staging. The publication A. S. Griboyedov: His Life and Death in the Memoirs of His Contemporaries includes notes by Senator Andrey Zhandr:" Do you know what said one merchant with a beard, who was fond of reading and education, about Woe from Wit to Bulgarin? He said: "After all, Faddey Venediktovich, it is our civil gospel". <…> If the real gospel features the laws of pure spiritual morality, Woe from Wit includes the rules of social and everyday morality".

The collection presents digital copies of the Russkaya Starina magazine for 1874 and 1876. They allow evaluating Alexander Griboyedov's activities as a diplomat during his service in the East, especially his participation in the conclusion of the Treaty of Turkmenchay, important for Russia. Prominent military leader Nikita Muravyov, a close friend of the writer, told: "Griboyedov was born to serve in Persia... he was equal to the army of twenty thousand soldiers... perhaps, there is no person in Russia who can replace him".

The talented diplomat was killed on February 11 (January 30, old style), 1829, when religious fanatics destroyed the Russian embassy in Tehran. The article of orientalist Adolphe Berger, one of the first biographers of Griboyedov, is devoted to this tragic event. It was issued in 1872, in the Russkaya Starina magazine. It is based on official documents: notes, dispatches and reports of the senior government officials of Russia, Persia and England. The Death of A. S. Griboyedov according to Armenian Sources by M. Ya. Alaverdyants provides another approach to the death of the Russian ambassador. 

 The collection A. S. Griboyedov: His Life and Death in the Memoirs of His Contemporaries quotes the words by Alexander Pushkin: "He was killed by the daggers of the Persians. He was a victim of ignorance and treachery. <...> I don't know anything better than the last years of his stormy life. The death that befell him in the courageous and ragged battle brought had nothing terrible, nothing weary for Griboyedov. It was prompt and beautiful".