The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

48 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL to the Persians. Griboyedov could not ignore his role as protector of Iranian- Armenians, but he failed to recognize the sensitivities in a case involving both the fugitive’s religious con- version and his access to private matters of the Qajar court. Things took a turn for the worse when Mirza Yakub, abetted by Griboyedov’s Georgian quartermaster, Rustem-Bek, sought other Armenian converts for Russian protection. Both men’s motive seems to have been a desire to continue humiliating the Persians and rubbing their faces in the recent defeat. The pair found two female candidates for protection in the harem of Allahyar Khan, a Persian nobleman who had encouraged the original (and disastrous) attacks on Rus- sia and who bore personal grudges against both Griboyedev and Rustem-Bek. After some hesitation, the two women took asylum in the Russian embassy. Despite attempts by both Russians and Persians to find a solution, Mirza Yakub refused to back down and the seemingly oblivious Griboyedov, although angry at Rustem- Bek’s troublemaking, insisted on his right to carry out the letter of the peace treaty, including keeping Allahyar Khan’s women at the embassy. On Jan. 29, 1829, Rustem-Bek lit the last fire when he ordered the two women taken to a bathhouse near the embassy. The mes- sage was: they are being prepared for marriage, yet another insult to the honor of their Iranian Muslim husband, Allahyar Khan. Throughout the day reports spread in the city that Mirza Yakub had betrayed Islam, and that the Russians were not only holding two Muslimwomen taken from their husband but were making them convert to Christianity. The next morning a crowd gathered at the city’s main mosque, where preachers ordered the people to seize Mirza Yakub and rescue the two women. In the ensuing clash at the embassy—the Persian guards had disappeared— Mirza Yakub, a Cossack guard, several servants and several attack- ers were killed. Allahyar Khan’s men seized the two women. Angered by the deaths of their compatriots, the mob reap- peared later in the day. When a Cossack guard disobeyed Griboye- dov’s orders and killed an attacker, the mob stormed the building and murdered every Russian they found there—including Gri- boyedov. Persian authorities were helpless against the mob; when the governor of Tehran attempted to disperse them, they told him: “Go pander your wives to the Russians.” For four days, the shah and his court remained locked in their palaces. Order was finally restored when the insurrection ran out of steam. The Aftermath The Russians’ reaction to the murders was restrained. In hindsight, it is clear they had little desire to jeopardize the advantageous terms of Turk- manchai or to prolong their military occupation of Persian terri- tory while they were engaged in a war with the Ottomans in both Europe and Asia. Viceroy Paskievich and Foreign Minister Karl Vasilyevich Nesselrode found it convenient to accept the abject apologies of the shah and crown prince and their explanations that they had nothing to do with the outburst of the Tehran mob. The Qajars—who seemed unable either to conduct a war or control their own population—sent Prince KhosrowMirza, the son of Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, on a mission to St. Petersburg with a letter of apology from Fath-Ali Shah. Perhaps more effec- tive in placating the czar were gifts from the shah—essentially Griboyedov’s blood money—including an enormous diamond looted fromDelhi a century earlier. For his part, Czar Nicholas announced he was ready to forget the matter and even forgave the last installment of war indemnity, for the sake of which Griboye- dov had alienated so many of his Persian hosts. Griboyedov’s widow, Nina, remained at Tabriz where no one would tell her of her husband’s fate. In her last trimester of pregnancy, she returned to Tiflis and there heard the tragic news. Overwhelmed by grief, she lost her child. She never remarried and died of cholera in 1857. She was buried beside her husband at the Monastery of St. David near Tiflis. She had had the following words engraved on his monument: “Your spirit and your works remain eternally in the memory of Russians: Why did my love for thee outlive thee?” The final tragic irony of Griboyedov’s diplomatic career is that in May 1828, when he presented his foreign ministry bosses in St. Petersburg recommendations for future Russian policy toward Persia, he had proposed a course of mildness and leniency and of flexibility in the matter of the indemnity. When his superiors rejected his proposals, Griboyedov did not follow his own advice and best instincts. Instead, as a Russian nationalist and obedi- ent civil servant, he had no hesitation in carrying out the harsher policy his superiors ordered—a policy they softened only after he and his colleagues were murdered. n WIKIMEDIACOMMONS Princess Nina Chavchavadze WIKIMEDIACOMMONS/SHAKKO WIKIMEDIACOMMONS/FRIEDRICHRANDELL Alexis Petrovich Yermolov, by E.A. Dimitriev Mamonov Ivan Paskievich