The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

44 OCTOBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL This story of power politics, warfare and diplomacy in 19th-century Iran and the Caucasus is a rich slice of history. It is also a cautionary tale that transcends its time and place. Love in Tiflis, Death in Tehran: The Tragedy of Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov BY JOHN L I MBERT FEATURE John W. Limbert served as the first-ever deputy assistant secretary of State for Iran from 2009 to 2010. He is a veteran U.S. diplomat and a former official at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, where he was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis. He was ambassador to Mauritania from 2000 to 2003, among many other assignments. He is currently the Class of 1955 Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, and is the author of Iran: At War with History (Westview Press, 1987), Shiraz in the Age of Hafez (University of Washington Press, 2004) and Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2009). Amb. Limbert served as the president of AFSA from 2003 to 2005 and as a member of the 2015-2017 Governing Board. O n June 11, 1829, the young Russian poet Alexan- der Pushkin was traveling through the Caucasus Mountains tomeet his brother, who was serving on the Turkish front. At Besobdal, on the Armenian- Georgian border, he describes the following scene: …Having rested a fewminutes, I set out again and saw opposite me on the high bank of the river the fortress of Gergery. Three streams plunged down the high bank, plunging noisily. I crossed the river. Two oxen harnessed to a cart were descending the steep road. Some Georgians were accompanying the cart. “Where do you come from?” I asked them. “FromTeheran.” “What do you have on your cart?” “Girboyed.” This was the body of the slain Griboyedov, which they were taking to Tiflis. This grim encounter in the mountains of northern Armenia (recorded in Pushkin’s A Journey and quoted in Laurence Kelly’s Diplomacy andMurder in Tehran ) took place six months after the murder of the young Russian emissary to Persia, Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov. The diplomat had been in Tehran only a month in 1828 when amob stormed the Russianmission, murder- ing all of the Russians there except the first secretary, IvanMal’tzov, whomanaged to escape. The tragedy put an end to the remarkable career of a Russian intellectual, diplomat, poet and playwright. It is also a rich source of lessons and insights for contemporary diplo- mats and students of international affairs. Griboyedov had been closely involved with the power politics, warfare and diplomacy that accompanied the Czarist Empire’s expansion into the southern Caucasus and its humiliation of the feeble Qajar dynasty of Persia. He was one of the negotiators who concluded the famous 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai between Russia