The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 45 and Persia, a one-sided agree- ment that Iranians have long viewed as the symbol of their victimization and exploitation by foreigners. The young diplomat’s fate can be traced to short- sighted Russian nationalism that insisted on imposing the harshest andmost humiliat- ing conditions on the Qajar rulers; simmering Iranian resentments that took only a small spark to become murderous mob violence; personal grudges by individu- als who found a chance to insult religious feelings and the honor of high-ranking Iranians; as well as his own obliviousness to the explo- sive situation in Tehran, the provocative actions of his underlings, the power of insults to Persian honor and the extent to which the people of Tehran sought to avenge their country’s debasement. Further, Griboyedov’s blind obedience to his instructions to enforce every provision of Turkmanchai led him to reject all last- minute offers of compromise, which would very likely have saved himand his missionmembers. First Assignment to Persia Born in 1795 into a family of minor Russian nobility, Griboye- dov joined the Russian diplomatic service in 1817 after four years of military service. His early service in St. Petersburg seemed to include mostly parties, gambling, flirtations and debts. Involve- ment in a duel between colleagues led to his semi-exile to Persia in 1818 as deputy to S.N. Mazarovich, emissary to the court of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar (1797-1834). It had been five years since the Treaty of Gulistan ended the first Russo-Persian war. The two unequal empires came into direct conflict early in the nineteenth century, following Russia’s annexa- tion of the ancient Orthodox Christian kingdomof Georgia in 1801. Along with the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Persia vied for influ- ence over the semi-independent khanates of the southern Cauca- sus in the regions of Karabakh, Nakhchivan, Derbent (Darband), Talesh and Shirvan. The war that broke out between Russians and Persians in 1804 ended withmilitary disaster in 1813. Under the Treaty of Gulistan, Persia recognized Russian control of most of today’s Georgia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. North of the Aras (Araxes) River, the Persians retained only the regions of Yerevan (inmodern Armenia) and Nakhchivan (today an Azeri enclave inside Armenian territory). Mazarovich’s mission was to deal with the after- math of Gulistan, includ- ing the return of Russian deserters, unresolved border issues and Russian commercial activities in Persia. When the mission reached Tiflis (today’s Tbilisi) in October 1818, Griboyedov met the aggressive Russian viceroy and military commander of the Caucasus, Alexis Petrovich Yermolov, who was to be his protector and patron until the former’s dismissal in 1827. Yermolov was known for his brutality against theMuslimpopulation of the Caucasus and for his provocations against the Persians in the disputed border areas— incidents that would goad the Qajar rulers into unwisely renewing war against the Russians in 1825. Still a headstrong young man, Griboyedov fought a duel while in Tiflis. The incident was smoothed over thanks to the indulgence of both Yermolov and Griboyedov’s civilian boss, Mazarovich, and the mission travelled on to Tabriz in early 1819. Ruling there as gov- ernor was the 26-year-old Qajar Crown Prince Abbas Mirza, who received the Russianmission with respect. Mazarovich observed reciprocal diplomatic courtesies toward his hosts in an effort to undo the damage done by the tactless Yermolov. Griboyedev’s first sojourn in Persia (1819-1821) was less than a personal or diplomatic triumph. Always the Russian nationalist, he resented serving under the Catholic and non-RussianMazarovich. WhileMazarovichmostly remained at the shah’s court in Tehran and on the cooler plains of Soltaniyeh, Griboyedov remained GALEXANDROVA[CCBYSA4.0]/WIKIMEDIACOMMONS. INSET:WIKIMEDIACOMMONS A monument to Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov in St. Petersburg. Inset: A sketch of the diplomat and writer from the 1820s.