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War and Peace ( , Voyna i mir), a Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy, is considered one of the world's greatest works of fiction. It is regarded, along with Anna Karenina (1873–7), as his finest literary achievement.

Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsaristmarker society, as seen through the eyes of five Russianmarker aristocratic families.

Portions of an earlier version having been serialized in the magazine The Russian Messenger between 1865 and 1867, the novel was first published in its entirety in 1869. Newsweek in 2009 ranked it top of its list of Top 100 Books. Newsweek's Top 100 Books: The Meta-List, retrieved on 07 July 2009

Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of War and Peace that it was, "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle."

Crafting the novel

An undated photograph of the author dressed for the Russian weather

War and Peace is famously long for a novel (though not the longest by any means). It is subdivided into four books or volumes, each with subparts containing many chapters. Tolstoy gave the chapters brief descriptions , which do not appear in many of the earliest English translations.

Tolstoy got the title, and some of his themes, from an 1861 work of Proudhon: La Guerre et la Paix. Tolstoy had served in the Crimean War and written a series of short stories and novellas featuring scenes of war, some of which were unfinished and eventually became part of War and Peace. He began writing War and Peace in the year that he finally married and settled down at his country estate. During the writing of the second half of the book, after the first half had already been published under the name "1805", he read widely, acknowledging Schopenhauer as one of his main inspirations, although he developed his own views of history and the role of the individual within it.

The novel can be generally classified as historical fiction. It contains elements of many types of popular 18th and 19th century literature, especially the romance novel. War and Peace attains its literary status by transcending genres. Tolstoy was instrumental in bringing a new kind of consciousness to the novel. His narrative structure is noted for its "god-like" ability to hover over and within events, but also to swiftly and seamlessly take a particular character's point of view. His use of visual detail is often cinematic in its scope, using the literary equivalents of panning, wide shots and close-ups, to give dramatic interest to battles and ballrooms alike. There are mental flashbacks, as when Napoleon reconstructs some of his previous victories. There are other temporal devices, such as a future Napoleon writing about the events that are unfolding. These devices, while not exclusive to Tolstoy, are part of the new novel that is arising in the mid-19th century and of which Tolstoy proves himself a master.


Tolstoy incorporated extensive historical research, and he was influenced by many other novels as well. He was quite critical of standard history, especially the standard military history, in War and Peace. Tolstoy read all the standard histories available in Russian and French about the Napoleonic Wars and combined more traditional historical writing with the novel form - he explains at the start of the novel's third volume his views on how history ought to be written. His aim was to blur the line between fiction and history, in order to get closer to the truth, as he states in Volume II.

The novel is set 60 years earlier than the time at which Tolstoy wrote it, "in the days of our grandfathers," as he puts it. He had spoken with people who had lived through the war of 1812, so the book is also, in part, accurate ethnography fictionalized. He read letters, journals, autobiographical and biographical materials pertaining to Napoleon and the dozens of other historical characters in the novel. There are approximately 160 real persons named or referred to in War and Peace.


The first draft of War and Peace was completed in 1863. In 1865, the periodical Russkiy Vestnik published the first part of this early version under the title 1805 and the following year published more of the same early version. Tolstoy was increasingly dissatisfied with this version, although he allowed several parts of it to be published (with a different ending) in 1867 still under the title "1805" He heavily rewrote the entire novel between 1866 and 1869. Tolstoy's wife Sophia Tolstoy handwrote as many as 8 or 9 separate complete manuscripts before Tolstoy considered it again ready for publication. The version that was published in Russkiy Vestnik had a very different ending than the version eventually published under the title War and Peace in 1869.

The completed novel was then called Voyna i mir (new style orthography; in English War and Peace).

Tolstoy did not destroy the 1805 manuscript (sometimes referred to as "the original War and Peace"), which was re-edited and annotated in Russiamarker in 1983 and since has been translated separately from the "known" version, to English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and Korean. The fact that so many extant versions of War and Peace survive make it one of the best revelations into the mental processes of a great novelist.

Russians who had read the serialized version, were anxious to acquire the complete first edition, which included epilogues, and it sold out almost immediately. The novel was translated almost immediately after publication into many other languages.

Isaac Babel said, after reading War and Peace, "If the world could write by itself, it would write like Tolstoy." Tolstoy "gives us a unique combination of the 'naive objectivity' of the oral narrator with the interest in detail characteristic of realism. This is the reason for our trust in his presentation."


Although Tolstoy wrote most of the book, including all the narration, in Russian, significant portions of dialogue (including its opening paragraph) are written in French and characters often switch between the languages. This reflected 19th century reality since Russian aristocracy in the early nineteenth century were conversant in French, which was often considered more refined than Russian—many were much less competent in Russian. An example in the novel is Julie Karagina, Princess Marya's friend, who has to take Russian lessons in order to master her native language.

It has been suggested that it is a deliberate strategy of Tolstoy to use French to portray artifice and insincerity, as the language of the theater and deceit while Russian emerges as a language of sincerity, honesty and seriousness. When Pierre proposes to Helene he speaks to her in French—Je vous aime—and as the marriage emerges as a sham he blames those words.

As the book progresses, and the wars with the French intensify, culminating in the capture and eventual burning of Moscowmarker, the use of French diminishes. The progressive elimination of French from the text is a means of demonstrating that Russia has freed itself from foreign cultural domination. It is also, at the level of plot development, a way of showing that a once-admired and friendly nation, France, has turned into an enemy. By midway through the book, several of the Russian aristocracy, whose command of French is far better than their command of Russian, are anxious to find Russian tutors for themselves.

English translations

War and Peace has been translated into English on several occasions, starting by Clara Bell working from a French translation. The translators Constance Garnett and Louise and Aylmer Maude knew Tolstoy personally. Translations have to deal with Tolstoy’s often peculiar syntax and his fondness of repetitions. About 2% of War and Peace is in French; Tolstoy removed the French in a revised 1873 edition, only to restore it later again. Most translators follow Garnett retaining some French, Briggs uses no French, while Pevear-Volokhonsky retain the French fully. (For a list of translations see below)

Background and historical context

The novel begins in the year 1805 and leads up to the war of 1812 . The era of Catherine the Great is still fresh in the minds of older people. It was Catherine who ordered the Russian court to change to speaking French, a custom that was stronger in Petersburg than in Moscow. Catherine's son and successor, Paul I, is the father of the current Czar, Alexander I. Alexander I came to the throne in 1801 at the age of 24. His mother, Marya Feodorovna, is the most powerful woman in the court.

The novel tells the story of five aristocratic families — the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskys, the Rostovs, the Kuragins and the Drubetskoys—and the entanglements of their personal lives with the history of 1805–1813, principally Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The Bezukhovs, while very rich, are a fragmented family as the old Count, Kirill Vladimirovich, has fathered dozens of illegitimate sons. The Bolkonskys are an old established and wealthy family based at Bald Hills. Old Prince Bolkonsky, Nikolai Andreevich, served as a general under Catherine the Great, in earlier wars. The Moscowmarker Rostovs have many estates, but never enough cash. They are a closely knit, loving family who live for the moment regardless of their financial situation. The Kuragin family has three children which are all of questionable character. The Drubetskoy family is of impoverished nobility, and consists of an elderly mother and her only son, Boris, whom she wishes to push up the career ladder.

Tolstoy spent years researching and rewriting the book. He worked from primary source materials (interviews and other documents), as well as from history books, philosophy texts and other historical novels. Tolstoy also used a great deal of his own experience in the Crimean War to bring vivid detail and first-hand accounts of how the Russian army was structured.

The standard Russian text of 'War and Peace' is divided into four books (fifteen parts) and two epilogues – one mainly narrative, the other thematic. While roughly the first half of the novel is concerned strictly with the fictional characters, the later parts, as well as one of the work's two epilogues, increasingly consist of essays about the nature of war, power, history, and historiography. Tolstoy interspersed these essays into the story in a way that defies previous fictional convention. Certain abridged versions remove these essays entirely, while others, published even during Tolstoy's life, simply moved these essays into an appendix.

Plot summary

War and Peace has a huge cast of characters, some historically real, like Napoleon and Alexandr I, the majority of whom are introduced in the first book. The scope of the novel is vast, but the focus is primarily on five aristocratic families and their experiences in life. The interactions of these characters are set in the era leading up to, around and following the French invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic wars.

Book/Volume One

The novel begins in Saint Petersburgmarker, at a soirée given in July 1805 by Anna Pavlovna Scherer — the maid of honour and confidante to the queen mother Maria Feodorovna. Many of the main players and aristocratic families of the novel are introduced as they enter Anna Pavlovna's salon. Pierre Bezukhov is the illegitimate son of a wealthy count, an elderly man who is dying after a series of strokes. He is about to become embroiled in a tussle for his inheritance. Educated abroad after his mother's death and at his father's expense, Pierre is essentially kindhearted, but socially awkward owing in part to his goodhearted, open nature, and finds it difficult to integrate into the Petersburg society. He is his father's favorite of all the illegitimate children the old count produced, and this is known to everyone at Anna Pavlovna's.

Pierre's friend, the intelligent and sardonic Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, husband of the charming, society favourite Lise, also attends the soireé. Finding Petersburg society unctuous and disillusioned with married life after discovering his wife is empty and superficial, Prince Andrei makes the fateful choice to be an aide-de-camp to Prince Mikhail Kutuzov in the coming war against Napoleon.

The plot then moves to Moscow, Russia's ancient city and former capital, contrasting its provincial, more Russian ways, to the highly mannered society of Petersburg. The Rostov family are introduced. The Moscowmarker Count Ilya Rostov family has four adolescent children. Thirteen year old Natasha believes herself in love with Boris Drubetskoy, a disciplined young man who is about to join the army as an officer. Twenty year old Nikolai pledges his teenage love to Sonya, his fifteen year old cousin, an orphan who is brought up by the Rostovs. The eldest child of the Rostov family, Vera, is cold and somewhat haughty but has a good prospective marriage in a Russian-German officer, Berg. Petya is nine and the youngest of the Rostov family; like his brother he is impetuous and eager to join the army when of age. The heads of the family, Count Ilya Rostov and Countess Natalya Rostova, are an affectionate couple but forever worried about their disordered finances.

At Bald Hills, the Bolkonskys' country estate, Prince Andrei leaves his terrified, pregnant wife Lise with his eccentric father Prince Nikolai Andreivitch Bolkonsky and his devoutly religious sister Maria Bolkonskaya, and departs for the war.

The second part opens with descriptions of the impending Russian-French war preparations. At the Schöngrabern engagementmarker, Nikolai Rostov, who is now conscripted as ensign in a squadron of hussars, has his first taste of battle. He meets Prince Andrei whom he insults in a fit of impetuousness. Even more than most young soldiers he is deeply attracted by Tsar Alexander's charisma. Nikolai gambles and socializes with his officer, Denisov and befriends the ruthless and perhaps psychopathic Dolokhov.

Book/Volume Two

Book Two begins with Nikolai Rostov briefly returning home to Moscow on home leave in early 1806. Nikolai finds the Rostov family facing financial ruin due to poor estate management. He spends an eventful winter at home, accompanied by his friend Denisov, his officer from the Pavlograd Regiment in which he serves. Natasha has blossomed into a beautiful young girl. Denisov falls in love with her, proposes marriage but is rejected. Although his mother pleads with Nikolai to find himself a good financial prospect in marriage, Nikolai refuses to accede to his mother's request. He promises to marry his childhood sweetheart, the dowry-less Sonya.

Pierre Bezukhov, upon finally receiving his massive inheritance, is suddenly transformed from a bumbling young man into the richest and most eligible bachelor in the Russian Empire. Despite rationally knowing that it is wrong, he proposes marriage with Prince Kuragin's beautiful and immoral daughter Hélène to whom he is very sexually attracted. His wife, whom it is rumoured is involved in an incestuous affair with her brother, the equally charming and immoral Anatole, tells Pierre that she will never have children with him. Helene has an affair with Dolokhov, who mocks Pierre in public. Pierre loses his temper and challenges Dolokhov, a seasoned dueller and a ruthless killer, to a duel. Unexpectedly, Pierre wounds Dolokhov. Helene denies her affair, but Pierre is convinced of her guilt and, after almost being violent to her, he leaves her. In his moral and spiritual confusion, he joins the Freemasons, and becomes embroiled in some of Freemasonry's politicking. Much of Book Two concerns his struggles with his passions and his spiritual conflicts to be a better man. Now a rich aristocrat, his former carefree behavior vanishes and he enters upon a philosophical quest particular to Tolstoy: how should one live a moral life in an ethically imperfect world? The question constantly baffles and confuses Pierre. He attempts to liberate his serfs, but ultimately achieves nothing of note.

Pierre is vividly contrasted with the intelligent and ambitious Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. At the Battle of Austerlitzmarker, Andrei is inspired by a vision of glory to lead a charge of a straggling army. He suffers a near fatal artillery wound. In the face of death, Andrei realizes all his former ambitions are pointless and his former hero, Napoleon (who rescues him in a horseback excursion to the battlefield), is apparently as vain as himself.

Prince Andrei recovers from his injuries in a military hospital, and returns home, only to find his wife Lise dying during childbirth. He is struck by his guilty conscience for not treating Lise better when she was alive and is haunted by the pitiful expression on his dead wife's face. His child, Nikolenka, survives.

Burdened with nihilistic disillusionment, Prince Andrei does not return to the army but chooses to remain in his estate, working on a project that would codify military behavior and help solve some of the problems of Russian disorganization that he believes were responsible for the loss of life in battle on the Russian side. Pierre comes to visit him, and brings new questions: where is God in this amoral world? Pierre is interested in panentheism and the possibility of an afterlife.

Pierre's estranged wife, Helene, begs him to take her back and against his better judgment, he does. Helene establishes herself as the most influential woman in Petersburg, despite her stupidity.

Prince Andrei feels compelled to take his newly written military notions to Petersburg, naively expecting to be able to influence either the Emperor himself or those close to him. Young Natasha, also in Petersburg, is caught up in the excitement of dressing for her first Grand Ball, where she meets Prince Andrei. Natasha briefly reinvigorates Andrei with her lively vitality. Andrei believes he has found purpose in life again and, after paying the Rostovs several visits, falls in love with Natasha and proposes to her. However, the couple's immediate plan to marry has to be postponed with a year-long engagement, because the Old Prince Bolkonsky, who does not like the Rostovs, opposes the marriage and insists on the delay. Prince Andrei leaves to recuperate from his wounds abroad, leaving Natasha initially distraught. She soon recovers and enjoys country life to the full, until Count Rostov takes her and Sonya to spend some time with a friend in Moscow.

Natasha visits the Moscow opera, where she meets Helene and her brother Anatole. Anatole has since married a Polish woman whom he has abandoned in Poland. He is very attracted to Natasha and is determined to seduce her. Helene and Anatole conspire together to accomplish this plan. Anatole kisses Natasha and writes her passionate letters, eventually establishing plans of an elopement. Natasha is convinced that she loves Anatole and writes to Princess Maria, Andrei's sister, breaking off her engagement. At the last moment, Sonya discovers her plans to elope and foils them. Pierre is initially horrified and believes Natasha to be a disgusting, fallen woman, however he soon realizes he has now fallen in love with her. During the time when the Great Comet of 1811–2 streaks the sky, life appears to begin anew for Pierre.

Prince Andrei accepts coldly Natasha's breaking of the engagement. He tells Pierre that he will not renew his proposals, because he does not want to pick up another man's cast-offs.

Shamed by her near-seduction, and at the realisation that Andrei will not forgive her, Natasha makes a suicide attempt and is left seriously ill.

Book/Volume Three

With the help of her family, especially Sonya, and the stirrings of religious faith, Natasha manages to persevere in Moscow through this dark period.

Meanwhile, the whole of Russia is affected by the coming showdown between Napoleon's troops and the Russian army. Pierre convinces himself Napoleon is the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation through numerology. The old prince Bolkonsky dies from a stroke while trying to protect his main estate from French marauders. No organized help from any Russian army seems available to the Bolkonskys, but Nikolai Rostov does manage to show up at their place in time to help put down an incipient revolt of the peasants. It occurs to him that Princess Maria is not completely unattractive. Still, he has made a promise to Sonya.

Back in Moscow, war-obsessed Petya manages to snatch a loose piece of the Tsar's biscuit outside the Cathedral of the Assumptionmarker; he finally convinces his parents to allow him to enlist.

Napoleon himself is a main character of this section and is presented in vivid detail, both as thinker and would-be strategist. His toilette, and his customary attitudes and traits of mind are depicted in detail. Also described are the well-organized force of over 400,000 French Army (with only 140,000 of them being actually French-speaking) marches quickly through late summer and reaches Russian countryside outside Smolenskmarker. Pierre decides to leave Moscow and go watch the Battle of Borodinomarker from a vantage point next to a Russian artillery crew. After watching for a time, he begins to join in carrying ammunition. From within the turmoil he experiences first-hand the death and destruction of war. The battle becomes a horrible slaughter for both armies and ends up a standoff. The Russians, however, have won a moral victory by standing up to Napoleon's seemingly invincible army. Having suffered huge losses and for strategic reasons, the Russian army withdraws the next day, allowing Napoleon to march on to Moscow. Two casualties include Anatole and Prince Andrei. Anatole loses a leg, amputated in a military hospital, and Prince Andrei takes a random cannon ball to the gut. Both are reported dead, but their families are in such disarray that no one can be notified.

Book/Volume Four

The Rostovs have waited until the last minute to abandon Moscow, even after it is clear that Kutusov has retreated past Moscow and Muscovites are being given contradictory, often propagandistic, instructions on how to either flee or fight. Count Rastopchin is publishing posters, riling up the citizens and urging them to put their faith in Holy Iberian icons, or at least, their own icons, while at the same time urging them to fight with pitch forks if necessary. Before fleeing himself, he gives orders to burn the town. The Rostovs have a difficult time deciding what to take with them, and in the end load their carts with the wounded and dying from the Battle of Borodino. Unbeknownst to Natasha, Prince Andrei is amongst the wounded.

When Napoleon's Grand Army finally occupies an abandoned and burning Moscowmarker, Pierre takes off on a quixotic mission to assassinate Napoleon. He becomes an anonymous man in all the chaos, shedding his responsibilities by wearing peasant clothes and shunning his duties and lifestyle. The only people he sees while in this garb are Natasha and some of her family, as they depart Moscow. Natasha recognizes and smiles at him, and he in turn realizes the full scope of his love for her.

He saves the life of a French officer who fought at Borodino, yet is taken prisoner by the retreating French. He becomes friends with his fellow prisoner Platon Karataev, a peasant with a saintly demeanor, who is incapable of malice. In Karataev, Pierre finally finds what he is looking for, an honest, "rounded" person who is totally without pretense. Karataev is unlike those from the Petersburg aristocratic society, and also notably a member of the lower class, with whom Pierre finds meaning in life simply by living and interacting with him. After witnessing French Soldiers sacking Moscow and shooting Russian civilians arbitrarily, Pierre is forced to march with the Grand Army during its disastrous retreat from Moscow owing to the harsh winter. After months of trial and tribulation — during which the fever-plagued Karataev is shot by the French — Pierre is later freed by a Russian raiding party, after a small skirmish with the French that sees the young Petya Rostov killed in action.

Meanwhile, Andrei, wounded during Napoleon's invasion, has been taken in as a casualty cared for by the fleeing Rostovs. He is reunited with Natasha and sister Marya before the end of the war. Having lost all will to live, he forgives Natasha in a last act before finally dying. He had been thought dead twice before in the novel, but now it has come to pass.

As the novel draws to a close, Pierre's wife Helene disappears. It is implied that she has suffered a disfiguring illness; and Pierre is reunited with Natasha, while the victorious Russians rebuild Moscow. Natasha speaks of Prince Andrei's death and Pierre of Karataev's. Both are aware of a growing bond with each other in their bereavement. With the help of Princess Marya, Pierre finds love at last and, revealing his love after being released from his former wife's death, marries Natasha.


The first epilogue begins with the wedding of Pierre and Natasha, in 1813. It is the last happy event for the Rostov family which is going through a transition. Count Ilya Rostov dies soon after, leaving the eldest son Nikolai to take charge of the debt-ridden estate.

Nikolai finds himself with the task of maintaining the family on the verge of bankruptcy. His pride almost gets in the way of him, but Nikolai finally accedes to his mother's wish. He marries the now-rich Marya Bolkonskaya in winter 1813 - both out of feeling and the necessity to save his family from ruin.

Nikolai Rostov and Marya then move to Bald Hills with his mother and Sonya, whom he supports for the rest of their life. Buoyed on by his wife's funds, Nikolai pays off all his family's debts. They also raise Prince Andrei's orphaned son, Nikolai Bolkonsky.

As in all good marriages, there are misunderstandings, but the couples – Pierre and Natasha, Nikolai and Marya – remain devoted to their spouses. Pierre and Natasha visit Bald Hills in 1820, much to the jubilation of everyone concerned. There is a hint in the closing chapters that the idealistic, boyish Nikolai Bolkonsky (15-year-old in 1820) and Pierre would both become part of the Decembrist Uprising. The first epilogue concludes with Nikolai Bolkonsky promising he would do something which even his late father "would be satisfied..." (presumably as a revolutionary in the Decembrist revolt).

The second epilogue contains Tolstoy's critique of all existing forms of mainstream history. He attempts to show that there is a great force behind history, which he first terms divine. He offers the entire book as evidence of this force, and critiques his own work. God, therefore, becomes the word Tolstoy uses to refer to all the forces that produce history, taken together, and operating behind the scenes.

Principal characters in War and Peace

War and Peace character tree

  • Count Pyotr Kirillovich Bezukhov — The central character and often a voice for Tolstoy's own beliefs or struggles. He is one of several illegitimate children of Count Bezukhov; he is his father's favorite offspring.
  • Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky — a strong but cynical, thoughtful and philosophical Aide-de-Camp in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Princess Marya Nikolaevna Bolkonskaya — A pious woman whose eccentric father attempted to give her a good education. The caring, nurturing nature of her large eyes in her otherwise thin and plain face are frequently mentioned.
  • Count Ilya Andreevich Rostov, the pater-familias of the Rostov family; terrible with finances, generous to a fault.
  • Countess Natalya (no patronymic), wife of Count Ilya Rostov, mother of the four Rostov children.
  • Countess Natasha Ilinichna Rostova — introduced as a beautiful and romantic young girl, she evolves through trials and suffering and eventually finds happiness. She is an accomplished singer and dancer.
  • Count Nikolai Ilyich Rostov — a hussar, he is the beloved eldest son of the Rostov family.
  • Sonya (Sofya Alexandrovna, family name not mentioned) — Orphaned cousin of Vera, Nikolai, Natasha and Petya Rostov.
  • Countess Vera Ilynichna Rostova, eldest of the Rostov children, she marries the German career soldier, Berg.
  • Petya Rostov — youngest son of Count Ilya Andreyitch Rostov and Natalya Rostova.
  • Prince Vasily Sergeevich Kuragin, - a ruthless man who is determined to marry his children well, despite having doubts about the character of some of them.
  • Princess Helene Vassilievna Kuragina — A beautiful and sexually alluring woman who has many affairs, including (it is rumoured) with her brother Anatole
  • Prince Anatole Vassilievich Kuragin — Helene's brother and a very handsome, ruthless and amoral pleasure seeker who is secretly married yet tries to elope with Natasha Rostova.
  • Prince Hippolite Vassilievich - the eldest and perhaps most dim-witted of the Kuragin children.
  • Prince Boris (no patronymic) Drubetskoy - a poor but aristocratic young man who is determined to make his career, even at the expense of his friends and benefactors, marries a rich and ugly woman to help him climb the social ladder.
  • Princess Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskoya - the mother of Boris.
  • Fyodor Ivanovich Dolokhov — a cold, almost psychopathic officer, he ruins Nikolai Rostov after his proposal to Sonya is refused, he only shows love to his doting mother.
  • Adolf Karlovich Berg - a young Russian officer, who desires to be just like everyone else.
  • Anna Pavlovna Sherer - also known as Annette, she is the hostess of the salon that is the site of much of the novel's action in Petersburg.
  • Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova - an older Moscow society lady, she is an elegant dancer and trend-setter, despite her age and size.
  • Amalia Evgenievna Bourienne - a French woman who lives with the Bolkonskys, primarily as Princess Marya's companion.
  • Vasily Denisov — Nikolai Rostov's friend and brother officer, who proposes to Natasha.
  • Platon Krataev - the archetypal good Russian peasant, whom Pierre meets in the prisoner of war camp.

  • Napoleon I of France — the Great Man, whose fate is detailed in the book.
  • Kutuzov — Russian commander-in-chief throughout the book. His diligence and modesty eventually save Russia from Napoleon.
  • Osip Bazdeyev — the Freemason who interests Pierre in his mysterious group, starting a lengthy subplot.
  • Alexander I of RussiaTsar of Russiamarker. He signed a peace treaty with Napoleon in 1807 and then went to war with him.

Many of Tolstoy's characters in War and Peace were based on real-life people known to Tolstoy himself. His grandparents and their friends were the models for many of the main characters, his great-grandparents would have been of the generation of Prince Vasilly or Count Ilya Rostov. Some of the characters, obviously, are actual historic figures.



The first Russian film adaptation of War and Peace was the 1915 film Война и мир (Voyna i mir), directed by Vladimir Gardin and starring Gardin and the Russian ballerina Vera Karalli. It was followed in 1968 by the critically acclaimed four-part film version War and Peace, by the Sovietmarker director Sergei Bondarchuk, released individually in 1965-1967, and as a re-edited whole in 1968. This starred Lyudmila Savelyeva (as Natasha Rostova) and Vyacheslav Tikhonov (as Andrei Bolkonsky). Bondarchuk himself played the character of Pierre Bezukhov. The film was almost seven hours long; it involved thousands of actors, 120 000 extras, and it took seven years to finish the shooting, as a result of which the actors age changed dramatically from scene to scene. It won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for its authenticity and massive scale. [23746]

The novel has been adapted twice for cinema outside of Russia. The first of these was produced by F. Kamei in Japan (1947). The second was the 208-minute long 1956 War and Peace, directed by the American King Vidor. This starred Audrey Hepburn (Natasha), Henry Fonda (Pierre) and Mel Ferrer (Andrei). Audrey Hepburn was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best British actress and for a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a drama production.




The first successful stage adaptations of War and Peace were produced by Alfred Neumann and Erwin Piscator (1942, revised 1955, published by Macgibbon & Kee in London 1963, and staged in 16 countries since) and R. Lucas (1943).

A stage adaptation by Helen Edmundson, first produced in 1996 at the Royal National Theatremarker, was published that year by Nick Hern Books, London. Edmundson added to and amended the play[23748] for a 2008 production as two 3-hour parts by Shared Experience, directed by Nancy Meckler and Polly Teale.[23749] This was first put on at the Nottingham Playhousemarker, then toured in the UK to Liverpool, Darlington, Bath, Warwick, Oxford, Truro, London (the Hampstead Theatremarker) and Cheltenham.

On the 15th-18th july, The Birmingham Theatre Schoolmarker performed this 7 hour epic play at The Crescent Theatre in Brindleyplace with great success. Birmingham Theatre School is the only drama school in the world to perform the new adaptation of War and Peace. Directed by Chris Rozanski and Assistant to Director was Royal National Theatre performer Anthony Mark Barrow with Vocals arranged by Dr Ria Keen and choreography by Colin Lang.

Radio and television

  • In December 1970, Pacifica Radio station WBAI broadcast a reading of the entire novel (the 1968 Dunnigan translation) read by over 140 celebrities and ordinary people. [23750]

  • La Guerre et la paix (TV) (2000) by François Roussillon. Robert Brubaker played the lead role of Pierre.[23753]

Full translations into English

See also


  1. Moser, Charles. 1992. Encyclopedia of Russian Literature. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 298–300.; Thirwell, Adam. 2005. "A masterpiece in miniature." London: Guardian UK, October 8; Briggs, Anthony. 2005. "Introduction" to War and Peace. Penguin Classics.
  2. Knowles, A.V. Leo Tolstoy, Routledge 1997.
  3. Feuer, Kathryn.
  4. Emerson, Caryl. 1985. "The Tolstoy Connection in Bakhtin," in PMLA, Vol 100, No 1, pp. 69-71. Modern Language Association.
  5. Emerson, Caryl. 1985. Ibid, p. 68-69
  6. Feuer, Kathryn B. 1996
  7. Pearson and Volokhonsky op cit.
  8. cf. Knowles 1997, Feuer 1996
  9. Feuer 1996
  10. "Introduction to War and Peace" by Richard Peaver in Peaver, Richard and Larissa Volokhonsky, War and Peace, 2008, Vintage Classics.
  11. Figes, O, Tolstoy's Real Hero. NYRB 22 Nov 2007,pp 4-7.
  12. Feuer, Kathryn B. Tolstoy and the Genesis of War and Peace, Cornell University Press, 1996 (First Edition)
  13. Troyat, Henri. Tolstoy, a biography. Doubleday, 1967.
  14. [1]

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