Leo Tolstoy


Summary WAR AND PEACE - Leo Tolstoy

The action of this great classic novel takes place at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and it revolves around events caused by the famous Franco-Russian war. Napoleon, who had already conquered almost the entire Europe with his army, wanted to impose his rule over Russia, and he had even captured Moscow.
However, the novel "War and Peace" is not a war novel or a historical novel. It can be classified as a sociological-philosophical novel due to its exploration of societal themes, and it also contains many love stories, making it a romance novel as well.
Leo Tolstoy portrays the society of the time through a large number of characters, from the tsar, counts, and princes, to intellectuals, junior officers, and even serfs... thus providing a detailed depiction of its state.
However, despite the abundance of various significant characters, the central place in the novel can be attributed to Pierre Bezukhov. After becoming a nobleman with immense wealth, Pierre Bezukhov quickly begins to despise the immoral way of life led by the high Russian aristocracy and strives to become a better person who lives a righteous life filled with useful deeds. His search for a better self represents the essence of meaning and philosophy of the intellectual class in Russia at that time.


  • Before Napoleon attacked Russia in 1812, the French and Russians had previously fought in 1805, during the Battle of Austerlitz (present-day Czech Republic). In that war, Russia fought as an ally of Austria against France, but Napoleon emerged as the victor. It was in that battle that young cadet Nikolai Rostov, Captain Vasilii Denisov, and brawler Dolokhov participated in combat for the first time. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, as a high-ranking officer, also fought there, seeing it as an opportunity to gain fame and advance his career, aspiring to become the Russian Napoleon. However, in the first battle, he was wounded and captured. He was saved thanks to Napoleon himself, who helped him. At that moment, facing death and encountering Napoleon personally, Prince Andrei felt the true cruelty of war and became disillusioned with Napoleon, who had been his role model. He saw up close that Napoleon was just an ordinary man, elevated to false heights and glory due to his leadership in wars, even though they brought no real good.

  • After the end of that war, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky returned home to learn that his wife, Liza, had just died giving birth to their son, Nikolai. Prince Andrei then felt guilty for not being with his wife instead of going to war and began to live in seclusion on his estate in Bald Hills, with his strict patriarchal father and sister, Maria. His father, Prince Nikolai Andreevich, was an old-fashioned nobleman, obstinate and unyielding, accustomed to exercising strict control and indulging in his whims. Maria, his sister, was a deeply religious girl who lived under their father's will and constant fear of him, simultaneously fearing and loving him. Instead of their deceased mother, she took on the responsibility of raising Andrei's son, Nikolai.

  • After completing his education in France, Pierre Bezukhov returned home. He was an unimpressive young man, awkward in appearance and with peculiar behavior, leading an untidy life. Soon after, his father passed away, and as an illegitimate son, he inherited his noble title and immense wealth. After that, all doors opened for him in high Russian aristocratic circles. Suddenly, he became highly esteemed, and his earlier inappropriate behavior was forgotten. Due to his great wealth, he also became a desirable groom.

  • Pierre Bezukhov was not particularly in love with any specific girl. Prince Vassily Kuragin took advantage of this to almost force his daughter, the beautiful Ellen, on him as his wife, against his will. Thus, Pierre found himself in a marriage quickly. However, he was not happy in his marriage and soon grew tired of the high aristocratic society and its artificial and immoral behavior. He aspired to a morally pure and perfect life and tried to attain it, wanting to become a better person.

  • Nikolai Rostov came home to Moscow for the winter break, and later, Denisov also joined him. Despite the constant financial problems faced by the Rostov family, they were hospitable and warm-hearted people, never hesitating to spend a lot of money on gifts, assistance, and lavish receptions in their home. Nikolai befriended Dolokhov, and Denisov fell in love with Natasha Rostov, Nikolai's beautiful sister who was on the verge of becoming a young woman. Nikolai Rostov fell in love with his cousin Sonya, who came to live with his parents. Denisov proposed to Natasha, but her mother rejected him because she wanted a better marriage for her daughter.

  • Pierre's path to perfection is not easy. He first tried to help people through good deeds. But small acts of kindness did not give Pierre what satisfied him because he wanted to achieve much more than that. Furthermore, his wife did not care about him. She openly brought lovers into their marriage and humiliated him. One of her lovers became Dolokhov. This infuriates Pierre, so he challenged him to a duel with pistols, even though Dolokhov, unlike him, was a dangerous fighter.

  • During the duel, Pierre miraculously emerged as the winner, injuring Dolokhov. The whole society condemns Pierre's duel because duels were prohibited by imperial order. Thanks to his noble title, Pierre was not legally convicted, but he was disappointed because instead of defending his honor, he experienced great shame. His wife Elena continued with her immoral life, so Pierre used excuses of obligations to distance himself from her. He goes to Bald Hills to the Bolkonskys, whom he respected, and has long conversations and debates about morality and other fundamental things, but he does not find like-minded people there.

  • Dolokhov recovered from his wound in the duel, and Nikolai Rostov was promoted. Although Sonya loved Nikolai Rostov, Dolokhov also desired her. This creates a conflict between the two of them. Dolokhov used his gambling skills to challenge the inexperienced Nikolai to a card game, where he cheats and involves him in a huge debt (taking away 43 thousand rubles from him), which he demands to be paid immediately. His family was in a difficult financial situation, but his father, Ilya, a man with a good and soft heart, somehow managed to find the money for payment. His mother persuaded him to marry a wealthy heiress instead of Sonya. Despite this, Nikolai got engaged to Sonya.

  • At a ball, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky immediately fell in love with the beautiful Natasha Rostova, who had grown into a young woman. Soon, after several encounters with her, he proposed, and she and her family gladly agreed to their marriage. However, due to his father's objection, who requested that the wedding be postponed for a year because the old prince doubted Natasha, the wedding was postponed for a year as a test of loyalty. In the meantime, Andrei Bolkonsky went to Switzerland for treatment of his wound.

  • Pierre, striving for a righteous and pure life, joined the Freemasons. He believed that with them, the "free masons" as they called themselves, he would find his path to a pure and perfect life. Through a friend, he joined the Masonic Lodge, going through the initiation ritual, promising to abide by their principles. He generously donated to the Masonic association and, following their advice for the general good, went to his estate to improve the lives of his serfs. He built schools and hospitals, did everything he could to improve their lives, but it all yielded little results. Pierre was soon elected as the leader of the Masons in Petersburg. However, he becomes dissatisfied with the Masons because instead of their acts of kindness, they were greedy and held on to Masonic principles more in words than in deeds. Pierre goes abroad and brings back messages from the greatest Masonic leaders, demanding that they be respected, but the other Masons disagree with him. Pierre becomes disappointed in the Masons.

  • Prince Vassily Kuragin, after successfully marrying his daughter Ellen to the wealthy Pierre Bezukhov, also wanted to find a wealthy bride for his son Anatole. His son Anatole was a handsome young man but, just like his sister Ellen, he was troublesome because he was a womanizer and a spendthrift who constantly caused trouble for his father. Because of this, his father takes him to Bald Hills, to the Bolkonsky's, to propose to Princess Mary. Soon after, following a short and foolish affair Anatole had with a maid, Mary's father and she, realized the true intentions of the Kuragins and rejected their proposal. After that, Vassily and Anatole return to Moscow.

  • In Moscow, Anatole sees Natasha Rostov and immediately wants to win her over, regardless of the fact that she is engaged to Andrei Bolkonsky. Thanks to his beauty and the help of his sister Ellen, Anatole quickly seduces young Natasha. Because of him, Natasha writes to Princess Mary to break off her engagement with Prince Andrei. Her parents did not approve of Anatole, but he managed to persuade her to secretly elope with him far from Moscow, even though he had already had a similar affair with a Polish woman, which Natasha did not know about. Thanks to Sonya, who lived with Natasha, his intentions were discovered at the last moment and thwarted. After that, due to the humiliation she experienced, Natasha falls ill. Pierre Bezukhov offers her words of comfort, as he was attracted to her, and reveals to her that Anatole is already married. Natasha tries to poison herself but is saved. Pierre Bezukhov gives Anatole money to disappear from Moscow.

  • A new conflict arose between Russia and Napoleon. Napoleon, who dominated almost all of Europe at that time, wanted to impose his dominance on Russia as well. Therefore, he started a war against Russia. The whole of Russia unanimously rose up in defense. Once again, Nikolai Rostov, Denisov, Dolokhov, Anatole Kuragin had to go to war... Against the will of their parents and brother Nikolai, their underage son and brother Petya also joined the army.

  • Prince Andrei Bolkonsky also went to war again. After Andrei left for war, his father fell ill and died. His sister Mary was left on the estate to take care of everything on her own. She mourned her father a lot but was now free from the terrible fear she had of him her whole life. According to her father's wishes, she did not get married even though she had many opportunities. Now the entire estate and her destiny were in her hands.

  • Napoleon's army was several times larger than the Russian army. Therefore, the Russian forces retreated before Napoleon, only engaging in smaller battles because they would be immediately defeated in a major battle. In order to better resist the French, the old and proven general Kutuzov was chosen as the commander-in-chief, whom the soldiers loved. Along with the army's retreat, civilians also retreated. They took everything they could from their estates, and what they couldn't take, they burned so that the enemy wouldn't have it. Nikolai Rostov distinguished himself in the fight against the French by commanding the hussars, which is why he was decorated.

  • The enemy reached Bald Hills, where the Bolkonsky estate was located. Princess Mary was preparing for evacuation, but her serfs, realizing that she was now just an ordinary unprotected girl, rebelled and refused to obey. She was on the verge of ruin until officer Nikolai Rostov came to her estate, who forced the serfs to obey. She was very grateful to him, but she also liked him. They continued on their separate paths, but from then on, they constantly corresponded.

  • Napoleon's army reached almost to Moscow. Tsar Alexander asked Kutuzov to stop the retreat and defend Moscow. Because of that, the Russian army, on the field of Borodino near Moscow, began a battle with the French. It was the famous Battle of Borodino, one of the bloodiest battles in history. Although it lasted only one day, both sides suffered enormous losses. Pierre Bezukhov watched that battle from an artillery position, observing the soldiers with cannons, but later in the fiercest fight, he joined and helped them in the defense. That's when he experienced the slaughter, the senselessness, and all the horrors of war up close. During the battle, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky was severely wounded by an enemy shell. Anatole Kuragin was also seriously wounded in the battle, losing his leg, and later died.

  • Russia managed to stop Napoleon in the Battle of Borodino, but couldn't win the war against him. The commander of the Russian army, Kutuzov, avoids a new battle that he would surely lose against the much larger French army. Because of that, he retreats his army and surrenders Moscow to the enemy. In Moscow, there is general chaos, the residents are fleeing, taking with them all the belongings they could carry. Among them are the Rostovs. Only a few persistent people did not want to flee the city, they awaited the enemy with weapons. The French quickly defeated them and occupied the city.

  • The wounded were taken away with the residents who were fleeing from Moscow. In one carriage, which belonged to the Rostovs, there was the wounded Prince Andrey Bolkonsky. Natasha finds him and tries to heal him. During this time, he forgives her for breaking off their engagement. Although she tried to help him recover, Prince Andrey loses his will to live and dies.

  • Pierre Bezukhov got the idea to assassinate Napoleon and thus save his country and people. Disguised as a peasant, he tries to get close to Napoleon in Moscow. During this attempt, he meets Natasha and realizes that he is in love with her, but he continues on towards his goal. After saving a child in a fire and attacking a French legionnaire for assaulting a woman, Pierre is captured by French soldiers in Moscow. During that time, he barely avoids being executed, which had become a daily occurrence for civilians and soldiers.

  • After spending the winter in occupied Moscow, due to a lack of supplies for the army, Napoleon is forced to halt his further campaign in Russia and begin his retreat. His army leaves behind a plundered and burned Moscow. Taking the prisoners with them, they start to leave Russia. Among the prisoners is Pierre Bezukhov.

  • In captivity, Pierre meets Platon Karataev, who was also a prisoner. He was an ordinary man who faithfully served his family and country his whole life, never complaining about life, even though it wasn't kind to him. This simple man patiently and calmly endured life's hardships, never complaining, always pleasant and kind-hearted. Pierre is greatly impressed by him, finding in ordinary people an example of an exemplary life, something he had always sought. To Pierre's regret, during the march, a French soldier unexpectedly and arbitrarily killed Platon Karataev, but that man will remain an inspiration for Pierre's future life.

  • The exhausted Napoleon's army in retreat was constantly attacked by Russian units, inflicting new losses on them. The unit commanded by Denisov was joined by the young Petya Rostov, whom the general forbade from participating in the battles. He, on his own initiative, exposed himself to dangers. Dolokhov also joined the unit, and Petya went on reconnaissance with him. During an attack on a village where the French were stationed, Petya was killed. However, the attack was successful and Pierre Bezukhov was liberated.

  • After the return of the population to Moscow, its rapid reconstruction began. Soon after, Pierre's wife, Helene, died, so he was no longer married. After becoming free, Pierre had no obstacles to his love for Natasha, and the two of them got married.

  • The war brought great misfortune to the Rostov family. After losing his brother Petya in the war, the Rostovs were left without property and burdened with large debts, and his father, Ilya, the head of the family, soon died. Nikolai had considered marrying Princess Maria but was uncertain because he had previously promised to marry Sonya. That uncertainty was interrupted by Sonya, who decided to sacrifice herself by releasing him from his promise. After that, Nikolai married Maria. They moved to live in Bald Hills, where Nikolai managed the estate and paid off his family's debts. They raised Andrei's son, Nikolai Bolkonsky, and Sonya lived with them as a dependent.

  • Retired General Denisov visited them in Bald Hills. Pierre and Natasha also came to visit. Nikolai and Maria had three children, and the fourth was on the way. Natasha and Pierre had three daughters and a son. Pierre discovered that due to the crisis in the country, a conspiratorial society against the imperial rule had been established and immediately joined it, while Nikolai Rostov declared himself opposed to it.

  • The country and the people were slowly recovering from the war. As everything calmed down, the same fire burned in Pierre and young Nikolai Bolkonsky, a passion for changes in the country that would bring better days for Russia and the Russian people in the future.

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