War and Peace

Principal characters

The novel tells the story of five families—the Bezukhovs, the Bolkonskys, the Rostovs, the Kuragins, and the Drubetskoys.

The main characters are:

  • The Bezukhovs
    • Count Kirill Vladimirovich Bezukhov: the father of Pierre
    • Count Pyotr Kirillovich ("Pierre") Bezukhov: The central character and often a voice for Tolstoy's own beliefs or struggles. Pierre is the socially awkward illegitimate son of Count Kirill Vladimirovich Bezukhov, who has fathered dozens of illegitimate sons. Educated abroad, Pierre returns to Russia as a misfit. His unexpected inheritance of a large fortune makes him socially desirable.
  • The Bolkonskys
    • Prince Nikolai Andreich Bolkonsky: The father of Andrei and Maria, the eccentric prince possesses a gruff exterior and displays great insensitivity to the emotional needs of his children. Nevertheless, his harshness often belies hidden depth of feeling.
    • Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky: A strong but skeptical, thoughtful and philosophical aide-de-camp in the Napoleonic Wars.
    • Princess Maria Nikolayevna Bolkonskaya: Sister of Prince Andrei, Princess Maria is a pious woman whose father attempted to give her a good education. The caring, nurturing nature of her large eyes in her otherwise plain face is frequently mentioned. Tolstoy often notes that Princess Maria cannot claim a radiant beauty (like many other female characters of the novel) but she is a person of very high moral values and of high intelligence.
  • The Rostovs
    • Count Ilya Andreyevich Rostov: The pater-familias of the Rostov family; hopeless with finances, generous to a fault. As a result, the Rostovs never have enough cash, despite having many estates.
    • Countess Natalya Rostova: The wife of Count Ilya Rostov, she is frustrated by her husband's mishandling of their finances, but is determined that her children succeed anyway
    • Countess Natalya Ilyinichna "Natasha" Rostova: A central character, introduced as "not pretty but full of life", romantic, impulsive and highly strung. She is an accomplished singer and dancer.
    • Count Nikolai Ilyich "Nikolenka" Rostov: A hussar, the beloved eldest son of the Rostov family.
    • Sofia Alexandrovna "Sonya" Rostova: Orphaned cousin of Vera, Nikolai, Natasha, and Petya Rostov and is in love with Nikolai.
    • Countess Vera Ilyinichna Rostova: Eldest of the Rostov children, she marries the German career soldier, Berg.
    • Pyotr Ilyich "Petya" Rostov: Youngest of the Rostov children.
  • The Kuragins
    • Prince Vasily Sergeyevich Kuragin: A ruthless man who is determined to marry his children into wealth at any cost.
    • Princess Elena Vasilyevna "Hélène" Kuragina: A beautiful and sexually alluring woman who has many affairs, including (it is rumoured) with her brother Anatole.
    • Prince Anatole Vasilyevich Kuragin: Hélène's brother, a handsome and amoral pleasure seeker who is secretly married yet tries to elope with Natasha Rostova.
    • Prince Ippolit Vasilyevich (Hippolyte) Kuragin: The younger brother of Anatole and perhaps most dim-witted of the three Kuragin children.
  • The Drubetskoys
    • Prince Boris Drubetskoy: A poor but aristocratic young man driven by ambition, even at the expense of his friends and benefactors, who marries Julie Karagina for money and is rumored to have had an affair with Hélène Bezukhova.
    • Princess Anna Mihalovna Drubetskaya: The impoverished mother of Boris, whom she wishes to push up the career ladder.
  • Other prominent characters
    • Fyodor Ivanovich Dolokhov: A cold, almost psychopathic officer, he ruins Nikolai Rostov by luring him into an outrageous gambling debt after unsuccessfully proposing to Sonya Rostova. He is also rumored to have had an affair with Hélène Bezukhova and he provides for his poor mother and hunchbacked sister.
    • Adolf Karlovich Berg: A young Russian officer, who desires to be just like everyone else and marries the young Vera Rostova.
    • Anna Pavlovna Scherer: Also known as Annette, she is the hostess of the salon that is the site of much of the novel's action in Petersburg and schemes with Prince Vasily Kuragin.
    • Maria Dmitryevna Akhrosimova: An older Moscow society lady, good-humored but brutally honest.
    • Amalia Evgenyevna Bourienne: A Frenchwoman who lives with the Bolkonskys, primarily as Princess Maria's companion and later at Maria's expense.
    • Vasily Dmitrich Denisov: Nikolai Rostov's friend and brother officer, who unsuccessfully proposes to Natasha.
    • Platon Karataev: The archetypal good Russian peasant, whom Pierre meets in the prisoner-of-war camp.
    • Osip Bazdeyev: a Freemason who convinces Pierre to join his mysterious group.
    • Bilibin: A diplomat with a reputation for cleverness, an acquaintance of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky.

In addition, several real-life historical characters (such as Napoleon and Prince Mikhail Kutuzov) play a prominent part in the book. Many of Tolstoy's characters were based on real people. 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 Vassily or Count Ilya Rostov.


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