Tag Archives: Uhlan

Leo Tolstoy’s Birthday

Today, September 9, is the birthday of Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  He was born in 1828 (died 1910) into a family of nobility.  He lived a life of leisure until enlisting in the army in 1851 and fought in the Crimean War.  It was during this time that he began to write.  He also gained first-hand experience of what it was like in the Russian military.  Experience that he would draw on later while writing War and Peace.

Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy

War and Peace is a combination of fiction and history.  Tolstoy did consult many accounts of those who had participated in the campaign of 1812.  One of the sources I use frequently in this blog, Philippe-Paul de Ségur‘s Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, contains, according to the editor’s preface, four incidents that appear in War and Peace: The Uhlans drowning in the Viliya River and saluting the spot on the shore where the Emperor had been standing; the scene in which the portrait of Napoleon’s son is shown to the troops on the eve of the battle of Borodino (Blogger’s note: I used this scene in my book, Russian Snows, as well); ailing Napoleon at Borodino postponing his orders; and the moment Napoleon stands on the Poklonny Hill gazing at Moscow.

Tolstoy’s book begins in 1805 and was originally published between 1865-1869 as a serial story in a magazine.  While writing the novel, Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia, ( August 22, 1844 – November 4, 1919) copied the manuscript seven times!  This is quite a feat considering one of the

Sophia Tolstoy at age 17
One year before her marriage

things that makes War and Peace such a famous book is its great length.  One of my copies has 1,442 pages.

What makes War and Peace of interest to those who follow a blog about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is that a good deal of the book covers the year 1812 and the invasion.  Tolstoy did not, however, consider War and Peace his best novel, that honor he gave to Anna Karenina.

Here is a link to a website that has an online, version of War and Peace.  This link has film footage of Tolstoy including his funeral procession.

I have two copies of War and Peace, including one from 1889, but have never read it.  Instead, I listened to a free audio version (64+ hours).  It helped to have a copy of the book handy while listening so that I could consult the list of characters that is included in the more recent version.  Whether you read or listen, the book is well worth the time.