Victim of Circumstance: Rastophchin's Execution of Vereshchagin in Tolstoi's Voina i mir

David J. Galloway


The Vereshchagin episode, describing the execution of a young student during the fall of Moscow in 1812, occupies Chapters 24 and 25 of Part 3, Book 3 of Lev Tolstoi's Voina i mir (War and Peace). This dramatic scene, in which Mikhail Vereshchagin is cut down by a dragoon on the order of Count Fedor Rastopchin, has received little critical attention given the breadth of work on the novel as a whole. This is understandable on the grounds that the text does not constitute a large portion of Voina i mir and its characters are far from principal players. Yet investigating the episode reveals how Tolstoi deliberately added psychological, ideological, and theological subtexts to the early drafts, marking such subtexts by changes in narration, language, and direct allusions. Episodes such as this one are intricately structured to produce emotions, raise questions, and initiate a philosophical inquiry into the actions and thoughts of the characters concerned.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.