In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire had reached it's golden age; the arts and sciences flourished, and metropolitan aristocracy came to resemble that of the French court under King Louis XV or perhaps that of the Antebellum South in the United States. In this social system, the prodigal sons of nobility would join one or another branch of the military to prove their honor and dedication to the motherland.
In this time period, Leo Tolstoy's novel, War and Peace, is set. The political themes in War and Peace are highlighted through just those mediums: war and peace. In times of peace, the rulers of the Russian Empire are mostly portrayed as self-centered hypocrites that work only for their own benefit. During such times, Tolstoy displays his dissatisfaction with the type of diplomacy in which the government will do nearly anything to remain in power. In times of war, Russian nobility is characterized as, for the most part, efficient and dependable.
The individual characters of the novel lose their faults and assume the roles of upstanding officers in service to their Emperor. Regardless of this fact, Tolstoy states his opinion that a nation's future is in no way controlled by its leaders, but rather by the subjects that make it up.
The war in reference is Russia's conflict with Napoleon. The struggle begins when the Russian people feel growing unrest at the way that Buonaparte's regime is treating the aristocracy of France. At the beginning of the book, there is mention of how Napoleon executed the duc d'Enghien, an act that caused much scandal among Europe's nobles who saw this as a threat to their own lofty positions. The engagement of forces at the beginning of the book is a series of conflicts between Napoleonic France and the...