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Tolstoy On WarNarrative Art and Historical Truth in “War and Peace”$
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Rick McPeak and Donna Tussing Orwin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448980

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448980.001.0001

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Tolstoy and Clausewitz

Tolstoy and Clausewitz

The Dialectics of War

(p.140) 10 Tolstoy and Clausewitz
Tolstoy On War

Andreas Herberg-Rothe

Cornell University Press

This chapter compares Leo Tolstoy's ideas with those of Carl von Clausewitz, who, although a Prussian, participated as a Russian staff officer in the 1812 campaign. An episode occurring just before the Battle of Borodino in which Clausewitz makes a cameo appearance wrongly locates the theorist in the Prussian school of military strategy. Tolstoy, though he may not have known it, agreed with Clausewitz's own early “existential” view. Ironically, Clausewitz's experience of the Russian campaign changed this view to an “instrumental” one, and it is this later iteration of Clausewitz's ideas that Tolstoy is criticizing in the scene in which he appears. Clausewitz saw the universal mobilization required in existential war as an important step toward creating a German nation. Here there is an ironic parallel to the role of War and Peace as a founding epic of modern Russia.

Keywords:   Leo Tolstoy, Carl von Clausewitz, 1812 campaign, Battle of Borodino, Prussian school of military strategy, existential war, founding epic, modern Russia

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