Classification – name: Literary studies
Pages: 117–130
Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
Rights – URL:
Language of the publication: Russian
Type of document: Research Article
Collection: L.N. Tolstoy: Moral Search and Creative Laboratory
Year of publication: 2021
Place of publication: Moscow


Author: Viktor I. Shcherbakov
Shcherbakov, V.I. “Moscow and Petersburg in Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’.” L.N. Tolstoy: Moral Search and Creative Laboratory. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2021, pp. 117–130.

About the author:

Viktor I. Shcherbakov, PhD in Philology, Senior Researcher, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Moscow and St. Petersburg have repeatedly become the subject of comparative characterization in Russian literature. Leo Tolstoy in his novels also tried to outline and compare the characters of two Russian megacities, traditionally competing with each other. In “War and Peace”, Moscow is depicted in detail and with love, while St. Petersburg is shown schematically and aloof. The comparison of two capitals is extremely contrasting here — “de salon” Petersburg and “people’s” Moscow are presented as antipodes and remain so during the Napoleonic invasion. The article clarifies ideological and psychological roots of this mythologeme. It is shown that it is based on both objective historical reasons (the vigorous development of St. Petersburg in the 19th century and the lag of Moscow, which then had the appearance of a “provincial” city), and Tolstoy’s deeply personal sympathies and antipathies, to which he strove to impart a universal character.

Keywords: Tolstoy, “War and Peace”, Moscow and St. Petersburg, the war of 1812.