A wealthy St. Petersburg society hostess and matchmaker for the Kuragin family, whose party in 1805 opens the novel.
The large-bodied, ungainly, and socially awkward illegitimate son of an old Russian grandee. Pierre, educated abroad, returns to Russia as a misfit. His unexpected inheritance of a large fortune makes him socially desirable. Pierre is ensnared by the fortune-hunting Helene Kuragina, whose eventual deception leaves him depressed and confused, spurring a spiritual odyssey that spans the novel. Pierre eventually marries Natasha Rostova.
The intelligent, disciplined, and ambitious son of the retired military commander Prince Bolkonski. Andrew is coldly analytical and resistant to flights of emotion. Lonely after the death of his wife, Lise, he falls in love with Natasha, but is unable to forgive her momentary passion for Anatole.
Andrew’s angelic wife, who dies in childbirth.
Andrew’s father, a stodgy and old-fashioned recluse who lives in the country after his retirement from the army and subsequent retreat from social life. The old prince, cynical about modern life, is stern and sometimes cruel toward his daughter Mary. In the war with Napoleon, he returns to active military service, but dies as the French approach his estate.
The lonely, plain, and long-suffering daughter of Prince Bolkonski. Princess Mary cares for her father, enduring his cruel treatment with Christian forgiveness. In the end, Nicholas Rostov weds Mary and saves her from an unhappy solitude.
The French companion of Princess Mary, who lives with her on the Bolkonski estate. Mademoiselle Bourienne becomes the object of the old prince’s affections shortly before his death.
Mary’s friend and pen pal. Julie, an heiress, lives in Moscow and eventually marries Boris.
A loving, friendly, and financially carefree nobleman who lives with his large family at Otradnoe, their estate south of Moscow. The old count piles up debts through luxurious living, eventually depriving his children of their inheritance—a failing for which he seeks his children’s forgiveness before he dies.
Count Rostov’s wife. The countess is as neglectful of money matters as her husband, maintaining standards of luxury that prove a burden to her son Nicholas when he supports her after the count’s death. The death of her youngest son, Petya, deeply affects the countess, sinking her into a gloom from which she never again emerges.
The lively and irrepressible daughter of the Rostov family, who charms everyone she meets. Natasha falls in love with a series of men and then becomes seriously committed to Andrew, though she ruins the relationship by engaging in a brief tryst with Anatole Kuragin. Eventually, Natasha marries Pierre and becomes a stout, unkempt matron.
The impetuous, eldest Rostov son, who joins the Russian forces in 1805 and spends much of the novel on the front. Nicholas accumulates gambling debts that become burdensome for his family. However, we see his commitment to his family upon his father’s death, when he supports his mother and cousin Sonya on his meager salary while continuing to pay off the family’s debts. Nicholas eventually marries the heiress Mary, saving his family from financial ruin.
The humble cousin of Natasha and Nicholas, who lives with the Rostovs as a ward. Sonya and Nicholas were childhood sweethearts, but as adults, Sonya generously gives up Nicholas so that he can marry a rich woman and save the Rostov finances.
The youngest Rostov son, who begs to join the Russian army. Petya, who is close to Natasha and beloved by his mother, is killed in partisan fighting after the French begin their withdrawal from Moscow.
The eldest Rostov daughter. Vera is a somewhat cold, unpleasant young woman, and her only proposal of marriage comes from the officer Berg, who is candid about his need for her dowry.
An artificial and untrustworthy Russian nobleman, and a special friend of Anna Pavlovna. Vasili continually tries to maneuver his children into lucrative marriages.
Vasili’s roguish and spendthrift son, who is on the hunt for a rich wife. Anatole falls for Natasha Rostova at the opera, causing her rift with Andrew Bolkonski.
Vasili’s cold, imperious, and beautiful daughter, who seduces Pierre into marriage, only to take up with another man immediately. Helene, though known in social circles as a witty woman, is actually stupid and shallow.
The ugly and undistinguished brother of Helene and Anatole.
A woman from an illustrious old family who is nonetheless impoverished. Anna Mikhaylovna is dominated by thoughts of securing a good future for her son Boris. She extracts a promise from Vasili Kuragin that he will help Boris get an officer’s position in the army.
Anna Mikhaylovna’s son, a poor but ambitious friend of Nicholas Rostov. Boris fights to establish a career for himself, using connections and his own intelligence and talents. Though he flirts with the young Natasha, as an adult he seeks a bigger fortune, eventually marrying an heiress.
A handsome Russian army officer and friend of Nicholas. Dolokhov carries on with Helene, prompting Pierre to challenge him to a duel in which Pierre nearly kills him.
A short, hairy, good-looking friend of Nicholas who accompanies him to Moscow on home leave and later falls for Sonya. Denisov is later court-martialed for seizing army food provisions to feed his men.
A brilliant liberal advisor to the tsar. Speranski attempts to reform and modernize the Russian state until his fall from grace.
A Russian military commander.
An old, one-eyed general who leads the Russians to military success at Borodino, but who falls from favor toward the end of his life. Kutuzov is characterized by a spirituality and humility that contrast sharply with Napoleon’s vanity and logic.
The small, plump, and extremely arrogant French emperor and military leader who invades Russia. Napoleon embodies self-serving rationalization and vainglory in the novel, and he is shocked by the French defeat at Borodino.