10.12.2015 | 10:01

Russians read Tolstoy's War and Peace in 60-hour marathon (The Telegraph)

More than 1,300 Russians are taking part in a four-day marathon reading of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel War and Peace, broadcast live on national television from 30 different locations across the world.

The 60-hour event, which is due to conclude on Friday evening was coordinated by Tolstoy's great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya. The readings were filmed at locations all over Russia, including the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, and include appearances from Russian film stars and cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, who is currently at the International Space Station.

“For me, this project is ideologically important – it demonstrates that we are united not only by citizenship, the same language, currency and territory. We are united by classic Russian literature and culture – and that is very important,” Ms Tolstaya told Russia's Gazeta.ru.

On Thursday morning, three-minute passages from the 1,440-page novel were read aloud by a pop singer in Moscow, a jeweller in Nepal, an airline company owner in eastern Siberia, an actor in Chechnya and a baker in the Far East.

Russian speakers are due to read excerpts from cities including Washington, Berlin, Paris, Beijing and Vienna. The readings are being broadcast live on state-run television channels and radio stations, and there is also a live web broadcast.

Tolstoy's descendants have filmed readings at the family estate south of Moscow, Yasnaya Polyana, where he wrote War and Peace, which describes both the Napoleonic wars and French-speaking high society in imperial St Petersburg.

More than 5,000 people applied to read an excerpt from the novel. Organisers confirmed that British-based television presenter Alexandra Tolstoy, a distant cousin of the author, did not take part.

Svetlana Bondarchuk, a popular television host and the wife of Russian film director Fyodor Bondarchuk, compared her participation in the project to a national duty. “There are certain things, that if you refuse them, you will regret it for the rest of your life,” she said.
Ms Tolstaya said: “It seems to me that even the name of the novel, 'War and Peace' is relevant now; in a tragic way it has come to be more than just the name of a Tolstoy novel for us,” she said.

Tolstoy took six years to complete "War and Peace," which was rewritten 26 times. One of Tolstoy's most translated works, the novel is part of the Russian high school curriculum.