10.12.2015 | 09:26
Russia launches marathon reading of Tolstoy's War and Peace, cosmonaut takes part from International Space Station (ABC)
A total of 1,300 readers, including actors, politicians and sports figures, are taking part in the reading, which began with actress Alisa Freindlikh reading the first passage.
Other readers included cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, who took part from the International Space Station, and French actress Fanny Ardant.
The reading of the four-volume novel set during Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia is beingbroadcast live on national television and radio and online.
"Tolstoy draws together our whole country, no less than the state border or our single currency," television presenter Fyokla Tolstaya, who is the novelist's great-great-granddaughter, told the RIA Novosti news agency.
The Mayak radio station, which has given over its entire schedule to the novel except for short news bulletins, urged listeners to phone in to talk about their favourite character.
"My favourite character is Natasha Rostova, because like me, she made her own journey from a thoughtless young girl to a mother of a family who has learnt how to be happy," said one listener, Anastasia.
The project's website includes an interactive map of the relationships between the characters, such as "love", "conflict" and "marriage". The chart changes to reflect events in each section of the novel.
The readings were taking place in locations across Russia, including Tolstoy's country estate in Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow, where he wrote much of the novel, as well as the Chechen capital Grozny and Vladivostok in the far east.
Some also are reading extracts abroad, from cities including Vienna and London, where television special correspondent Alexander Khabarov on Monday read his segment while standing on the embankment opposite the Houses of Parliament.
The marathon reading, part of Russia's Year of Literature, is set to run until Friday, getting through one volume per day.
With its multiple characters, lengthy battle scenes and reams of dialogue in French, Tolstoy's novel completed in 1869 is one of the most challenging in world literature.
The book is considered so vital to the Russian national identity that it is compulsory reading for students aged 15 or 16.
Many Russians are also familiar with Sergei Bondarchuk's Soviet film version which won an Oscar in 1969 and is being shown again on state television to coincide with the reading.
The BBC is making a new television series of War and Peace set to air in January, starring Gillian Anderson, Paul Dano and Lily James, some filming for which took place in Russia.
A similar online project earlier this year was devoted to Anton Chekhov, titled Chekhov Is Alive! to mark the 125th anniversary of his birth.
More than 700 people read from his works including his play The Seagull. Google was one of the organisers and the readings were shown on YouTube.