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The novel opens with the scene of a party in Anna Pavlovna’s house where Prince Vasily, Prince Andrei, Pierre and other influential men are present. Prince Vasily is concerned about his elder son who is a philanderer. Anna Pavlovna promises to help by fixing a match for the boy with Princess Marya Bolkonsky. Anna Mikhailovna requests Prince Vasily to fix a commission for her son in the army. Ellen arrives to accompany her father to the home of the ambassador.
As Andrei prepares for his visit to his father before joining his regiment, his pregnant wife persuades him to stay back. Pierre leaves to join his idle company and indulges in frivolous pleasures. In the house of Rostovs, the name day of the Countess is celebrated. The Countess is kind and generous and proud of her children. Her daughter Natasha is a sprightly teenager and loves Boris, while her son Nikolai is a handsome young man who likes, Sonya, his cousin.
At the house of Bezukhov, the Count is on his death-bed. Dignitaries come to visit him, as Prince Vasily attends to him. Vasily is hopeful of securing a part of the inheritance of the count. However, he is afraid that the Count has already made a will in favor of Pierre. He seeks the help of Princess Katerina to find the will and destroy it. When the Princess refuses to oblige him, Vasily feels helpless. Shortly afterwards, the Count breathes his last. Pierre becomes the inheritor of his property and the most eligible bachelor in town.
Andrei visits his father. Both the old Prince and Marya are happy to meet Andrei. Marya adores her sister-in-law, Lisa and asks Andrei to be sensitive to his wife’s feelings. She also gives her brother a lucky charm to wear it in the battlefield. As Andrei takes his leave, the old Prince bids him a fond farewell and wishes him to do his best.
Prince Vasily acts protective towards Pierre and expects the latter to marry his daughter. Anna Pavlovna arranges a meeting between the two youngsters and Vasily persuades Pierre to marry Ellen. Thus, before he can ascertain his feelings for Ellen, he proposes to her. Shortly afterwards, he marries Ellen and shifts to the Bezukhov estate.
Having settled his daughter in marriage, Vasily plans to fix a match between Anatol and Princess Marya. With this intention, he visits Bald Hills to meet the old Prince and his daughter. Prince Bolkonsky sees through Vasily’s schemes and dislikes him for it. Marya feels attracted towards Anatol and dreams of a life with him. However, when she finds him in a compromising situation with Madam Bourienne, she refuses his proposal. As Vasily leaves Bald Hills dejected, Prince Bolkonsky looks relieved.
Nikolai writes a letter to his parents informing them about the wound caused to him during an encounter with the enemy and also mentions about the promotion he had got. The Countess feels disturbed to hear about his injury, but is proud of the bravery of her son. Count Rostov encloses some money along with a letter to Nikolai and sends it to Boris. Nikolai reaches Olmutz to collect his letter from Boris. Here, he meets Andrei who is trying to fix a good place for Boris in the army.
At Olmutz, both the emperors of Austria and Russia encourage their army to do their best against their enemy. Nikolai and his compatriots get inspired by the words of the Tsar and vow to make their King proud of them. Shortly afterwards, Aleksandr falls sick. Napoleon sends him a letter of invitation to a meeting. Aleksandr sends his emissary Dolgorukhov to the French emperor. Napoleon speaks of truce but Dolgorukhov refuses to comply to his enemy’s request. Thus, the war begins at Austerlitz. The disciplined French forces rout the disorganized Russian troops and score a victory. Andrei and Kutuzov are injured, while many lie dead in the battlefield.