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The first draft of War and Peace was completed in 1863. In 1865, the periodical Russkiy Vestnik published the first part of this early version under the title 1805. In the following year, it published more of the same early version. Tolstoy was dissatisfied with this version, although he allowed several parts of it to be published with a different ending in 1867, still under the same title “1805”. He heavily rewrote the entire novel between 1866 and 1869. Tolstoy’s wife, Sophia Tolstaya, copied as many as seven separate complete manuscripts by hand before Tolstoy considered it again ready for publication. The version that was published in Russkiy Vestnik had a very different ending from the version eventually published under the title War and Peace in 1869.

The completed novel was then called Voyna i mir (new style orthography; in English War and Peace).

The 1805 manuscript (sometimes referred to as “the original War and Peace”) was re-edited and annotated in Russia in 1983 and since has been translated separately from the “known” version, to English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Albanian, and Korean. The fact that so many versions of War and Peace survive make it one of the best insights into the mental processes of a great novelist.

Russians who had read the serialized version were anxious to acquire the complete first edition, which included epilogues, and it sold out almost immediately. The novel was translated almost immediately after publication into many other languages.

The novel can be generally classified as historical fiction. It contains elements present in many types of popular 18th and 19th century literature, especially the romance novel. War and Peace attains its literary status by transcending genres.