My question concerns Vassily Kuragin's plot to remove Pierre from the Old Count Bezukhov's will. I'm using the Rosemary Edmonds translation. The primary chapters are 18, 20, and 21 in part 1 of book 1. In chapter 18 Vassily has a conversation with Princess Katishe concerning Pierre's last minute introduction to the Bezukhov's will and his posthumous legitimization through a letter Bezukhov has written. All the documents are "in the inlaid portfolio which he keeps under his pillow". Vassily convinces Katishe to conspire with him and describes a plan: "Tell me all you know about the will, and above all where it is: you must know. We will take it at once and show it to the count. No doubt he has forgotten all about it and will wish it to be destroyed".

In 20 it is implied that Vassily and Katishe steal the portfolio while others are visiting Bezukhov: "Vasili left his position behind the carved chair ... to the eldest princess(Katishe), and together they retired to the depths of the alcove where the high bedstead stood with its silken hangings. From there both the prince and the princess disappeared through the farther door."

In 21 we see the end of the plot. Anna Mihalovna stands "barring the way to the bedroom and preventing the other(Katishe) from passing". Katishe has the portfolio with her and they fight over it, with Anna Anna Mihalovna ultimately taking it.

21 seems to cause some confusion in general as I've seen the scene portrayed as Katishe attempting to exit the bedroom so that she can destroy the letter. This is mentioned on a few summary sites and in comments I've seen on the internet. My question is: What was the actual plan? It seems odd that Vassily and Katishe would take the portfolio only to return slightly later to show it to Bezukhov.

1 Answer 1


Of course,

We will take it at once and show it to the count.

is a pretext to save the face, and cannot be taken seriously. The Count is in the last moments of his life, doesn't recognize anybody. Who could believe that he

will wish it to be destroyed

in such conditions?

The plot is to simply steal and destroy the document.

PS: Mihalovna is not a last name. Call her Anna Mihalovna.

  • So why the attempt to re-enter the bedroom with the documents that they wish to destroy? Also apologies for the misnaming. Dec 16, 2023 at 2:54
  • I don't think they have the document at the moment. We only see the inlaid portfolio in 21. It would be very rude - and obvious - for them to pull it from under the pillow while the Count is still alive and there are plenty of people in his chamber. I honestly don't know why did "they disappeared through the farther door". Perhaps, to discuss a logistic. In any case, they did not yet had the portfolio. Dec 16, 2023 at 4:18
  • When I said re-enter, I meant in chapter 21. I should have been more specific. I know for sure in chapter 21 they had possession of the portfolio(because of the scuffle with Anna Mihalovna) and, baring some odd translation, it is implied that Katishe is trying to re-enter the bedroom of the Count with the portfolio. If they planned on showing it to the count, then why remove it from the room in the first place? If they had somehow destroying/modifying the contents then how did Pierre still end up in the final will? Dec 16, 2023 at 4:57

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