Pierre's abstraction of the ruins of Moscow around him show his rather other-worldly attitude towards the serious events through which he is living. The rapturous contemplation of ruins was a feature of the Romantic philosophy popular at this time (see bookmark to Page 587, "Il faut être mélancolique".) The Rhine valley is an example of the dramatic natural scenery that appealed to the Romantic sensibility. The ruins of the Colosseum in Rome evoked in the Romantic imagination strong feelings about the passing of civilisations and the insignificance of the individual in relation to these things. Both of these types of Romanticism - the worship of wild nature and the fascination with ruins - can be seen as reaching for the infinite, the vast sublime expanse outside of ordinary life.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) was a German idealist philosopher whose work is seen as a link between that of Kant and Hegel. His use of Kant's obscure writing style makes his work very difficult to penetrate. He was condemned in German as his philosophy seemed atheistic, although he denied this charge.
Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) was also a German idealist philosopher who was influenced by Fichte. His writing on mythology and revelation had an important impact on Continental European thinking. However, breaks and changes in his philosophy making it more difficult to express his ideas as a single overarching system of thought, have meant that his influence has waned.
François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) was a French writer, considered the founder of French literary Romanticism. He was a Royalist, and was exiled to England after the success of the French Revolution, where he became interested in English literature, particularly Milton. He returned to France during Napoleon's time and won the latter's favour, although they soon parted ways; Chateaubriand was then saved from penury by the Russian Tsarina, who considered him a defender of Christianity. His writing had an important influence on Victor Hugo, Lord Byron, and Stendhal.
Alexei Arakcheev (1769-1834) was a Russian general and politician who served as one of Alexander I's most trusted advisors. The period when he was at the height of his power was known as the Arakcheevschina ('Arakcheev regime') which has become byword for a harsh, repressive military regime. His influence helped Tsar Alexander I transform himself from the liberal, reformist man of his youth to the more reactionary autocrat of his later years. Arakcheev was also responsible for implementing Alexander's ill-advised policy of military settlements, where unfortunate serfs would be locked into military and agricultural service.
Dmitry Golitsyn (1771-1844) was a Russian general, military strategist and governor of Moscow who wrote several books on warfare. His wife Natalie Tchernyshova was portrayed as the Queen of Spades in Pushkin's famous story of the same name (read online here).
Alexander Shishkov (1754-1841) was also a statesman who served under Alexander I. He was a fervent Slavophile, meaning that he believed in the expansion of the Russian Empire to include all Slavic peoples, and in the supremacy of Russian culture and values over Western European ideals such as democracy and liberalism.
Photius of Constantinople (c. 810-893) was an influential Patriarch of Constantinople who had an enormous impact on the development of the Orthodox Church. He was a key figure in the conversion of the Russians to this church.
The Island of Elba lies in the Mediterranean sea near the coast of Italy. It was Napoleon's first place of exile, following his first defeat after the invasion of Russia. He spent less than a year on the island before raising an army and escaping back to France, determined to re-establish himself.
Napoleon's brief return is known as the Hundred Days, although in fact it lasted 111: from 20th March to 8th July 1815. After his exile to Elba, Napoleon raised an army and returned to re-conquer France while Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria were thrashing out their differences at the Congress of Vienna, called to reorganise Europe in the wake of the earlier Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon marched on Paris and seized power again fairly quickly, aided by widespread dissatisfaction at the behaviour of the newly re-established monarchy and aristocracy. The Allies roused themselves, creating a huge army that met Napoleon for a final, decisive battle at Waterloo on 18th June 1815. Napoleon was forced to surrender shortly afterwards in Paris, and was re-exiled, this time to the far more distant island of St Helena, where he lived for the rest of his life.