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Leo Tolstoy


Russian writer Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy, a writer of the realist school, is widely regarded as one of the best novelists of all time. His works, including masterpieces War and Peace (1865-69) and Anna Karenina (1875-77), paint a vivid picture of the social and political issues of 19th century Russia.

While remembered overwhelmingly for his works of fiction, Tolstoy is also recognized for his contribution to the expansion of Christian philosophy. His later philosophical writing on passive non-resistance, love for enemies, and the renunciation of evil has inspired people all over the world (including Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi). Still viewed as a teacher by many, Tolstoy pushes readers to challenge their belief system and to form new ideas about life and happiness.


Leo Tolstoy Timeline

  • 1828 - Leo Tolstoy was born on the 28th of August
    • born into an aristocratic family, he was raised by relatives on the family’s estate Yasnaya Polyana after his parents’ deaths
  • 1844 - enrolled in Kazan State University
    • studied law and Turco-Arabic literature
  • 1847 - dropped out of university
    • after a brief period at home, Tolstoy spent time living in Moscow
    • looking back on this period with distain, Tolstoy confesses in his auto biography that his youth was squandered drinking, gambling and visiting brothels in his pursuit of pleasure
  • 1851 - accompanied his elder brother Nikolai to Chechnya to join the military service
  • 1852 - Leo Tolstoy’s first novel Childhood was published
    • a reflection on his own childhood, the book was his first big success in the literary world
  • 1855 - left the army
    • in the following years Tolstoy did extensive traveling in Europe, leading to Lucerne, Three Deaths and Kholstomer - short stories about his experiences
  • 1859 - established a school for peasant children at Yasnaya Polyana
  • 1860 - His elder brother Nikolai died on the 20th of September
    • deeply saddened by his brother’s death, Tolstoy began to lose his mental stability and often confessed remorse in his personal diary
  • 1862 - married Sofia Andreyevna Behrs on the 24th of September
    • Sofia proved a great help to his literary work, assisting him with business correspondence, writing drafts and organizing his rough notes
    • the couple had 12 children (five of whom died in their childhood)
    • overall, his marriage gave him a moral stability, and for the next fifteen years he remained in what he called, "a natural state"
  • 1869 - Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace is published
  • 1877 - Anna Karenina is first published in its entirety
  • 1882 - A Confession is first distributed
    • a short work on questions of religion, consisting of autobiographical notes on the development of the author's belief
    • trying to answer the profound question, “What is the meaning of life?”, Tolstoy rejects some positions and customs of the Christian church
  • 1894 - The Kingdom of God Is Within You is published
    • first published in Germany after being banned in Russia, the book speaks of the principle of nonresistance when confronted by violence, and takes the viewpoint that governments who wage war break Christian principles
    • Mahatma Gandhi later wrote that the book overwhelmed him and called it one of the most important modern influences in his life
  • 1901 - Tolstoy renounced the authority of Orthodox Church
    • after his excommunication in 1901, he became known as a Christian anarchist
    • his teaching began to attract followers and people started to preach Tolstoy’s religious doctrines known as "Tolstoyaism"
  • 1910 - Leo Tolstoy dies on the 20th of November
    • his death came only days after abandoning his home and his wealth in a pursuit to attain a high spiritual and moral state


Yasnaya Polyana

Yasnaya Polyana, estate of Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy was born, lived, and died on his family’s estate Yasnaya Polyana in the Tula region of Russia. After his death the estate was designated a memorial museum and still remains a popular Russian Tourist destination. Located 12 km (7.5 miles) southwest of Tula, Russia, it was here that he wrote his celebrated novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina.


War and Peace

War and Peace is generally thought to be one of the greatest novels ever written. Epic in scale, its vast canvas includes 580 characters - some historical, some fictional. Seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families, the story moves from family life to the headquarters of Napoleon, from the court of Alexander I to the battlefields of Austerlitz and Borodino. The novel explores Tolstoy's theory of history, and in particular, the insignificance of individuals such as Napoleon and Alexander.


Leo Tolstoy Facts


Russian Name: Лев Николаевич Толстой

Date of Birth: September 9, 1828

Place of Birth: Yasnaya Polyana, Russian Empire

  • located in the Tula region of Russia

Date of Death: November 20, 1910

Place of Death: Astapovo, Russia Empire

  • now called Lev Tolstoy, located in the Lipetsk region

Famous as: Writer, Novelist

Genre: Realism

Literary Works: view list of Tolstoy's writing


Leo Tolstoy photo


War and Peace - A Must Read


Leo Tolstoy - Lost Writing Rediscovered


Leo Tolstoy - The Last Years