Who was Tolstoy?



Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (b. 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, Tula, Russia – d. 1910 in Astapovo, Ryazan, Russia), commonly known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is known for his realistic novels, most famously the lengthy War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He was also a preacher of a pacifistic interpretation of Christianity that influenced Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He is widely considered one of the greatest novelists of all time, and his works are frequently listed among the best ever written.

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Tolstoy came from an aristocratic family. His father was Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, and his mother was Maria Nikolayevna. His mother died when he was a baby, and his father died seven years later. Leo had four older siblings and later one younger sibling. They were initially raised on the family’s estate at Yasnaya Polyana, in Tula Oblast. Leo would later inherit this property in 1847, and kept it as his home for the remainder of his life.

Custody of Leo and his siblings was transferred to their grandmother, who died 11 months after their father. They then lived with their aunt Aleksandra until she died in 1841. They went to live with another aunt in Kazan, where they remained. Tolstoy enrolled in the university in Kazan in 1844 to study oriental languages.

In his early youth, Tolstoy had an interest in literature, notably Pushkin and the Bible. Later he also took inspiration from the writings of Rousseau, Lermontov, Schiller, D. V. Grigorovich, Laurence Sterne, and Charles Dickens. In spite of his literary and intellectual interests, Tolstoy did not do well at the university. He stopped studying oriental languages and switched to law; it was at this point that he encountered many of the writers who influenced him the most. Nevertheless, he was largely preoccupied with drinking, gambling, and promiscuity. [1] When he inherited the family property in 1847, he dropped out of school and returned to Yasnaya Polyana.

Tolstoy continued to lead an indulgent life for the next few years, in spite of making efforts at self-improvement. He began keeping a diary, and would later use these diaries for inspiration in his writings.

In 1851, Tolstoy joined the army in the Caucasus, where his brother Nikolai was also serving. Three years later, he became an officer. He served in Ukraine, first on the Danube and then in the Crimea. Later describing this period of his life, Tolstoy wrote: “Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, and murder, all were committed by me, not one crime omitted, and yet I was not the less considered by my equals to be a comparatively moral man.” [2]

Tolstoy began his career as a writer while in the army. His first publication was Childhood, in 1852. This was a semi-fictional novel about childhood, incorporating many of Tolstoy’s own memories. It was well-received and prompted a sequel. Tolstoy also published some military stories.

In 1956, Tolstoy left the army and went to pursue a career as a writer in St. Petersburg. He associated with writers, critics, and intellectuals. He was popular, yet had some difficulty getting along with other writers found the lifestyle of a celebrity writer unpleasant. In 1857, he went to Paris, gambled away his money, then returned to Russia.

In the late 1850s, Tolstoy oriented himself towards education. He undertook to educate the children of his serfs. He founded a school at Yasnaya Polyana and studied European educational theory. From 1862-3, he published a periodical Yasnaya Polyana, containing his writings on educational theory.

In 1862, Tolstoy married Sofiya Andreevna Bers. Over the course of their marriage, they had 13 children, three of whom died in infancy. Tolstoy handed over the task of teaching to others and occupied himself with the management of his estate. He also continued to write and spent many years working on War and Peace, which he finished in 1869. Upon finishing this colossal work, he focused on education again until 1975, writing pedagogical works that came to be widely used in Russian schools. From 1873 to 1877, Tolstoy published his second large work in installments, Anna Karenina.

In the 1870s, Tolstoy experienced an existential crisis. He took inspiration from Schopenhauer’s philosophy of self-denial and then found even greater solace in the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. He wrote a work describing his inner conversion, Confession, and several religious works including What I Believe and A Harmony and Translation of the Four Gospels. He became devoted to preaching his non-violent and perennialistic interpretation of Christianity.

In 1882, Tolstoy participated in a census of Moscow. He witnessed great poverty, and later described this in What Then Should We do? His 1893 book The Kingdom of God is Within You had a huge impact on Mohandas Gandhi. He also continued to write fiction; the most famous work from his late period was The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901. The majority of his works from his later period were altered before publication or banned. He had a number of disciples eager to learn from him. Tolstoy passed away in Astapovo in 1910, but his influence and Tolstoyism remained.


https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leo-Tolstoy [1]

https://www.biography.com/people/leo-tolstoy-9508518 [2]




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