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Biography of Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, Tula province. In the 1860s, he penned his first major masterpiece, War and Peace. In 1873, Tolstoy began writing on the second of his most renowned works, Anna Karenina. He continued to create novels during the 1880s and 1890s. One of his most popular latter pieces is “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Tolstoy died on November 20, 1910 in St. Astapovo, Ryazan province.

The early years of life

The future writer Lev Nikolaevich was the youngest of four sons. In 1830, when Tolstoy’s mother, née Princess Volkonskaya, died, his father’s cousin took over the care of the children. Their father, Count Nikolai Tolstoy died seven years later, and their aunt was named guardian. After the death of Aunt Tolstoy, his siblings and sisters relocated to a relative in Kazan. Although Tolstoy faced several losses at an early age, he eventually glorified his childhood recollections in his art.
Tolstoy got his initial schooling at home, taught by French and German instructors. In 1843 he attended the Faculty of Oriental Languages ​​at the Imperial Kazan University. Lev Nikolayevich struggled to prosper as a student; his bad marks compelled him to shift to an easier law department. But later Tolstoy ultimately left him completely in 1847, without a degree. He returned to his parents’ estate, where he expected to take up farming. Since he was away too much (went to Tula and Moscow), this quest ended in failure. What he truly excelled at was maintaining his own journal – it was this lifetime practice that inspired most of Leo Tolstoy’s work.
While Tolstoy was working on the farm, his older brother, Nikolai, came to visit on his army leave. Nikolai pushed his brother to join the army as a cadet, south to the Caucasus highlands, where he himself served. Later (in November 1854) Tolstoy was sent to Sevastopol, where he took part in the Crimean War until August 1855.

Early publications

During his years as a cadet in the army, Tolstoy had a lot of spare time. During peaceful moments, he worked on an autobiographical narrative called “Childhood.” In it, he wrote about his best recollections from boyhood. In 1852, Tolstoy sent a piece to Sovremennik, the most popular journal of the period. The narrative was joyfully accepted, and it became Tolstoy’s first publication.
After completing his novel “Childhood,” Tolstoy began writing about his daily life at an army station in the Caucasus. The work “Cossacks”, which he began during his service years, was completed only in 1862, after he had already left the army. Surprisingly, Tolstoy managed to continue writing while actively fighting in the Crimean War. During this period he published Boyhood (1854), a sequel to Childhood, the second book of his autobiographical trilogy. At the height of the Crimean conflict, Tolstoy articulated his opinions on the stunning paradoxes of the conflict through a trilogy of works, Sevastopol Tales. In the second book of Sevastopol Tales, he tried with a relatively new technique: part of the narrative is given as a narration from the point of view of a soldier.
After the end of the Crimean War, Tolstoy left the army and returned to Russia. Returning home, the rising author was in high demand on the St. Petersburg literary scene. Stubborn and haughty, Tolstoy refused to subscribe to any single school of thinking. Declaring himself an anarchist, he traveled for Paris in 1857. Once there, he lost all his money and was forced to return home to Russia. He also managed to write Youth, the third half of his autobiographical trilogy, in 1857. Returning to Russia in 1862, Tolstoy published the first of 12 issues of the themed journal Yasnaya Polyana. That same year he married the daughter of a doctor called Sofya Andreevna Bers.

Major Novels

Living at Yasnaya Polyana with his wife and children, Tolstoy spent most of the 1860s writing on his first renowned novel, War and Peace. Part of the work was initially published in Russian Bulletin in 1865, under the title “1805”. By 1868, he had written three additional chapters. A year later, the novel was totally done. Both reviewers and the public were buzzing about the historical authenticity of the Napoleonic Wars in the novel, along with the development of the tales of its intelligent and realistic, yet fictitious characters. The work is particularly remarkable in that it includes three extensive satirical essays on the rules of history. Among the topics that Tolstoy wants to express in this work is the conviction that a person’s status in society and the significance of a person’s existence are essentially derived from his everyday actions.
After the popularity of War and Peace, in 1873, Tolstoy began work on the second of his most renowned writings, Anna Karenina. It was largely based on genuine events during the conflict between Russia and Turkey. Like War and Peace, this novel depicts some of the biographical events in Tolstoy’s own life, most notably in the love connection between the characters Kitty and Levin, which is thought to be evocative of Tolstoy’s courting with his own wife.
The opening phrase of Anna Karenina is one of the book’s most famous lines: “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Anna Karenina was published in parts from 1873 to 1877, and was hailed by the people. The payments that Tolstoy got for the work immediately enriched him.


Despite the popularity of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy faced a spiritual crisis and was melancholy. Trying to grasp the purpose of life, Tolstoy first went to the Russian Orthodox Church, but could not find answers to his inquiries there. He determined that Christian churches were corrupt and, instead of structured religion, propagated their own views. He chose to communicate his thoughts by creating a new journal named The Mediator in 1883.
As a result, for his unique and controversial spiritual ideas, Tolstoy was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. He was even monitored by the secret police. His wife was strongly against it when Tolstoy, motivated by his new views, wanted to give up all his money and give up everything needless. Not wishing to aggravate the issue, Tolstoy grudgingly agreed to a compromise: he handed the copyright and, allegedly, all income on his work until 1881 to his wife.

Later Fiction

In addition to his theological treatises, Tolstoy continued to produce fiction during the 1880s and 1890s. Genres included morality tales and realistic fiction. One of the most successful works of the period was the novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” written in 1886. The main character does his best to fight the death looming over him. Ivan Ilyich is shocked by the revelation that he spent his life on trifles, but the insight comes too late. In 1898, Tolstoy authored the novel Father Sergius, a work of fiction in which he challenges the views he gained following his spiritual transition.

The next year he published his third lengthy book, Resurrection. The work garnered favorable reviews, although its success scarcely reached the degree of fame of his prior works. Tolstoy’s other late works are meditations on art: a satirical drama called The Living Corpse (1890), and a tale called Hadji Murad (1904), which was found and published after his death.

Old Age

Over the last 30 years of his life, Tolstoy positioned himself as a spiritual and religious leader. His thoughts on peaceful resistance to evil were similar to those of Mahatma Gandhi.
Over the past few years, Tolstoy has experienced the rewards of international reputation. However, he still battled to reconcile his spiritual views with the problems he produced in his home life. His wife not only did not agree with his teaching, she also did not approve of his students, who routinely visited Lev Nikolaevich on the family estate. In an effort to evade his wife’s wrath, in October 1910, Tolstoy and his daughter Alexandra embarked on a pilgrimage. Alexandra, Tolstoy’s youngest daughter, was meant to be a doctor for her old father on the journey. Trying not to divulge their private lives, they went secretly, trying to dodge the press, but sometimes to no effect.


Death and Legacy

Unfortunately, the trek proved too onerous for the old writer. In November 1910, the stationmaster in Astapovo gave his residence to Tolstoy so that the ill writer might rest. Soon Lev Nikolaevich died. The writer was buried on the family estate at Yasnaya Polyana. At that moment, Tolstoy left behind a wife and 10 children.

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