Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy

On September 9, 1828, writer Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy was born at his family’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula Province of Russia.

His father was Count Nikolai Hitch Tolstoy, a colonel retired from active service ; and his mother was Princess Marya Nikolaevna Volkonskaya, only daughter of Prince Nikolai Sergieevitch Volkonsky and Princess Gortchakoff.

He had three elder brothers — Nikolai, Sergei and Dmitri – and after giving birth to a daughter Maria, always known as Masha, his mother died when he was only 2 years old.

Tolstoy received his primary education at home, at the hands of French and German tutors. In 1843, he enrolled in an Oriental languages program at the University of Kazan. Prone to partying in excess, Tolstoy ultimately left the University of Kazan in 1847, without a degree.

He enlisted in the army and fought in the Crimean war where he began to write, gaining some popularity with the Sevastopol Sketches (1854). On leaving the army a successful soldier and writer, he was accepted into the Moscow literary circle.

In 1862 he married Sofia Andreyevna Behrs, 16 years his younger, who bore him 13 children (8 of whom survived) and often served as his secretary and proofreader. This marriage provided a degree of stability out of which Tolstoy wrote his great epics War and Peace and the novel Anna Karenina. He also wrote numerous shorter pieces, including The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

After his success and worldwide fame as a result these works, Tolstoy went through a time of deep spiritual questioning. He read widely on world religions, learnt Hebrew and Greek and made his own translation of the Gospels.

Towards the end of his life, Leo Tolstoy became increasingly interested in a version of pacifist Christianity with support for a strand of anarchist Communism.

Tolstoy’s personal belief in pacifism and Christianity led him to write The Kingdom of God is Within You, which outlined his vision of non-violent resistance. It was this work which Gandhi read and applied to his campaign for Indian independence.

In November 1910, the stationmaster of a train depot in Astapovo, Russia opened his home to Tolstoy, allowing the ailing writer to rest. Tolstoy died there shortly after, on November 20, 1910.
Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy

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