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Life of Leo Tolstoy
Picture Gallery
Tolstoy's Themes
Theme Analysis
Tolstoy's Imagery
Tolstoy's Writing Style
Tolstoy's Literary Devices
What Critics Write
Topics of Related Interest
Helpful Resources for Students
Writers Influenced by Leo Tolstoy
Influences on World Literature
Literary Movements
Multimedia Links
Other Wonderful Sites
A Glance at Tolstoy's Masterpieces
Leo Tolstoy's Quotes
Works Cited

     Leo Tolstoy (Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) was born on 28 August 1828 in his family estate in Yasnaya Polyana near Tula in Russia. His parents were count Nicholai Ilyich Tolstoy and Maria Nicholaevna. Leo Tolstoy was home schooled. From 1844 to 1847 he went to Kazan University, but got no degree.

    In 1851 he joined his older brother in military service in the Caucasus. There he started his diary which he led until his death Tolstoy's diary contained his first literary works. Even today his diary is used to study his biography.

Life in the Caucasus had great impact on him; it was there where he wrote his first work "Childhood" in 1852, followed later by "Boyhood" in 1854, and "Youth" in1857. In 1851-1853 in Caucasus he participated in some military actions. Soon after the beginning of the Crimean War by personal request he was sent into battle to Sevastopol. His experiences during Crimean war gave him material for his stories "The Raid"(1853),"The Wood-Cutting Expedition"(1853-55), and artistic descriptions "Sevastopol in December", "Sevastopol in May", "Sevastopol in August 1855". These descriptions influenced greatly Russian people. In these descriptions later known by the name "Sevastopol Stories", the war was described as ugly bloody slaughter, contrary to human nature. The closing lines of one of those stories "that its only winner was the truth" became the motto of entire further literary activity of the writer.

    In 1855 Tolstoy moved to Saint-Petersburg, where he met famous Russian writers like Nekrasov, Turgenev, Goncharov, Chernishevsky, etc. the years 1856-59 are marked by attempts of Tolstoy to find himself in the unknown literary medium, to be mastered in to the circle of professionals, to affirm his creative position. In the story the "Morning of landowner" (1856) Chernishevsky for the first time noted in the author "peasant" views on the thing.  The novel "Family Happiness" (1858-59) was called to show the wreck of the ideal of secluded "happy little world". In the finale of novel was conceived the future Tolstoy concept of the family debt of woman, her virtues and self-sacrifices in the marriage. The novel, published in the "Russian herald" did not have a noticeable success with the readers.

     In 1853-63 Tolstoy wrote the narrative "The Cossacks". In early 1860's, not satisfied with his creations, disappointed in secular and literary circles Tolstoy decides to leave literature and moves to Yasnaya Polyana. In 1859-1862 he works in a school for peasant children.

    In 1862 Tolstoy marries Sofia Bertz and starts his life as father of a large and ever increasing family. The 1860’s are the time of the bloom of the artistic genius of Tolstoy. The "years of study" and "years of wanderings" are over. Having settled in life Tolstoy really starts to create. "War and Peace" (1863-69, start of publication in 1865) became a unique phenomenon in Russian and world literature. In the beginning of 1870's Tolstoy is seized by pedagogical interests again, he writes "Alphabet" (1871-72) and later "New alphabet" (1874-75), for which he writes original stories and rearrangements of fairy tales and fables, which composed four the "Russian books for reading". For a short time he comes back to teaching. However, soon appear symptoms of depression. With the weak authority of the traditional church faith over Tolstoy, from the young years sharpened in him by skeptical analysis, there was a threat of collapse of his hopes for personal immortality. The spirit of sorrowful meditation, cheerless view on the present can be seen on many pages of central work of Tolstoy in 1870's - novel "Anna Karenina" (1873-77, published in 1876-77).

    Tolstoy’s new ideology (Tolstoyism) was fully and widely expressed in his works “Confession” (1879-80, published in 1884) and "In what is my faith?" (1882-84). Tolstoy comes to the conclusion that entire existence of the “high class” society, with which he was connected by his origin, training and life experience, was built on the false bases. The consciousness of the vanity of life in general and in particular before face of inevitable death leads to strengthening of his religious moods. Tolstoy’s works “Study of dogmatic theology" (1879-80) and "Connection and the transfer of four gospels" (1880-81) showed his new views.

    During 1880’s Tolstoy starts showing interest in drama. Drama “The Power of darkness” and comedy "Fruits of education" (1886-90, published in 1891) represent two sides of the united thought of the author.

    Last years of life Tolstoy, in Yasnaya Polyana, were spent in sufferings, in the atmosphere of intrigues. Attempting to bring his way of life into the agreement with the persuasions and burdens of the life of landowner's estate, on 10 November 1910 Tolstoy secretly left from the Yasnaya Polyana, along the road he caught cold and passed away at Astapovo station. Death of Tolstoy shook Russia. In his response to this event Lenin noted that the writer "knew how to place in his works so many great questions, knew how to rise to such an artistic force, that his works took one of the first places in the world artistic literature".