Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy
Specialty Novelist, realistic fiction
Born Sep. 9, 1828
Yasnaya Polyana, Russian Empire
Died Nov. 20, 1910 (at age 82)
Astapovo, Russian Empire
Nationality Russian

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, popularly known as Leo Tolstoy, was born in the Tula Province of Russia in September of 1828. Tolstoy was a Great Russian writer who wrote novels and short stories. His work was centered around realistic fiction and he is still considered one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Birth and Early Years

Leo Tolstoy was born into a noble and well-known Russian family. He was the fourth youngest kid amongst five children in the family. Leo’s mother died when he was very young, and father also passed away after some time. Tolstoy and his siblings were raised by relatives. Tolstoy began studying law in 1844, along with oriental languages. However, Tolstoy could never develop great interest in his studies and therefore left them in between.

Tolstoy’s teachers described him as a student who was uninterested and unable to learn. After leaving the university, he spent much of his time in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Tolstoy ran into huge debt due to gambling, which made him move in with his elder brother and join the army. It was around this time Tolstoy started writing. Leo’s two trips to Europe in 1857 and 1860 influenced his literary and political development significantly. He was inspired by Victor Hugo during his European visits, and his writings also drew inspiration from Hugo’s work and writing style as well.

Tolstoy’s Personal Life

In 1862, Tolstoy got married to Sophia Andreevna Behrd, who was 16 years younger than him. Sophia was a court physician’s daughter. The two went on to have a big family, with both having thirteen children between 1863 and 1888. The marriage from the beginning was driven by sexual passion and lack of emotional sensitivity.

Despite Tolstoy disclosing his extensive pre-marital sexual past with Sophia, the early part of their marriage is believed to be very happy and Sophia helped Leo in writing novels and even acted as a proofreader and financial manager. However, it is believed that their relationship turned sour later on due to Tolstoy’s belief turning extremely radical with the times.

Tolstoy’s Work and Achievements

Leo Tolstoy started writing at the age of 24. He published his first short novel Childhood, which like Boyhood and Youth that followed, was inspired by Tolstoy’s own early years.

Leo Tolstoy’s famous work includes the epic War and Peace. It took him seven years (1862 to 1869) to finish the four volumes of this epic. The novel tells the story of several families against the background of Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia.

Another one of the greatest works of Tolstoy includes Anna Karenina, which is known as the most popular realist fiction ever written. The story is about the doomed affair between a high-society woman trapped in a passionless marriage and a dashing officer. Several movies have been made based on this fictional work.

Tolstoy also wrote three plays and a lot of short stories, including Two Hussars, The Kossacks, Master and Man, Father Sergius and Hadji Murad. Most of his stories were based on the problems and the influence of materialism on simple men. In the latter years of Tolstoy’s life, his educational ideas were adopted not only in Russia, but also in other countries.

Tolstoy’s Non-Fiction Works

Tolstory1Tolstoy also wrote some non-fiction books, which includes The Kingdom of God is Within You, What I Believe, What is Art, and The Gospel in Brief.

All of these books were based on social, religious, spiritual and even artistic matters. His later works, such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich and What Is to Be Done are focused on Christian themes. His works have been published many times in enormous editions in all languages. His literary work is included in the school curriculum, and his educational writings are studied at special teacher-training establishments at different levels.

Tolstoy’s Later Years

Despite his fame, his wealth, and his happy family life, Tolstoy was dissatisfied with himself. In his later years, he became increasingly inclined towards ascetic morality and believed sternly in the Sermon on the Mount and non-violent resistance. Mahatma Gandhi was deeply moved by his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, and he wrote to Tolstoy about his nonviolent resistance movement and their correspondence led to a warm friendship.

Tolstoy died in 1910 at the age of 82. He died of pneumonia after falling sick when he tried to run away from his wife, with whom the relationship had turned very sour.

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