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Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj
Author:Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj
Original name:Лев Николаевич Толстой
Born on:1828
Died on:1910
Born in:Jàsnaja Poljana
Died in:Astàpovo
Biography by:Franca Fontana
Official web site:http://www.tolstoy.ru/
Posted on:2011-05-06


Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Никола́евич Толсто́й; 9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1828 – 20 November [O.S. 7 November] 1910), also known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.

His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in the Tula region of Russia. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility. He was the fourth of five children of Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812, and Countess Mariya Tolstaya (Volkonskaya). Tolstoy's parents died when he was young, so he and his siblings were brought up by relatives. In 1844, he began studying law and oriental languages at Kazan University. His teachers described him as "both unable and unwilling to learn." Tolstoy left university in the middle of his studies, returned to Yasnaya Polyana and then spent much of his time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. It was about this time that he started writing.

His conversion from a dissolute and privileged society author to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days was brought about by his experience in the army as well as two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860–61. Others who followed the same path were Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin. During his 1857 visit, Tolstoy witnessed a public execution in Paris, a traumatic experience that would mark the rest of his life. Writing in a letter to his friend Vasily Botkin: "The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens ... Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere."

His European trip in 1860–61 shaped both his political and literary transformation when he met Victor Hugo, whose literary talents Tolstoy praised after reading Hugo's newly finished Les Miserables. A comparison of Hugo's novel and Tolstoy's War and Peace shows the influence of the evocation of its battle scenes. Tolstoy's political philosophy was also influenced by a March 1861 visit to French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, then living in exile under an assumed name in Brussels. Apart from reviewing Proudhon's forthcoming publication, La Guerre et la Paix (War and Peace in French), whose title Tolstoy would borrow for his masterpiece, the two men discussed education, as Tolstoy wrote in his educational notebooks: "If I recount this conversation with Proudhon, it is to show that, in my personal experience, he was the only man who understood the significance of education and of the printing press in our time."

Fired by enthusiasm, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana and founded thirteen schools for his serfs' children, based on the principles Tolstoy described in his 1862 essay "The School at Yasnaya Polyana". Tolstoy's educational experiments were short-lived, partly due to harassment by the Tsarist secret police. However, as a direct forerunner to A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, the school at Yasnaya Polyana can justifiably be claimed to be the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education.


Tolstoy died in 1910, at the age of 82. He died of pneumonia at Astapovo train station, after falling ill when he left home in the middle of winter. His death came only days after gathering the nerve to abandon his family and wealth and take up the path of a wandering ascetic, a path that he had agonized over pursuing for decades. He had not been at the peak of health before leaving home; his wife and daughters were all actively engaged in caring for him daily. He had been speaking and writing of his own death in the days preceding his departure from home, but fell ill at the station not far from home. The station master took Tolstoy to his apartment, where his personal doctors were called to the scene. He was given injections of morphine and camphor.

The police tried to limit access to his funeral procession, but thousands of peasants lined the streets at his funeral. Still, some peasants were heard to say that, other than knowing that "some nobleman had died," they knew little else about Tolstoy.

Images gallery

Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj (a destra)
insieme a Anton Pavlovič Čechov (sulla

Un disegno che raffigura Lev Nikolaevič

Un ritratto del 1901 raffigurante Lev
Audiobooks by:Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj
Amore e dovere
Raccolta di aforismi
Audiolibro della raccolta di aforismi "Amore e dovere" di Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj.
Denaro falso
Audiolibro del racconto "Denaro falso" di Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj.
I piaceri viziosi
Audiolibro della raccolta "I piaceri viziosi" di Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj.
Characters and concepts created by Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj:
Beleckij (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Eroška (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Lukaška (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Marj'anka (o Mar'jana) (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Usten'ka (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Olenin (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Il'ja Vasil'eviè (Personaggio, from book I cosacchi e altri racconti)
Books by Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj:
Amore e dovere (1921)
Anna Karenina (Анна Каренина) (1877)
Confessione (Исповедь) (1882)
Denaro falso (Фальшивый купон) (1911)
Guerra e pace (Война и миръ) (1865-69)
I cosacchi e altri racconti (Казаки) (1863)
I diari
I piaceri viziosi
I racconti di Sebastopoli (Севастопольские рассказы) (1856)
In morte di Ivan Il’ic (Смерть Ивана Ильича) (1886)
Resurrezione (Воскресение) (1899)
Quotes by Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoj:
Dicono che la musica abbia per effetto d...
Chi non s’è mai trovato in mezzo al mare...
Il talento è la capacità di prestare un’...
Le famiglie felici si rassomigliano tutt...
Everyone thinks of changing the world, b...
Tutte le famiglie felici sono simili tra...
Tutta la varietà, tutto il fascino, tutt...
Himmlisch ist's, wenn ich bezwungen Mei...
La ragione all'uomo è data perché si lib...
Nel tempo infinito, nell'infinità della...

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