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Leo Tolstoy was a Russian novelist and moral philosopher known as one of the world’s great writers. His exposition of pacifism and non-violence had a profound influence on others – most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
See the fact file below for more information on the Leo Tolstoy or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Leo Tolstoy worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828 in the Tula Province in Russia to parents Mariya Nikolaevna, nee Princess Volkonskaya, and Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy.
- When Tolstoy’s mother died in 1830, his father’s cousin took over caring for young Leo and his brothers. Seven years later, Count Tolstoy died and their aunt became their legal guardian.
- Although Leo experienced a lot of loss at a young age, he would later idealize his childhood memories in his writing.
- Tolstoy received his primary education through homeschool, under the tutelage of French and German mentors.
- In 1843, he applied to an Oriental linguistics program at the Kazan State University; however, Tolstoy failed to excel academically and was forced to transfer to an easier law program.
- However, due to his lavish and uncontrolled lifestyle, Tolstoy finally left the University in 1847 without earning a degree. He went home to his family’s estate where he worked as a farmer and was tasked to lead the serfs.
- But his absences during important social visits to Tula and Moscow kicked him out of the industry.
- Although Tolstoy failed at accomplishing many things, he succeeded in pouring his energies into keeping a journal – the beginning of a lifelong habit that would inspire much of his stories.
- Tolstoy left for Moscow in 1848 and lived a promiscuous life common to young men of his class and time. His diary reflected the critical self-scrutiny with which he regarded all his actions, and itemized each irregularity from his code of perfect behavior.
- As he closely observed the life around him in Moscow, Tolstoy felt an irresistible urge to write, which rebirthed him as a creative artist, followed by the publication of his first fiction, Childhood in 1852.
- In the same year, Tolstoy met with his older brother Nikolay, who convinced him to join the military. A year later, Tolstoy served as a junker in the Caucasus Mountains together with his brother.
- He was then deployed to the borders of Georgia, where he participated in expeditions against natives who were rebelling against the Russian rule. Tolstoy was also transferred to Sevastopol, Ukraine where he fought in the Crimean War from November 1854 until August 1855.
- Amazingly, he still managed to continue writing while at battle as he composed Boyhood in 1854, the sequel in what was to become his autobiographical trilogy.
- In the course of the Crimean War, Tolstoy also wrote his views on the striking contradictions of war through a three-part series he called Sevastopol Tales, in which he experimented with a relatively new writing technique by presenting a part of the story through a soldier’s stream of consciousness.
- Tolstoy left the army after the Crimean War ended and decided to return to Russia where he later found himself in high demand on the St. Petersburg literary scene.
- Stubborn and arrogant, Tolstoy refused to attach himself with any particular intellectual school of thought, declared himself an anarchist, and set off to Paris in 1857. It did not take long for Tolstoy to squander all his wealth so he was forced to return home to Russia.
- In the same year, he managed to publish Youth, the last part of his autobiographical trilogy.
- War and Peace
- Tolstoy spent a large part of the 1860s in Yasnaya Polyana working on his first great novel, War and Peace. A portion of the novel was first published in the Russian Messenger in 1865, under the title “The Year 1805”. By 1868, he had released three more chapters, and a year later, the novel was finally completed.
- The novel’s historical accounts of the Napoleonic Wars, combined with its thoughtful development of realistic yet fictional characters became the talk of the town, both by the public and critics.
- It also uniquely incorporated three essays satirizing the laws of history, popularly the belief that the quality and meaning of one’s life is mainly derived from his day-to-day activities.
- Anna Karenina
- Following the successful outcome of War and Peace, Tolstoy began writing his second of his best known novels, Anna Karenina in 1873.
- Like War and Peace, Anna Karenina gave a fictional version of some events from Tolstoy’s life, particularly in the romance of the characters Kitty and Levin, whose relationship is said to resemble Tolstoy’s courtship with his own wife.
- The first sentence of Anna Karenina is among the most famous lines of the book: “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
- Anna Karenina was published in installments from 1873 to 1877, to critical and public acclaim. The royalties that Tolstoy earned from the novel contributed to his rapidly growing wealth.
Philosophy and Religious Conversion
- Despite the completion and success of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy agonized over a spiritual crisis. Struggling to uncover the meaning of life, he first went to the Russian Orthodox Church, but did not find the answers he needed.
- Tolstoy came to believe that Christian churches were corrupt and, to counter organized religion, developed his own ideology and founded a new publication he called The Mediator in 1883.
- Because of his controversial and unconventional spiritual principles, Tolstoy was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church and was even closely monitored by the police.
- In his own unique interpretation of the Gospels, Tolstoy discovered that Christ’s message was contained in the idea “that ye resist not evil”, which later became the foundation of Tolstoyism, where one lived according to nature, renouncing the artificial refinements of society.
- He believed that self-gratification perverted man’s inherent goodness, that carnal lust, ornamental clothing, and fancy food were corrupting influences of civilization.
- In line with his newly established ideology, Tolstoy renounced his wealth, divided property among relatives, dressed in peasant clothing, ate only vegetables, gave up vices, and engaged in manual labor.
- His family, especially his wife, objected this philosophy and the disagreement put a strain on the couple’s marriage, until Tolstoy begrudgingly agreed to a compromise: he conceded to granting his wife the copyrights and royalties to all of his writing predating 1881.
- Renouncing creative art on account of its corrupt refinements, Tolstoy wrote polemic tracts and short stories which embodied his new faith.
- On top of his religious treatises, Tolstoy continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s which revolved on moral tales and realistic fiction.
- One of his most successful works was The Death of Ivan Ilyich, written in 1886. In the novel, the protagonist struggles to come to grips with his impending death. Ivan Ilyich, the title character, comes to an unpleasant realization that he has lived his life worthlessly, but the realization comes too late.
- Tolstoy also wrote Father Sergius in 1898, a fiction in which he seems to criticize the beliefs that he developed after his spiritual conversion.
- The following year, he wrote his third lengthy novel, Resurrection, which hardly matched the success of his prior works.
- His other later works included essays on art, a satirical play he wrote in 1890 called The Living Corpse, and a novel entitled Hadji-Murad, written in 1904 and was discovered and published after his death.
- Tolstoy established himself as a moral and religious leader over the last 30 years of his life, prompting ideas about nonviolent resistance to evil and eventually influencing the likes of social leader Mahatma Gandhi.
- It was also in his later years that he received international success and acclaim. However, despite all the recognition, Tolstoy still struggled to reconcile his spiritual beliefs with the conflicts it created in his domestic life, particularly with his wife and their complicated marriage.
- Anxious to flee Sofya’s growing disappointment, Tolstoy, together with his daughter Alexandra and his physician, embarked on a pilgrimage in October 1910. To keep the family’s privacy, they traveled incognito, hoping to dodge the press, but to no avail.
Death and Legacy
- Regrettably, the excursion proved too strenuous for the ageing novelist. In November 1910, the stationmaster of a train depot in Astapovo, Russia offered his home to Tolstoy, allowing him to rest.
- He died shortly after on November 20, 1910 and was buried at his family estate where Tolstoy had lost so many loved ones yet had managed to build such fond and lasting memories of his childhood.
- Tolstoy was survived by his wife and their brood of 8 children.
- All three stages of Tolstoy’s life and writings – pre-conversion, conversion, post-conversion – reflect the paramount quest of his career: to find the ultimate truth of human existence. After finding this truth, his life became a series of struggles to practice his doctrine.
- Tolstoy became an international public figure, both as a philosopher and an artist during his lifetime, and Yasnaya Polyana as a mecca for a never-ceasing stream of pilgrims.
- Although his artistic influence is wide and still pervasive, few writers have achieved the personal stature with which to emulate his epic style.
Leo Tolstoy Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Leo Tolstoy across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Leo Tolstoy worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Leo Tolstoy who was a Russian novelist and moral philosopher known as one of the world’s great writers. His exposition of pacifism and non-violence had a profound influence on others – most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- A Tolstoy Story
- Tolstoy Family Hunt
- Dear Diary
- It’s a Match
- According to Leo
- Young Blood
- Think Like Tolstoy
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Link will appear as Leo Tolstoy Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 19, 2019
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