Leo Tolstoy

Early Life

Leo Tolstoy was born Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy on the 9th of September in 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russian Empire. He was a bright son of Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a doctor, while his mother, Mariya Tolstaya, was a housewife. His childhood was filled with darkness as his mother died when he was only two years old, and his father passed away when he was nine. Thus, Tolstoy, along with his siblings, was raised by his relatives.


Leo Tolstoy started studying law in 1844 at the Kazan University, where he was disliked by his teachers. He left the university without completing his degree and traveled to Polyana, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Tula leading a leisurely lifestyle. It was during that time, he started expressing his ideas and published his first novel, Childhood, in 1862.

Personal Life

Leo Tolstoy’s personal life was marred by a series of tragic incidents; first, his parents died when he was a child, later, he failed to complete his education. In 1860, the death of his brother, Nikolay, left him in despair and the acute loneliness led him to marry. Therefore, he married, Sophia Andreevna Behrs on the 23rd of September in 1862. The couple had thirteen children but only eight survived.

Some Important Facts of His Life.

  1. He established himself as a moral and religious leader in the last years of his life and many great religious figures including Mahatma Gandhi said to have been influenced by him.
  2. Among his most successful and famous works were, War and Peace, and, The Death of Ivan Illich.
  3. He was excommunicated by the Russian Church because he disagreed with certain principles of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  4. He died of pneumonia at the age of eighty-two in 1910.

His Career

Leo Tolstoy is considered one of the greatest authors of Russian literature who started writing at a young age and touched pinnacles of success in his life. Among his best novels and novellas were, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Hadji Murad, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. His earlier attempts of writings were primarily autobiographical such as; Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth. His writing talent was further polished with his war experiences. During Crimean War, he served as a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment and his experiences of war helped stir his subsequent pacifism and provided him with a ground for a realistic and horrific description of the war in his later writing attempts.

Throughout his life, Leo Tolstoy consistently attempted to talk about Russian society. For example, The Cossacks, speaks about the Cossack people and life through the love story of a Russian aristocrat and a Cossack girl. Moreover, Anna Karenina narrates stories of an adulterous woman trapped by a philosophical landowner and falsities of the society. Similarly, his novel, Resurrection, attempts to expose the corruption and injustices of the hypocrisy of the institutionalized church and man-made laws.

His Style

After establishing his career as a writer, Leo Tolstoy earned a lot of success in life. He gained immense popularity on account of his thoughtful ideas and unique style. Using his pen to create events and characters, Tolstoy has shed light on the horrors of warfare, religion, feminism, and various other topics. His writings are characterized by careful construction, uncomplicated style, and deep insight into human nature. By applying techniques like irony, contrast, and autobiographical details, he talks about the emotions people experience in life. His works deal with simple yet complex diction to enhance the unique perspective presented to the readers. He intentionally used this distinct style to separate himself from other writers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are love, war, and the irrationality of human motives, and the limits of leadership. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, foreshadowing, imagery, and similes to create a unique style.

Some Important Works of Leo Tolstoy

  • Best Novels: He was an outstanding writer. Some of his best books include Boyhood, Resurrection, The Forged Coupon, Anna Karenina, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Cossacks, and The Kreutzer Sonata.
  • Other Works: Besides writing novels, he tried his hands in other areas too. Some of them include The Light Shines in the Darkness, The Fruits of Enlightenment, The Gospel in Brief, The Power of Darkness, “Wisdom of Children”, “What Men Live By and “The Prisoner of the Caucasus.”

Leo Tolstoy’s Impacts on Future Literature

Leo Tolstoy started his writing career at his young age and became highly popular during his lifetime. His unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought notable changes in global literature. His distinctive writing approach and unique way of expression made him stand among the best writers of the world. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics, and other influential figures. He expressed his thoughts and ideas in his literary pieces so well that even today writers tend to imitate his style, considering him a role model for producing fiction and nonfiction.

Famous Quotes

  1. “I think… if it is true that
    there are as many minds as there
    are heads, then there are as many
    kinds of love as there are hearts.” (Anna Karenina)
  2. “A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.” (Family Happiness)
  3. “I always loved you, and if one loves anyone, one loves the whole person, just as they are and not as one would like them to be. -Dolly” (Anna Karenina)
  4. “If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.” (War and Peace)
  5. “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” (War and Peace)