Who is Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy?
Leo Tolstoy was born on 9th September, 1828 in the village of Yasnaya Polyana in the Central Russian Province of Tula. His father, Count Nikolai Ilych Tolstoy and his mother Marya Nikolaevna were married in 1822 in Moscow. They both belonged to well known and wealthy families of Russia.
When they moved from Moscow to their family estate at Yasnaya they already had a son named Nikolai. It was the year 1823. There they gave birth to three more children- Sergi, Dimriti and Leo. They lived happily and in peace there with their children. In 1830 Tolstoy’s mother expired after the birth of a daughter, Marya and then seven years after it, his father died. Therefore, the children were brought up some relatives and friends.
Tolstoy came to the University of Kazan in 1844 but felt disillusioned with the prevailing education system. It was then that he read the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and came under his influence. At the age of 16 he left the Kazan University and drifted between his estate and the irresponsible lifestyle in Moscow before joining the army in 1852.
Two years later he was commissioned an officer and served bravely in the Crimean War until 1856. His experience in military finds a vivid description in many of his stories and novels. Much of his spare time was spent in writing his first published book ‘Childhood”. It was published in the Russian magazine called “Contemporary.” It was followed by more stories and articles. By 1856 he was a well-known author and writer. The “Childhood” (Destroy) makes a delightful reading and combines fiction and autobiography so well.
The epic novel War and Peace depicts the Russian life of those times so wonderfully. Undoubtedly it is one of the greatest novels ever written. Its portrayal of the life and inter relationship of five families against the background of Russian society during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is a great piece of art.
It has rightly been acclaimed as one of the greatest works of literature. It was completed in 1869. While this epic novel is an optimistic creation, “Anna Karenina” (1877) is a pessimistic novel and depicts the inner conflicts of life resulting in tragedy and human disaster. His other famous works are- “The Death of Ivan llyich” (1886), “The Power of Darkness”, a play authored in 1886, “Master and Man”, (1895) and “Resurrection” (1899).
Faced Moral Crisis
Leo, he soon disillusioned and faced a sort of moral crisis. it was then that he decided to live strictly a life guided by the principles of non-violence, simplicity, love of mankind and forgiveness. His mood and mental state of these days find full expression in his “Confession”, (Ispoved).
His search for the meaning of life and resolution of inner moral conflicts are also related poignantly in his more writings which include “The Kreutzer Sonata” (1879), “The Kingdom of God is Within You” (1893), and “What is Art?” (1879). during this period of inner conflicts and crisis, he once thought of committing suicide.
He began to promote and advocate celibacy, non-injury, futility of war, giving up of intoxication, smoking and materialistic approach in life. These ideas and philosophy put him in direct confrontation to the Russian government and the church. His philosophy attracted many followers but they were persecuted.
Tolstoy himself could not be harmed because of his international fame as author and his popularity in Russia. However, he was excommunicated in 1901 by the Russian Orthodox Church. Tolstoy’s creed also led him in conflict with his family.
He signed away his estate to his family and renounced the copyrights of his literary works. But his wife and children had no appreciation for his philosophy and they were not ready to renounce their luxurious living.
Finally, at the age of 82 he left his home and family, determined never to return to Yasnaya. A few days later on 20th November, 1910 he died of pneumonia at the remote railway station of Astapovo in Ryazan Province.
Great Life Accomplishments
Tolstoy’s works proved a milestone in the development of European literature, particularly in the field of novels. His novels depict so remarkably the panoramic view of the Russian landscape and the complexity of relations of the Russian people.
The golden age of Russian literature that began with such great authors as Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, etc. reached its climax in the works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. His two so well known novels- “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” are great literary works of psychological analysis and social relations. His religious, social , moral and philosophical beliefs gave birth to a creed whose followers are known as Tolastoins.