Count Leo Tolstoy was a renowned Russian realist fiction novelist, best known for his works Anna Karenina and War and Peace, and is considered to be one of the great novelists.
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born on 9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, Krapivensky district, Tula gubernia, Russia. He was the fourth child in the large noble Tolstoy family of Count Nikolay Tolstoy and Princess Mariya Volkonskaya.
Leo's parents died when he was young and and his sibling's upbringing and
education were left to two aunts, who employed French and German tutors. Leo would go on to attend Kazan University, but his teachers found him an unwilling student, so he left in 1847. He ran up gambling debt in the Moscow area and was known to party. By 1851, he had left the area to join the army in the Caucusus with his brother. His time in the army influenced his later beliefs in nonviolence.
Leo married Sofia Andreyevna Behrs, the daughter of Dr. Andrew Behrs, a court physician to the Tsar's family, on 23 September, 1862. The beginning of their relationship started out with deep love, but had moments of extreme ill-will as both were passionate and by the end of their lilves, the marriage was a shambles. They shared even their diaries, using them to talk to each other.
Count Ivan Lvovich Tolstoy, who died as a young boy
The surviving Tolstoy children left Russia following the Russian Revolution and ended up all over the world. Leo once mentioned an illegitimate child with a Tolstoy family servant, as well.
Leo started writing while still serving in the Russian Army. He served as a second lieutenant in an artillery unit during the Crimean Wars. His time largely set the stage for his writings on war, both fictional and nonfictional, as well as his later pacifism.
He was influenced by his contemporaries, and admired many other writers, including Dostoevsky. He ended up being considered one of the greatest novelists ever, and certainly one of the best Russian born.
Leo's earliest works were autobiographical. His later fiction work was realist, and portrayed the Russian world he lived in.
Leo's wife, Sofia was vital to his writing career, hand copying manuscripts for him as well managing the business side. Despite her interest in his work, he held little in her hobbies. Leo's characters were often inspired by people in Sofia's family, though, as well as his life experiences.
A personal crisis in the 1870s led Leo to study the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon the Mount, intensely. This was the beginning of a fervent Christianity, hallmarked by pacifism and anarchism, and a distrust of churches. His nonviolent resistance ideas influenced the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He communicated directly to a young Gandhi about his beliefs. He also supported the economic philosophy of Henry George (georgism). His beliefs led to his being excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. He lived the end of his life as a peasant, in according with his belief system, in a hut on the family property while the rest of his family lived in the main house.
Leo and Sofia parted ways shortly before his death, following him finding her searching his study for a possible newly rewritten will which would change the family inheritance. Count Leo Tolstoy died of heart failure following poor health on 20 November [O.S. 7 November], 1910 at Astapovo (now Lev Tolstoy) Station, Dankovsky district, Ryazan gubernia, Russia, on his way to the Caucasus. He was buried on 9 November, 1910 at the Tolstoy home, Yasnaya Polyana.