Leo Tolstoy
Overview
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s and short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

and Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger...

, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction
Literary realism
Literary realism most often refers to the trend, beginning with certain works of nineteenth-century French literature and extending to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century authors in various countries, towards depictions of contemporary life and society "as they were." In the spirit of...

. Many consider Tolstoy to have been one of the world's greatest novelists. 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
1870s
The 1870s continued the trends of the previous decade, as new empires, imperialism and militarism rose in Europe and Asia. America was recovering from the Civil War. Germany declared independence in 1871 and began its Second Reich. Labor unions and strikes occurred worldwide in the later part of...

, 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
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

 and anarcho-pacifist.
Quotations

The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has been, is, and will be beautiful, is Truth.

Sevastopol in May 1855 (1855)

Error is the force that welds men together; truth is communicated to men only by deeds of truth.

My Religion, Ch. 12 (1885)

Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.

The Death of Ivan Ilych|The Death of Ivan Ilych, Ch. II (1886)

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.

Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)

I sit on a man's back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back.

Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)

Six feet of land was all that he needed.

How Much Land Does a Man Need?|How Much Land Does a Man Need? (1886)

The happiness of men consists in life. And life is in labor.

What Is To Be Done? (1886) Chap. XXXVIII, as translated in The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï (1902) edited by Nathan Haskell Dole, p. 259

The vocation of every man and woman is to serve other people.

What Is To Be Done? (1886) Chap. XL, as translated in The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï (1902) edited by Nathan Haskell Dole, p. 281

Encyclopedia
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s and short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

and Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger...

, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction
Literary realism
Literary realism most often refers to the trend, beginning with certain works of nineteenth-century French literature and extending to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century authors in various countries, towards depictions of contemporary life and society "as they were." In the spirit of...

. Many consider Tolstoy to have been one of the world's greatest novelists. 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
1870s
The 1870s continued the trends of the previous decade, as new empires, imperialism and militarism rose in Europe and Asia. America was recovering from the Civil War. Germany declared independence in 1871 and began its Second Reich. Labor unions and strikes occurred worldwide in the later part of...

, 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
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

 and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You
The Kingdom of God Is Within You
The Kingdom of God Is Within You is the non-fiction magnum opus of Leo Tolstoy and was first published in Germany in 1894, after being banned in his home country of Russia...

, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...


Biography

Tolstoy was born in Yasnaya Polyana
Yasnaya Polyana
Yasnaya Polyana was the home of the writer Leo Tolstoy, where he was born, wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and is buried. Tolstoy called Yasnaya Polyana his "inaccessible literary stronghold". It is located southwest of Tula, Russia and from Moscow.In 1921, the estate formally became his...

, the family estate in the Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 region of Russia. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility. He was the fourth of five children of Count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

, 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
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

. 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
Alexander Herzen
Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen was a Russian pro-Western writer and thinker known as the "father of Russian socialism", and one of the main fathers of agrarian populism...

, Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was a well-known Russian revolutionary and theorist of collectivist anarchism. He has also often been called the father of anarchist theory in general. Bakunin grew up near Moscow, where he moved to study philosophy and began to read the French Encyclopedists,...

, and Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...

. 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
Vasily Botkin
Vasily Petrovich Botkin was a Russian essayist, literary, art and music critic, translator and publicist.-Early life:Vasily was the son of a wealthy merchant and the brother of the well known physician Sergey 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
Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

, whose literary talents Tolstoy praised after reading Hugo's newly finished Les Miserables
Les Misérables
Les Misérables , translated variously from the French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century...

. A comparison of Hugo's novel and Tolstoy's War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

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
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism...

, 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
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 secret police. However, as a direct forerunner to A. S. Neill
A. S. Neill
Alexander Sutherland Neill was a Scottish progressive educator, author and founder of Summerhill school, which remains open and continues to follow his educational philosophy to this day...

's Summerhill School
Summerhill School
Summerhill School is an independent British boarding school that was founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill with the belief that the school should be made to fit the child, rather than the other way around...

, the school at Yasnaya Polyana can justifiably be claimed to be the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education.

Personal life

On September 23, 1862, Tolstoy married Sophia Andreevna Behrs, who was 16 years his junior and the daughter of a court physician. She was called Sonya, the Russian diminutive of Sofya, by her family and friends. They had thirteen children, five of whom died during childhood. The marriage was marked from the outset by sexual passion and emotional insensitivity when Tolstoy, on the eve of their marriage, gave her his diaries detailing his extensive sexual past and the fact that one of the serfs on his estate had borne him a son. Even so, their early married life was ostensibly happy and allowed Tolstoy much freedom to compose War and Peace and Anna Karenina with Sonya acting as his secretary, proof-reader and financial manager. However, their latter life together has been described by A. N. Wilson
A. N. Wilson
Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views...

 as one of the unhappiest in literary history. Tolstoy's relationship with his wife deteriorated as his beliefs became increasingly radical. This saw him seeking to reject his inherited and earned wealth, including the renunciation of the copyrights on his earlier works.

Novels and fictional works

Tolstoy is one of the giants of Russian literature. His most famous works include the novels War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

and Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger...

and novellas such as Hadji Murad
Hadji Murat (novel)
Hadji Murat is a short novel written by Leo Tolstoy from 1896 to 1904 and published posthumously in 1912 . It is Tolstoy’s final work...

and The Death of Ivan Ilyich
The Death of Ivan Ilyich
The Death of Ivan Ilyich , first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, and is considered to be one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s.-Characters:...

. His contemporaries paid him lofty tributes. Fyodor Dostoyevsky thought him the greatest of all living novelists. Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert was a French writer who is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary , and for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style.-Early life and education:Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen,...

, on reading a translation of War and Peace, exclaimed, "What an artist and what a psychologist!" Anton Chekhov
Anton Chekhov
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics...

, who often visited Tolstoy at his country estate, wrote, "When literature possesses a Tolstoy, it is easy and pleasant to be a writer; even when you know you have achieved nothing yourself and are still achieving nothing, this is not as terrible as it might otherwise be, because Tolstoy achieves for everyone. What he does serves to justify all the hopes and aspirations invested in literature."

Later critics and novelists continue to bear testament to Tolstoy's art. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 declared him the greatest of all novelists. James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 noted that, "He is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical!". Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

 wrote of Tolstoy's seemingly guileless artistry: "Seldom did art work so much like nature". Such sentiments were shared by the likes of Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

, Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

 and Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

. The latter heaped superlatives upon The Death of Ivan Ilyich
The Death of Ivan Ilyich
The Death of Ivan Ilyich , first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, and is considered to be one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s.-Characters:...

and Anna Karenina; he questioned, however, the reputation of War and Peace, and sharply criticized Resurrection
Resurrection (novel)
Resurrection , first published in 1899, was the last novel written by Leo Tolstoy. The book is the last of his major long fiction works published in his lifetime . Tolstoy intended the novel as an exposition of injustice of man-made laws and the hypocrisy of institutionalized church...

and The Kreutzer Sonata
The Kreutzer Sonata
The Kreutzer Sonata is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, published in 1889 and promptly censored by the Russian authorities. The work is an argument for the ideal of sexual abstinence and an in-depth first-person description of jealous rage...

.

Tolstoy's earliest works, the autobiographical novel
Autobiographical novel
An autobiographical novel is a form of novel using autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fiction elements. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction...

s Childhood
Childhood (novel)
Childhood is the first published novel by Leo Tolstoy, released under the initials L. N. in the November 1852 issue of the popular Russian literary journal The Contemporary....

, Boyhood
Boyhood (novel)
Boyhood is the second novel in Leo Tolstoy's autobiographical trilogy, following Childhood and followed by Youth. The novel was first published in the Russian literary journal Sovremennik in 1854....

, and Youth
Youth (Tolstoy novel)
Youth is the third novel in Leo Tolstoy's autobiographical trilogy, following Childhood and Boyhood. It was first published in the popular Russian literary magazine Sovremennik....

 (1852–1856), tell of a rich landowner's son and his slow realization of the chasm between himself and his peasants. Though he later rejected them as sentimental, a great deal of Tolstoy's own life is revealed. They retain their relevance as accounts of the universal story of growing up.

Tolstoy served as a second lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 in an artillery regiment during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, recounted in his Sevastapol Sketches. His experiences in battle helped stir his subsequent pacifism
Pacifism
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

 and gave him material for realistic depiction of the horrors of war in his later work.

His fiction consistently attempts to convey realistically the Russian society in which he lived.The Cossacks
The Cossacks (novel)
The Cossacks is a short novel by Leo Tolstoy, published in 1863 in the popular literary magazine The Russian Messenger. The Nobel prize-winning Russian writer Ivan Bunin gave the work great praise, calling it one of the finest in the Russian language....

(1863) describes the Cossack
Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

 life and people through a story of a Russian aristocrat in love with a Cossack girl. Anna Karenina (1877) tells parallel stories of an adulterous woman trapped by the conventions and falsities of society and of a philosophical landowner (much like Tolstoy), who works alongside the peasants in the fields and seeks to reform their lives. Tolstoy not only drew from his own life experiences but also created characters in his own image, such as Pierre Bezukhov and Prince Andrei in War and Peace, Levin in Anna Karenina and to some extent, Prince Nekhlyudov in Resurrection.

War and Peace is generally thought to be one of the greatest novels ever written, remarkable for its dramatic breadth and unity. Its vast canvas includes 580 characters, many historical with others fictional. The story moves from family life to the headquarters of Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, from the court of Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 to the battlefields of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

 and Borodino
Battle of Borodino
The Battle of Borodino , fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia and all Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties...

. Tolstoy's original idea for the novel was to investigate the causes of the Decembrist revolt
Decembrist revolt
The Decembrist revolt or the Decembrist uprising took place in Imperial Russia on 14 December , 1825. Russian army officers led about 3,000 soldiers in a protest against Nicholas I's assumption of the throne after his elder brother Constantine removed himself from the line of succession...

, to which it refers only in the last chapters, from which can be deduced that Andrei Bolkonski's son will become one of the Decembrists. The novel explores Tolstoy's theory of history, and in particular the insignificance of individuals such as Napoleon and Alexander. Somewhat surprisingly, Tolstoy did not consider War and Peace to be a novel (nor did he consider many of the great Russian fictions written at that time to be novels). This view becomes less surprising if one considers that Tolstoy was a novelist of the realist
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 school who considered the novel to be a framework for the examination of social and political issues in nineteenth-century life.War and Peace (which is to Tolstoy really an epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 in prose) therefore did not qualify. Tolstoy thought that Anna Karenina was his first true novel.

After Anna Karenina, Tolstoy concentrated on Christian themes, and his later novels such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) and What Is to Be Done?
What Is to Be Done? (Tolstoy)
What Is to be Done? is a non-fiction work by Leo Tolstoy, in which Tolstoy describes the social conditions of Russia in his day...

develop a radical anarcho
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

-pacifist
Pacifism
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

 Christian philosophy which led to his excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 from the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 in 1901. For all the praise showered on Anna Karenina and War and Peace, Tolstoy rejected the two works later in his life as something not as true of reality. Such an argument is supported in The Death of Ivan Ilyich, whose main character continually battles with his family and servants, demanding honesty above the water and food needed to sustain him.

Tolstoy on Shakespeare

During his life, Tolstoy came to the conclusion that William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 was a bad dramatist and not a true artist at all. Tolstoy explained his views in a critical essay on Shakespeare written in 1903: "I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful aesthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: "King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

", "Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

", "Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

" and "Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

," not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium...". He goes on:

Several times I read the dramas and the comedies and historical plays, and I invariably underwent the same feelings: repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment. At the present time, before writing this preface, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man of seventy-five, again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the "Henrys," "Troilus and Cressida," the "Tempest," "Cymbeline," and I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings,—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits,—thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding,—is a great evil, as is every untruth.
Understanding that his conclusions contradict popular opinion, Tolstoy supported his opinion by detailed analysis of King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

. George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

 wrote a well-known response to this: Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool
Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool
"Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool" is an essay by George Orwell. It was inspired by a critical essay on Shakespeare by Leo Tolstoy, and was first published in Polemic No. 7 ....

.

Religious and political beliefs

After reading Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation
The World as Will and Representation
The World as Will and Representation is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann....

, Tolstoy gradually became converted to the ascetic morality upheld in that work as the proper spiritual path for the upper classes: "Do you know what this summer has meant for me? Constant raptures over Schopenhauer and a whole series of spiritual delights which I've never experienced before. ... no student has ever studied so much on his course, and learned so much, as I have this summer"
In Chapter VI of A Confession
A Confession
A Confession is a short work on questions of religion by Leo Tolstoy. It was first distributed in Russia in 1882.Consisting of autobiographical notes on the development of the author's belief, A Confession shows the process of searching for answers to the profound questions: "What will come of my...

, Tolstoy quoted the final paragraph of Schopenhauer's work. It explained how the nothingness that results from complete denial of self is only a relative nothingness, and is not to be feared. The novelist was struck by the description of Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 ascetic renunciation as being the path to holiness. After reading passages such as the following, which abound in Schopenhauer's ethical chapters, the Russian nobleman chose poverty and formal denial of the will:
But this very necessity of involuntary suffering (by poor people) for eternal salvation is also expressed by that utterance of the Savior (Matthew 19:24): "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Therefore those who were greatly in earnest about their eternal salvation, chose voluntary poverty when fate had denied this to them and they had been born in wealth. Thus Buddha
Buddha
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

 Sakyamuni was born a prince, but voluntarily took to the mendicant's staff; and Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men's Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St...

, the founder of the mendicant orders who, as a youngster at a ball, where the daughters of all the notabilities were sitting together, was asked: "Now Francis, will you not soon make your choice from these beauties?" and who replied: "I have made a far more beautiful choice!" "Whom?" "La poverta (poverty)": whereupon he abandoned every thing shortly afterwards and wandered through the land as a mendicant.


Tolstoy's Christian beliefs centered on the Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

, particularly the injunction to turn the other cheek, which he saw as a justification for pacifism, nonviolence and nonresistance. Various versions of "Tolstoy's Bible" have been published, indicating the passages Tolstoy most relied on, specifically, the reported words of Jesus himself. Tolstoy believed being a Christian required him to be a pacifist; the consequences of being a pacifist, and the apparently inevitable waging of war by government, made him a philosophical anarchist.

Tolstoy believed that a true Christian could find lasting happiness by striving for inner self-perfection through following the Great Commandment
Great Commandment
The Great Commandment, or Greatest Commandment, is an appellation applied to either the first, or both, of two commandments which appear in , and...

 of loving one's neighbor and God rather than looking outward to the Church or state for guidance. His belief in nonresistance (nonviolence) when faced by conflict is another distinct attribute of his philosophy based on Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

's teachings. By directly influencing Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , pronounced . 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement...

 with this idea through his work The Kingdom of God is Within You
The Kingdom of God Is Within You
The Kingdom of God Is Within You is the non-fiction magnum opus of Leo Tolstoy and was first published in Germany in 1894, after being banned in his home country of Russia...

(full text of English translation available on Wikisource), Tolstoy has had a huge influence on the nonviolent resistance movement to this day. He believed that the aristocracy were a burden on the poor, and that the only solution to how we live together is through anarchism
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

. He also opposed private property and the institution of marriage and valued the ideals of chastity and sexual abstinence (discussed in Father Sergius
Father Sergius
Father Sergius is a short story written by Leo Tolstoy in 1890 and first published in 1898.-Plot:The story begins with the childhood and exceptional and accomplished youth of Prince Stepan Kasatsky. The young man is destined for great things. He discovers on the eve of his wedding that his fiancée...

and his preface to The Kreutzer Sonata), ideals also held by the young Gandhi. Tolstoy's later work derives a passion and verve from the depth of his austere moral views. The sequence of the temptation of Sergius in Father Sergius, for example, is among his later triumphs. Gorky relates how Tolstoy once read this passage before himself and Chekhov and that Tolstoy was moved to tears by the end of the reading. Other later passages of rare power include the crises of self faced by the protagonists of The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Master and Man
Master and Man
Master and Man is a short story by Leo Tolstoy .-Plot summary:In this short story, a land owner named Vasili Andreevich Brekhunov takes along one of his peasants, Nikita, for a short journey to the house of the owner of a forest. He is impatient and wishes to get to the town more quickly 'for...

, where the main character in the former or the reader in the latter is made aware of the foolishness of the protagonists' lives.
Tolstoy had a profound influence on the development of Christian anarchist
Christian anarchism
Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology that combines anarchism and Christianity. It is the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus...

 thought. The Tolstoyan
Tolstoyan
The Tolstoyan movement is a social movement based on the philosophical and religious views of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy . Tolstoy's views were formed by rigorous study of the ministry of Jesus, particularly the Sermon on the Mount....

s were a small Christian anarchist group formed by Tolstoy's companion, Vladimir Chertkov
Vladimir Chertkov
Vladimir Grigoryevich Chertkov was a Russian writer and secretary of Leo Tolstoy, and one of the most prominent Tolstoyans.-Family and childhood:...

 (1854–1936), to spread Tolstoy's religious teachings. Prince Peter Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, economist, geographer, author and one of the world's foremost anarcho-communists. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between...

 wrote of Tolstoy in the article on anarchism in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica:
Without naming himself an anarchist, Leo Tolstoy, like his predecessors in the popular religious movements of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Chojecki
Petr Chelcický
Petr Chelčický was a Christian and political leader and author in 15th century Bohemia .-Chelčický's background:...

, Denk
Hans Denck
Hans Denck was a German theologian and Anabaptist leader during the Reformation.Denck was born in 1495 in the Bavarian town of Habach. After a classical education, he became headmaster at the St. Sebaldus school in Nuremberg in 1523...

 and many others, took the anarchist position as regards the state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 and property rights, deducing his conclusions from the general spirit of the teachings of Jesus and from the necessary dictates of reason. With all the might of his talent he made (especially in The Kingdom of God is Within You) a powerful criticism of the church, the state and law altogether, and especially of the present property law
Property law
Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property and in personal property, within the common law legal system. In the civil law system, there is a division between movable and immovable property...

s. He describes the state as the domination of the wicked ones, supported by brutal force. Robbers, he says, are far less dangerous than a well-organized government. He makes a searching criticism of the prejudices which are current now concerning the benefits conferred upon men by the church, the state and the existing distribution of property, and from the teachings of Jesus he deduces the rule of non-resistance and the absolute condemnation of all wars. His religious arguments are, however, so well combined with arguments borrowed from a dispassionate observation of the present evils, that the anarchist portions of his works appeal to the religious and the non-religious reader alike.


During the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China, Tolstoy praised the Boxers. He was harshly critical of the atrocities committed by the Russians and other western troops. He accused them of engaging in slaughter when he heard about the lootings, rapes, and murders, in what he saw as Christian brutality. Tolstoy also named the two monarchs most responsible for the atrocities; Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany. Tolstoy also read the works of Chinese thinker and philosopher, Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

.
In hundreds of essays over the last twenty years of his life, Tolstoy reiterated the anarchist critique of the state and recommended books by Kropotkin
Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin was a Russian prince and anarchist.Kropotkin may also refer to:*Pyotr Nikolayevich Kropotkin , Soviet/Russian geologist, tectonician, and geophysicist*Mount Kropotkin, a peak in Antarctica...

 and Proudhon to his readers, whilst rejecting anarchism's espousal of violent revolutionary means
Propaganda of the deed
Propaganda of the deed is a concept that refers to specific political actions meant to be exemplary to others...

. In the 1900 essay, "On Anarchy", he wrote; "The Anarchists are right in everything; in the negation of the existing order, and in the assertion that, without Authority, there could not be worse violence than that of Authority under existing conditions. They are mistaken only in thinking that Anarchy can be instituted by a revolution. But it will be instituted only by there being more and more people who do not require the protection of governmental power ... There can be only one permanent revolution—a moral one: the regeneration of the inner man." Despite his misgivings about anarchist violence, Tolstoy took risks to circulate the prohibited publications of anarchist thinkers in Russia
Anarchism in Russia
Russian anarchism is anarchism in Russia or among Russians. The three categories of Russian anarchism were anarchist communism, anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist individualism...

, and corrected the proofs of Kropotkin's "Words of a Rebel", illegally published in St Petersburg in 1906.

In 1908, Tolstoy wrote A Letter to a Hindoo
A Letter to a Hindu
A Letter to a Hindu was a letter written by Leo Tolstoy to Tarak Nath Das in 1908. The letter was written in response to two letters sent by Das, seeking support from the famous Russian author and thinker, for India's independence from British colonial rule. The letter was published in the Indian...

outlining his belief in non-violence as a means for India to gain independence from British colonial rule. In 1909, a copy of the letter fell into the hands of Mohandas Gandhi who was working as a lawyer in South Africa at the time and in the beginnings of becoming an activist. Tolstoy's letter was significant for Gandhi who wrote to the famous writer seeking proof that he was the real author, leading to further correspondence between them.
Reading Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You also convinced Gandhi to avoid violence and espouse nonviolent resistance
Nonviolent resistance
Nonviolent resistance is the practice of achieving goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence. It is largely synonymous with civil resistance...

, a debt Gandhi acknowledged in his autobiography, calling Tolstoy "the greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced". The correspondence between Tolstoy and Gandhi would only last a year, from October 1909 until Tolstoy's death in November 1910, but led Gandhi to give the name, the Tolstoy Colony, to his second ashram
Ashram
Traditionally, an ashram is a spiritual hermitage. Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo....

 in South Africa. Besides non-violent resistance, the two men shared a common belief in the merits of vegetarianism
Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism encompasses the practice of following plant-based diets , with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat...

, the subject of several of Tolstoy's essays.

Tolstoy also became a major supporter of the Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

 movement. Tolstoy was impressed by the pacifist beliefs of the Doukhobor
Doukhobor
The Doukhobors or Dukhobors , earlierDukhobortsy are a group of Russian origin.The Doukhobors were one of the sects - later defined as a religious philosophy, ethnic group, social movement, or simply a "way of life" - known generically as Spiritual Christianity. The origin of the Doukhobors is...

s and brought their persecution to the attention of the international community, after they burned their weapons in peaceful protest in 1895. He aided the Doukhobors in migrating to Canada. In 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, Tolstoy condemned the war and wrote to the Japanese Buddhist priest Soyen Shaku
Soyen Shaku
Soyen Shaku was the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States. He was a Roshi of the Rinzai school and was abbot of both Kencho-ji and Engaku-ji temples in Kamakura, Japan...

 in a failed attempt to make a joint pacifist statement.

Death

Tolstoy died in 1910, at the age of 82. He died of pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

 at Astapovo
Lev Tolstoy (settlement)
Lev Tolstoy is a settlement in the northern part of Lipetsk Oblast, Russia. It is the administrative center of Lev-Tolstovsky District. Population: 8,800 ; 9,035 ; 9,139 ....

 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.

In film

A 2009 film about Tolstoy's final year, The Last Station
The Last Station
The Last Station is a 2009 biographical drama film directed by Michael Hoffman. It is an adaptation of the 1990 biographical novel of the same name by Jay Parini about the final months of Leo Tolstoy's life. The film stars Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife Sophia Tolstaya...

, based on the novel by Jay Parini
Jay Parini
Jay Parini is an American writer and academic. He is known for novels and poetry, biography and criticism.He was born in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and brought up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Lafayette College in 1970 and was awarded a doctorate by the University of St. Andrews in 1975...

, was made by director Michael Hoffman with Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer
Arthur Christopher Orne Plummer, CC is a Canadian theatre, film and television actor. He made his film debut in 1957's Stage Struck, and notable early film performances include Night of the Generals, The Return of the Pink Panther and The Man Who Would Be King.In a career that spans over five...

 as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Mirren, DBE is an English actor. She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.-Early life and family:...

 as Sofya Tolstoya. Both performers were nominated for Oscars for their roles. There have been other films about the writer, including Departure of a Grand Old Man, made in 1912 just two years after his death, How Fine, How Fresh the Roses Were (1913), and Leo Tolstoy, directed by and starring Sergei Gerasimov in 1984.

There is also a famous lost film of Tolstoy made a decade before he died. In 1901, the American travel lecturer Burton Holmes
Burton Holmes
Burton Holmes was an American traveler, photographer and filmmaker, who coined the term "travelogue".Travel stories, slide shows, and motion pictures were all in existence before Holmes began his career, as was the profession of travel lecturer; but Holmes was the first person to put all of these...

 visited Yasnaya Polyana with Albert J. Beveridge
Albert J. Beveridge
Albert Jeremiah Beveridge was an American historian and United States Senator from Indiana.-Early years:Albert J. Beveridge was born October 6, 1862 in Highland County, Ohio and his parents moved to Indiana soon after his birth, and his boyhood was one of hard work...

, the U.S. senator and historian. As the three men conversed, Holmes filmed Tolstoy with his 60-mm movie camera. Afterwards, Beveridge's advisers succeeded in having the film destroyed, fearing that documentary evidence of a meeting with the Russian author might hurt Beveridge's chances of running for the U.S. presidency.

See also

  • Anarchism and religion
    Anarchism and religion
    Anarchists have traditionally been skeptical of and opposed to organized religion. Nevertheless some anarchists provided religious interpretations and approaches to anarchism.-Anarchist clashes with religion:...

  • Christian vegetarianism
    Christian vegetarianism
    Christian vegetarianism is a minority Christian belief based on effecting the compassionate teachings of Jesus, the twelve apostles and the early church to all living beings through vegetarianism or, ideally, veganism...

  • Confirmation bias
    Confirmation bias
    Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...

    , a psychological phenomenon of which Tolstoy was an early informal observer


External links

  • Audiobooks of Tolstoy at LibriVox
    LibriVox
    LibriVox is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers and is probably, since 2007, the world's most prolific audiobook publisher...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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