Leo Tolstoy


Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and playwright. He is best known for his two longest works, “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina,” which are regarded as among the greatest novels ever written. Tolstoy’s ideas on nonviolent resistance to evil influenced leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Early Life: Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, at the family estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in Tula Province, Russia. He was the fourth of five children born to Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy and Countess Mariya Tolstaya. His parents died while he was young, and he was brought up by relatives. Tolstoy studied law and oriental languages at Kazan University but left without a degree, returning to Yasnaya Polyana to manage the estate.

Career: Tolstoy began writing while serving in the Russian army during the Caucasian War. His first published work, “Childhood,” appeared in 1852. He gained international fame with the publication of “War and Peace” (1869) and “Anna Karenina” (1877). These novels reflect Tolstoy’s complex views on history, society, and human nature, blending realistic detail with philosophical and psychological depth.

Major Works: In addition to his novels, Tolstoy wrote numerous short stories, essays, and plays. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” (1886) and “Resurrection” (1899) are notable works that explore existential themes. Tolstoy’s later works, influenced by his deepening religious and moral convictions, include “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” (1894), which articulates his Christian anarchist philosophy.

Legacy: Tolstoy’s influence extends beyond literature. His advocacy for nonviolent resistance inspired significant social and political movements. Tolstoyan communities, which sought to live according to his teachings, were established in various countries. His profound insights into the human condition continue to resonate with readers and thinkers worldwide.


Major Novels:

  • War and Peace (1869)
  • Anna Karenina (1877)
  • Resurrection (1899)
  • The Cossacks (1863)
  • Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852-1856)

Short Stories and Novellas:

  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)
  • Hadji Murat (1912, posthumous)
  • The Kreutzer Sonata (1889)
  • Father Sergius (1898)
  • The Devil (1911)


  • A Confession (1882)
  • What Is Art? (1897)
  • The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894)
  • The Gospel in Brief (1896)
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