- Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy also known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer, philosopher and political thinker who primarily wrote novels and short stories, born on 9 September 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate in the Tula region of Russia.
- The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility. He was the fourth of five children of Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812, and Countess Mariya Tolstaya (Volkonskaya). Tolstoy's parents died when he was young, so he and his siblings were brought up by relatives.
- 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: "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."
- On 23 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:
- Count Sergei Lvovich Tolstoy (July 10, 1863 - December 23, 1947), composer and ethnomusicologist
- Countess Tatyana Lvovna Tolstaya (October 4, 1864 - September 21, 1950), wife of Mikhail Sergeevich
- Sukhotin Count Ilya Lvovich Tolstoy (May 22, 1866 - December 11, 1933), writer
- Count Lev Lvovich Tolstoy (June 1, 1869 October 18, 1945), writer and sculptor
- Countess Maria Lvovna Tolstaya (18711906), wife of Nikolai Leonidovich Obolensky
- Count Peter Lvovich Tolstoy (18721873), died in infancy
- Count Nikolai Lvovich Tolstoy (18741875), died in infancy
- Countess Varvara Lvovna Tolstaya (18751875), died in infancy
- Count Andrei Lvovich Tolstoy (18771916), served in the Russo-Japanese War
- Count Michael Lvovich Tolstoy (18791944)
- Count Alexei Lvovich Tolstoy (18811886)
- Countess Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya (July 18, 1884 - September 26, 1979)
- Count Ivan Lvovich Tolstoy (18881895)
- 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.
- The Tolstoy family left Russia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, and Leo Tolstoy's descendants today live in Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States. Among them are Swedish singer Viktoria Tolstoy and Swedish landowner Christopher Paus, Herresta.
- 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 secret police. However, as a direct forerunner to A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, the school at Yasnaya Polyana can justifiably be claimed the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education.
- Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction and is widely considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. He is best known for two long novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).
- 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, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.
- A 2009 film about Tolstoy's final year, The Last Station, based on the novel by Jay Parini, was made by director Michael Hoffman with Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren 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 visited Yasnaya Polyana with Albert J. Beveridge, 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.
- Tolstoy died on 20 November 1910 at the age of 82 at Astapovo, Russian Empire due to pneumonia.
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