The Ageless Writer – Leo Tolstoy

Marking the 193rd birth anniversary of the iconic Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s birthday on September 9, 2021, we at Storizen thought to commemorate his writing, style, thoughts, and contribution to world literature.

Leo Tolstoy was born at his family’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula Province of Russia on September 9, 1828 writer. He was the youngest of four boys. Tolstoy lost his mother in 1830, his father, Count Nikolay Tolstoy’s cousin, took care of the children. Seven years later, after his father died, his aunt was appointed their legal guardian.

Tolstoy and his siblings moved in with a second aunt in Kazan, Russia, when the aunt passed away. Tolstoy experienced a lot of loss at an early age, which profoundly affected his writing.

Tolstoy received his primary education at home, at the hands of French and German tutors. In 1843, he enrolled in an Oriental languages program at the University of Kazan, but unfortunately, he failed. He never received good grades and thus was registered to a law program. Lavish life and partying attitude made him leave the University of Kazan in 1847 without a degree. He returned to his parent’s estate, where he started farming.  Eventually, he failed at farming too.  However, his interest in keeping a journal is marked as the initial steps to his fiction writing.

Leo Tolstoy is considered one of the greatest authors of all time. He wrote an autobiographical story called Childhood while he was a beater in the Army, in which he wrote all of his fondest childhood memories. After this, he started writing about his day-to-day life at the Army outpost in the Caucasus. However, The Cossacks were never completed until 1862.

Tolstoy managed to write during the Crimean War too. He composed Boyhood, a sequel to childhood in 1854, which became a trilogy of his autobiography. In between the war times, his other writings focused mainly on soldiers’ consciousness, which is considered a new writing technique.

At the end of the war, he left the Army and went back to Russia. His writings and articles have attracted some thought schools with which he refused to collaborate with. He left for Paris in 1857, gambled all the money he had, and returned to Russia in 1862. This return journey is the start of a new life. He published a 12 issue of a journal named Yasnaya Polyana and married Sofya Andreyevna Bers. In the 1870s, Tolstoy experienced a moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as a profound work on spiritual awakening in his non-fiction work.

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Tolstoy always sought to attain truth through art. In his conception, art is the great unmasker; as he wrote in his diary on May 17, 1896, “Art is a microscope which the artist aims at the mysteries of his soul and which reveals these mysteries common to all.”

Living in Yasnaya Polyana, his birthplace with his wife and children, Tolstoy spent time on his first great novel, War and Peace. A portion of the novel was first published in the Russian Messenger in 1865, “The Year 1805.” By 1868, he had released three more chapters, and a year later, the novel was complete.  


The book was a hit with both critics and the public. The novel had historical accounts of the Napoleonic Wars. This book is also famous for its realistic characterization of fictional characters. The novel also uniquely incorporated three long essays satirizing the laws of history.

His other work, among others, Anna Karenina is a famous novel. This is a deep story based on social transgression, love, betrayal, duty, and children. The story ends with a dramatically tragic end which also has the elements of exile and adultery. The story made critics talk rampantly about the character of  Count Vronsky and Anna’s affair with him.

Many critical studies have been made and are still made in today’s generation on Tolstoy’s works. In his book Sevastopol Sketches, written in 1855, he mentions the inside account of experience in the Crimean War. The book indicates his stand, which strengthens his belief in commenting that the course of the war is quite illogical without strategies. This has been repeated in War and Peace too. His other works like A Confession and The Kingdom of God is within you have been subjected to further discussions.

These books, somewhere, reinforce Tolstoy’s belief that governments are immoral and serve only the rich. Though his works faced severe criticism, his other book, The Confessions, received rampant reviews as the book is based on human urgency or rushing idea to know the infinite.

Tolstoy’s writing is also known for the problematic situations and their portrayal in a simple manner. This makes the reader relatable. During the time of his stay in Russia and the various revolutions happening around, his novels depict the then situations aptly.  There is a collective opinion among the readers worldwide that his books are heavy to read, not only in terms of story but the number of pages! Picking up this book is considered a Herculean Task in a subtly humorous manner.

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Leo Tolstoy has inspired humungous amounts of people. Tolstoy established himself as a moral and religious leader. His ideas about nonviolent resistance to evil influenced the likes of social leader Mahatma Gandhi. In the same lines, though his work is criticized but mostly applauded by contemporaries, including Ivan Turgenev and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


In the last days, the pilgrimage Tolstoy decided to have proved too arduous for the aging novelist. In November 1910, the stationmaster of a train depot in Astapovo, Russia, opened his home to Tolstoy, allowing the ailing writer to rest. Tolstoy died there shortly after, on November 20, 1910. He was buried at the family estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in Tula Province, where Tolstoy had lost so many loved ones yet had managed to build such fond and lasting memories of his childhood. Tolstoy was survived by his wife and their brood of 8 children.

To this day, Tolstoy’s novels are considered among the finest achievements of literary work.

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Read Storizen Magazine September 2021 issue celebrating 193rd birth anniversary of The Ageless Writer – Leo Tolstoy