Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, philosopher and playwright who first and foremost wrote novels and short stories.
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, social reformer, and Georgist.
His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist.
The Tolstoys were a well-known family of Old Russian nobility, tracing their ancestry to mythical Lithuanian noble Indris.
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. Tolstoy was educated at home by German and French tutors.
He was not a particularly exceptional student but he was good at games. In 1843 he entered Kazan University.
Planning on a diplomatic career, he entered the faculty of Oriental languages.
Finding these studies too demanding, he switched two years later to studying law.
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 the university in the middle of his studies, returned to Yasnaya Polyana and then spent much of his time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Tolstoy left the university in 1847 without taking his degree.
His charity failed because of his foolishness in dealing with the peasants (poor, working class) and because he spent too much time socializing in Tula and Moscow.
In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army.
During this time he first began making amazingly honest diary entries, a practice he maintained until his death.
These entries provided much material for his fiction, and in a very real sense the collection is one long autobiography.
From November 1854 to August 1855 Tolstoy served in the battered fortress at Sevastopol in southern Ukraine.
He had requested transfer to this area, a sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War (1853–1956; when Russia battled England and France over land).
As he directed fire from the Fourth Bastion, the hottest area in the conflict for a long while, Tolstoy managed to write Youth, the second part of his autobiographical trilogy.
Tolstoy died in 1910, at the age of 82.
Just prior to his death, his health had been a concern of his family, who were actively engaged in his care on a daily basis.
During his last few days, he had spoken and written about dying.
Renouncing his aristocratic lifestyle, he had finally gathered the nerve to separate from his wife, and left home in the middle of winter, in the dead of night.
His secretive departure was an apparent attempt to escape unannounced from Sophia’s jealous tirades.
She was outspokenly opposed to many of his teachings, and in recent years had grown envious of the attention which it seemed to her Tolstoy lavished upon his Tolstoyan “disciples”.