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Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote the acclaimed novels War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, and still ranks among the world's top writers.
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On September 9, 1828, Leo Tolstoy was born in Tula Province, Russia. In the 1860s, he wrote his first great novel, War and Peace. In 1873, Tolstoy set to work on the second of his best known novels, Anna Karenina. He continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s. One of his most successful later works was The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Tolstoy died on November 20, 1910 in Astapovo, Russia.
"I put men to death in war, I fought duels to slay others. I lost at cards, wasted the substance wrung from the sweat of peasants, punished the latter cruelly, rioted with loose women, and deceived men. Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness, violence, and murder, all were committed by me, not one crime omitted, and yet I was not the less considered by my equals to be a comparatively moral man. Such was my life for ten years."
On September 9, 1828, writer Leo Tolstoy was born at his family's estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula Province of Russia. He was the youngest of four boys. In 1830, when Tolstoy's mother, née Princess Volkonskaya, died, his father's cousin took over caring for the children. When their father, Count Nikolay Tolstoy, died just seven years later, their aunt was appointed their legal guardian. When the aunt passed away, Tolstoy and his siblings moved in with a second aunt, in Kazan, Russia. Although Tolstoy experienced a lot of loss at an early age, he would later idealize his childhood memories in 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. There, Tolstoy failed to excel as a student. His low grades forced him to transfer to an easier law program. Prone to partying in excess, Tolstoy ultimately left the University of Kazan in 1847, without a degree. He returned to his parents' estate, where he made a go at becoming a farmer. He attempted to lead the serfs, or farmhands, in their work, but he was too often absent on social visits to Tula and Moscow. His stab at becoming the perfect farmer soon proved to be a failure. He did, however, succeed in pouring his energies into keeping a journal—the beginning of a lifelong habit that would inspire much of his fiction.
As Tolstoy was flailing on the farm, his older brother, Nikolay, came to visit while on military leave. Nikolay convinced Tolstoy to join the Army as a junker, south in the Caucasus Mountains, where Nikolay himself was stationed. Following his stint as a junker, Tolstoy transferred to Sevastopol in Ukraine in November 1854, where he fought in the Crimean War through August 1855.
While Tolstoy was working as a junker for the Army, he had free time to kill. During quiet periods he worked on an autobiographical story called Childhood. In it, he wrote of his fondest childhood memories. In 1852, Tolstoy submitted the sketch to The Contemporary, the most popular journal of the time. The story was eagerly accepted and became Tolstoy's very first published work.
After completing Childhood, Tolstoy started writing about his day-to-day life at the Army outpost in the Caucasus. However, he did not complete the work, entitled The Cossacks, until 1862, after he had already left the Army.
Amazingly, Tolstoy still managed to continue writing while at battle during the Crimean War. During that time, he composed Boyhood (1854), a sequel to Childhood, the second book in what was to become Tolstoy's autobiographical trilogy.
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