Tolstoy, the would-be saint

leo tolstoyTolstoy’s life went through a succession of stages. Initially in his youth, he was educated by private foreign tutors, a mark of privilege. At age nineteen he inherited an estate, becoming  a wealthy individual. He began to squander his money on entertainment and gambling and lived promiscuously. After this period he decided to take the course of many a nobleman and became an officer in the Russian Army. Instead of retiring, Tolstoy next became a writer. He didn’t find much cohesion with the other writers of Russia, yet, still he became a member of the intelligentsia and was influenced by philosophers and writers, developing his own views. He developed a deep feeling of guilt towards the peasant class, ashamed of his wealthy position which contributed to the system of feudalism in his country. He was not alone in viewing the peasantry as Russia’s best class, a feature of which can be found in his writings such as “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, and “Master and Man”. Tolstoy set up schools for the peasantry, teaching children reading and writing. He then abandoned these schools to get married and start a family. He later reopened a school near his estate, doing much research in order to improve the poor people’s education. Tolstoy himself began dressing like a peasant and after the release of “Anna Karenina” he went on monastery pilgrimages in the clothes of a begging religious man. Tolstoy gave all his property to his family and lived according to a sect that sought the morally pure life. During the famine of 1892, Tolstoy led a relief campaign. With national fame for his religious as well as fictional writing, Tolstoy received a constant stream of visitors at his place in Moscow. He hardly ever turned someone away. He also did his best to reply to over 50,000 letters which were written to him. Tolstoy was a man of the people, empathising with their plight. Whether they were the Chechens he sympathised for when in their territory as an Army officer, the Dukhobor religious people he funded with his last novel to reach political asylum or the peasants whom he educated and led famine relief for, Tolstoy embraced their humanity (Bartlett 2013).

Works Cited:

Bartlett, Rosamund. Tolstoy: A Russian Life. London: Profile Books, 2013. Print.

Getty Images. “GettyImages-463960391-E”. Five Things You May Not Know About Leo Tolstoy. A & E Television Networks, 15 January 2016.



One thought on “Tolstoy, the would-be saint

  1. Hi Joey,
    Congratulations on a very successful Blog post! Your insights into the life of Tolstoy gave me a greater understanding of Tolstoys perspective and your writing was a joy to read. What an interesting man with such strong convictions. I think this essence of Tolstoy is truly reflected in “The Death of Ivan Ilych” and “Master and Man” which I beleived you linked to perfectly in relation to Tolstoys views regarding the social context of Russia. It might be interesting to explore this further, giving examples where you believe Tolstoys personal life directly influenced his writing, or perhaps where he mirrored Russian society. Perhaps adding a few links, or providing evidence to support your information would elevate this post, but overall, I found this very well written and hard to fault. Well done.


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