Leo Tolstoy

(1828 – 1910)

 Leo TolstoyBiographical Sketch

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Никола́евич Толсто́й; Yasnaya Polyana/Tula region, Russia, September 9 [O.S. August 28], 1828 – Astapovo, Russia, November 20 [O.S. November 7], 1910), also known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. 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.

Tolstoy, born to a well-known family of old Russian nobility, is one of the giants of Russian literature. His works include the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina and novellas such as Hadji Murad (1912) and The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). His fiction consistently attempts to convey realistically the Russian society in which he lived. The Cossacks (1863) describes the Cossack life and people through a story of a Russian aristocrat in love with a Cossack girl. Anna Karenina (1877) tells parallel stories of an adulterous woman trapped by the conventions and falsities of society and of a philosophical landowner (much like Tolstoy), who works alongside the peasants in the fields and seeks to reform their lives. War and Peace (1869) is generally thought to be one of the greatest novels ever written, remarkable for its dramatic breadth and unity. Its vast canvas includes 580 characters, many historical with others fictional. The story moves from family life to the headquarters of Napoleon, from the court of Alexander I of Russia to the battlefields of Austerlitz and Borodino. The novel explores Tolstoy’s theory of history, and in particular the insignificance of individuals such as Napoleon and Alexander. – Tolstoy not only drew from his own life experiences but also created characters in his own image, such as Pierre Bezukhov and Prince Andrei in War and Peace, Levin in Anna Karenina and to some extent, Prince Nekhlyudov in Resurrection.

His contemporaries paid him lofty tributes. Fyodor Dostoevsky thought him the greatest of all living novelists. Gustave Flaubert, on reading a translation of War and Peace, exclaimed, “What an artist and what a psychologist!” Anton Chekhov, who often visited Tolstoy at his country estate, wrote, “When literature possesses a Tolstoy, it is easy and pleasant to be a writer; even when you know you have achieved nothing yourself and are still achieving nothing, this is not as terrible as it might otherwise be, because Tolstoy achieves for everyone. What he does serves to justify all the hopes and aspirations invested in literature.”

Later critics and novelists continue to bear testament to Tolstoy’s art. Virginia Woolf declared him the greatest of all novelists. James Joyce noted that, “He is never dull, never stupid, never tired, never pedantic, never theatrical!”. Thomas Mann wrote of Tolstoy’s seemingly guileless artistry: “Seldom did art work so much like nature”. Such sentiments were shared by the likes of Proust, Faulkner and to some extent Nabokov, who heaped superlatives upon The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina; he questioned, however, the reputation of War and Peace, and sharply criticized Resurrection and The Kreutzer Sonata.

Tolstoy’s 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. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more about Leo Tolstoy on Wikipedia.



  • Voyna i Mir (War and Peace) (1865 – 1869)
  • Anna Karenina (1875 – 1877)
  • Voskreseniye (1899)
  • The Centenary Edition of Tolstoy (1928 1937)
  • Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenii (1928 – 1958)
  • Sobranie Sochinenii (1960 – 1965)
  • Complete Works of Count Tolstoy (1970)
Novellas and Short Stories
  • Istoriya Vcherashnego Dnya (1851)
    (The History of Yesterday)
  • Nabeg (1853)
    (The Raid)
  • Rubka Lesa (1855)
    (The Wood-Cutting Expedition; The Woodfelling)
  • Zapiski Markera (1855)
    (Notes of a Billiard Marker)
  • Utro Pomeshchika (1856)
    (A Landowner’s Morning)
  • Metel (1856)
    (The Snowstorm)
  • Dva Gusara (1856)
    (Two Hussars)
  • Tri Smerti, 1859
    (Three Deaths)
  • Semeinoe Shast’e (1859)
    (Family Happiness)
  • Polikoushka (1863)
    (In the Days of Serfdom)
  • Kazaki (1863)
    (The Cossacks)
  • Kavkazski Plennik (1872)
    (A Prisoner in the Caucasus)
  • Chem Lyudi Zhivy (1882)
    (What People Live By; What Men Live By)
  • Dva Starika (1885)
    (The Two Pilgrims; Two Old Men)
  • Mnogo li Cheloveku Zemli Nuzhno (1885)
    (Does a Man Need Much Land?; How Much Land Does a Man Need?)
  • Gde Lyubov’, tam i Bog (1885)
    (Where Love Is, God Is)
  • Smert Ivana Ilyitsha (1886)
    (The Death of Ivan Ilyich)
  • Pervyi Vinokur, ili Kak Chertenok Kraiushku Zasluzhil (1886)
    (The Fist Distiller)
  • Kholstomer (1886)
    (Kholstomir: A Story of a Horse)
  • Tri Startsa (1886)
    (The Three Hermits)
  • The Invaders, and Other Stories (1887)
  • Ivan Ilyitch and Other Stories (1887)
  • Kreitserova Sonata (1887 – 1889)
    (The Kreutzer Sonata)
  • Dyavol (1889-90)
    (The Devil)
  • Otets Sergi (1890 1898)
    (Father Sergius)
  • Hozjain i Rabotnik (1895)
    (Master and Man)
  • Posle Bala (1903)
    (After the Ball)
  • Hadzi-Murat (1904)
    (Hadji Murad)
  • Falshivyi Kupon (1904)
    (The Forged Coupon and Other Stories)
    – Includes: Alyosha Gorshok (Alyosha the Pot).
  • Korney Vasilyev (1905-1906)
  • Leo Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (1960)
  • The Cossacs, Happy Ever After, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1960)
  • Leo Tolstoy: Short Stories (1964)
  • Short Novels (1965)
  • Russian Stories and Legends (1967)
  • Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy (1967)
  • Fables and Fairy Tales (1972)
  • A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories (1977)
  • Master and Man and Other Stories (1977)
  • Short Novels (1979)
  • The Raid and Other Stories (1982)
  • A Prisoner in the Caucasus and Other Stories (1983)
  • The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories (1985)
  • Tolstoy: Tales of Courage and Conflict (1985)
  • Father Sergius and Other Stories (1988)
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (1989)
  • Tolstoy’s Short Fiction (1991)
  • How Much Land Does a Man Need?: And Other Stories (1994)
  • Divine and Human and Other Stories (2000)
  • Walk in the Light While There Is Light (2001)
  • Collected Shorter Fiction (2001)
  • Leo Tolstoy Collected Short Stories (2001)
  • The Long Exile and Other Stories (2001)
  • A Moscow Acquaintance, the Snow-Storm and Other Stories (2002)
  • In the Days of Serfdom and Other Stories (2002)
  • Vlast’ T’my, ili Korok Uviaz, Vsei Ptiche Propast’ (1886)
    (The Dominion of Darkness; The Power of Darkness)
  • Plody Prosveshcheniya (1889 – 1890)
    (Fruits of Enlightenment)
  • Zhivoi Trup (1911)
    (The Living Corpse; The Man Who Was Dead)
  • Tolstoy: Plays (1994 – 1998)
Essays, Treatises, Memoirs, Travelogues, Correspondence
  • Detstvo (1852)
  • Otrotshestvo (1854)
  • Sevastopolskiye Rasskazy (1855 – 1856)
    (Sevastopol Sketches)
  • Iunost (1856)
  • Iz Zapisok Knyazya D. Nekhlyudova; Lyutsern (1857)
  • Komu u kogo uchit’sya pisat’, Krest’yanskim Rebyatam u Nas, ill Nam u Krest’yanskikh Rebyat? (1863)
    (Who Should Learn to Write from Whom, the Peasant Children from Us or We from the Peasant Children?)
  • Azbuka (1872)
  • Soedinenie i Perevod Chetyrekh Evangelii (1882)
    (A Harmony and Translation of the Four Gospels)
  • Issledovaniye Dogmaticheskogo Bogosloviya (1884)
    (Critique of Dogmatic Theology)
  • Ispoved (1884)
    (My Confession)
  • V chyom Moya Vera (1884)
    (What I Believe)
  • O Zhizni (1886-1887)
    (On Life)
  • Tak chto zhe Nam Delat? (1887)
    (What To Do?; What Shall We Do Then?; What Then Must We Do?)
  • Tsarstvo bozhiye vnutri vas (1893)
    (The Kingdom of God Is Within You)
    – First published in French.
  • A Letter to Russian Liberals (1896)
  • Chto takoye Iskusstvo? (1898)
    (What Is Art?)
  • Letter to A Non-Comissioned Officer (1898)
  • Patriotism and Government (1900)
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill (1900)
  • To the Tsar and His Assistants (1901)
  • To The Working People (1902)
  • Letter to a Hindu (1908)
  • Ne Mogu Moltshat! (1908)
    (I Cannot Be Silent)
  • Gandhi Letters (1910)
  • The Pathway of Life: Teaching Love and Wisdom (1910)
  • Recollections and Essays (1961)
  • Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves? and Other Writings (1975)
  • Tolstoy’s Letters (1978)
  • Tolstoy on Education (1982)
  • Tolstoy’s Diaries (1985)
  • Tolstoy’s Diaries (1986)
  • The Lion and the Honeycomb (1987)
  • Writings on Civil Disobedience and Non Violence (1988)
  • A Confession and Other Religious Writings (1988)
  • Tolstoy’s Letters (1991)
  • The Gospel According to Tolstoy (1992)
Online editions of Leo Tolstoy’s works:


A Selection of Quotes

A Confession

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”

The Kreutzer Sonata

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

Find more quotes by Leo Tolstoy on Wikiquote and Goodreads.