War and Peace: Biography: Leo Tolstoy

Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy  was born in 1828 into a wealthy family at Yasnaya Polyana in the Tulin province. Both of his parents died before he reached the age of 10. He went on to study Oriental languages and law at Kazan University. In 1851, he joined an artillery regiment and served in the Crimean War. His first published work, Childhood (1852), became the first of the trilogy which includes Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1857). He wrote the Sevastopol Sketches (1855-1856) after taking part in the defence of Sevastopol and this helped to establish his literary reputation further. This was followed by Family Happiness (1859) and The Cossacks (1862).
In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophie Andreyevna Behrs. Over the next 15 years they had 13 children together. This period is also noteworthy for the well-regarded fiction he produced. He began writing the epic novel War and Peace (1865-1869) in 1863 and this is concerned with the Napoleonic wars and the Russian aristocracy. Although the canonization of literary works is often questionable, this is esteemed in academia as a masterpiece. This was followed by Anna Karenina (1875-1878), which is a novel devoted to the unhappily married eponymous heroine and explores the disastrous consequences of her adultery. Of his later fictional works, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) and The Kreutzer Sonata (1891) are particularly notable.
From around the time of 1880, Tolstoy is thought to have progressed from being concerned with moral questions to undergoing a spiritual crisis. Although from a wealthy family, Tolstoy went on to denounce private property and also rejected the values of the church. He continued to believe in the love of God and humanity, but, nonetheless, he was excommunicated by the Russian holy synod in 1901. He continued to have a long-term interest in education, particularly for peasants, and Yasnaya Polyana became a site of pilgrimage for many who recognized a moral superiority in his ideas and works. He died in 1910 at Astapovo railway station.