Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (;〔("Tolstoy" ). ''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.〕 , ; – ), usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels ''War and Peace'' (1869) and ''Anna Karenina'' (1877), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, ''Childhood'', ''Boyhood'', and ''Youth'' (1852–1856), and ''Sevastopol Sketches'' (1855), based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. Tolstoy's fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as ''The Death of Ivan Ilyich'', ''Family Happiness'', and ''Hadji Murad''. He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.
In the 1870s Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work ''A Confession''. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. Tolstoy's 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 20th-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi〔(Martin E. Hellman, ''Resist Not Evil'' in ''World Without Violence'' (Arun Gandhi ed.), M.K. Gandhi Institute, 1994 ), retrieved on December 14, 2006〕 and Martin Luther King, Jr.
==Life and career==
Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana, a family estate located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) southwest of Tula, Russia and 200 kilometers (120 mi) south of Moscow. The Tolstoys were a well-known family of old Russian nobility, tracing their ancestry to a mythical Lithuanian noble Indris.〔https://books.google.com/books?id=7kDJ3s1mcZcC&lpg=PA8&ots=pm4usaL-FH&dq=tolstoy%20lithuanian&pg=PA8#v=onepage&q=tolstoy%20lithuanian&f=false〕〔http://www.nytimes.com/1983/11/06/books/six-centuries-of-tolstoys.html〕 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. In 1844, he began studying law and oriental languages at Kazan University. His teachers described him as "both unable and unwilling to learn."〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=Author Data Sheet, Macmillan Readers )〕 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. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he went with his older brother to the Caucasus and joined the army. It was about this time that he started writing.
His conversion from a dissolute and privileged society author to the non-violent and spiritual anarchist of his latter days was brought about by his experience in the army as well as two trips around Europe in 1857 and 1860–61. Others who followed the same path were Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin. During his 1857 visit, Tolstoy witnessed a public execution in Paris, a traumatic experience that would mark the rest of his life. Writing in a letter to his friend Vasily Botkin: "The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens ... Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere."〔A. N. Wilson, ''Tolstoy'' (1988), p. 146〕
His European trip in 1860–61 shaped both his political and literary development when he met Victor Hugo, whose literary talents Tolstoy praised after reading Hugo's newly finished ''Les Misérables''. The similar evocation of battle scenes in Hugo's novel and Tolstoy's ''War and Peace'' indicates this influence. Tolstoy's political philosophy was also influenced by a March 1861 visit to French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, then living in exile under an assumed name in Brussels. Apart from reviewing Proudhon's forthcoming publication, ''La Guerre et la Paix'' (''War and Peace'' in French), whose title Tolstoy would borrow for his masterpiece, the two men discussed education, as Tolstoy wrote in his educational notebooks: "If I recount this conversation with Proudhon, it is to show that, in my personal experience, he was the only man who understood the significance of education and of the printing press in our time."
Fired by enthusiasm, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana and founded 13 schools for children of Russia's peasants, who had just been emancipated from serfdom in 1861. Tolstoy described the school's principles in his 1862 essay "The School at Yasnaya Polyana". Tolstoy's educational experiments were short-lived, partly due to harassment by the Tsarist secret police. However, as a direct forerunner to A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, the school at Yasnaya Polyana can justifiably be claimed the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education.
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