“[I]n former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now there has sprung up a new kind of born free thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality and religion, of the existence of authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything, that is to say, savages.”

–Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy at the end of the 19th century; 1897.


190 years ago, great Russian master of letters and words Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828 in Tula Province, Russia. Born to a long line of Russian nobility, he was the fourth child of Countess Maria Volkonsky and Count Nicolay Ilyich Tolstoy (1797-1837) a Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1844, at the age of sixteen and the end of what Tolstoy says “was his childhood, and the beginning of his youth”, he entered the University of Kazan to study Turco-Arabic literature. Though not an outstanding student, he ultimately became a polyglot. He had some sort of familiarity with some dozen languages. Unsatisfied with the conventional system of learning, the master left university in 1847 without obtaining his degree.

He also joined Russian army and served in Caucasian region. From 1860 onwards, he seriously started considering writing fiction. 1862 was the most decisive year in the life of this man as he started work on his masterpiece War and Peace. The novel was published in six volumes between 1862 and 1869. He started writing his next epic Anna Karenina with the opening line that gloomily alluded to his own life, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” in 1873.

The author died on November 20, 1910 in Astapovo leaving behind some of the greatest literary works of all times.