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10 Facts about Leo Tolstoy – a Brilliant Writer of All Time

You may have already known some facts about Leo Tolstoy. If you have never heard his name, you are missing a big part of the literature world.

Leo Tolstoy was one of the most famous writers of the 19th century. Book critics rate him as the author of the most famous books ever written.

Encyclopedia Britannica listed his book, “Anna Karenina” as the greatest book ever written.

The report in Time magazine places “Anna Karenina” on the first, and “War and Peace” on third spots among the greatest books of all time. Several other sources also include these books in their top ten list.

Though he never won major awards, his fame spread to every corner of the world. Many considered him worthy of the Noble Prize, but he was not upset about not receiving one. 

He wrote, “I was very happy to know that the Noble Prize was not awarded to me… It deprived me of a big problem of how to use this money. I am certain that this money… can only bring evil”. Leo Tolstoy had such a simple and humble personality.

There are many other facts about Leo Tolstoy that I am going to share with you in this post. These facts portray his life and career more broadly and help us to recognize him as a person. 

Tolstoy was born in 1828 and died in 1910. 

He lived for 82 years. He married at the age of 34 to 18-year-old Sophia (Sofya) Andreevna. They had 13 children, five of whom died in childhood.

Before the wedding, Leo Tolstoy let her future wife read his diaries in which he recorded his sexual experiences and several instances of his dark past. 

According to his wife, she was painfully wounded by the content of his diaries. She wrote, “the whole of my husband’s past is so ghastly that I don’t think I shall ever be able to accept it.”

Tolstoy standing with his wife Sofya Andreevna
Leo Tolstoy with his wife Sophia (Sofya) Andreevna

Tolstoy’s wife copied all of Tolstoy’s handwritten papers neatly and clearly because publishers had difficulty reading his handwriting. 

Sophia Andreevna was the only person who could understand Tolstoy’s handwriting.

Leo Tolstoy’s handwritings and sketches

Leo Tolstoy’s serious writing career started after his marriage at the age of 34. 

He wrote most of his well-known books, “War and Peace”, “Anna Karenina”, and “Resurrection”, starting from that time of his age.

They say the marriage can awake your hidden philosophical and creative talents, which was especially true in Tolstoy’s case.

Leo Tolstoy had a gambling habit from a young age. 

A picture of young Leo Tolstoy
Young Leo Tolstoy

He left the Kazan university unfinished. Then, he lived in Moscow and St. Petersburg where he regularly attended gambling halls. There, he faced a serious debt situation.

Leo Tolstoy knew 13 languages with varying proficiencies. 

His French and German were excellent. He had a decent knowledge of English, Italian, Polish, Tatar, and several other Slavic languages.

Leo Tolstoy helped peasants as much as he could. 

One example of his efforts is the outbuilding of Kuzminsky, the school he founded for peasant children. However, It operated for only three years between 1859 and 1862.

Serious deterioration of his relations with his wife was promoted by Tolstoy’s notion that one should live in poverty. 

He was going to give up the copyrights of his books, which were the main source of family income. 

But, his wife was categorically against such a decision as she strove to arrange inheritance for the future of their children.

A picture of Tolstoy's house in Yasnaya Polyana
Leo Tolstoy’s house in Yasnaya Polyana

In the later part of his age, Leo Tolstoy became a vegetarian.

He thought eating meat is “simply immoral”. He influenced two of his children to become vegetarians as well.

However, his wife along with the rest of his children did not abandon meat. Tolstoy was okay with it because he believed that each person is accountable for themselves.

Leo Tolstoy did not like the works of William Shakespeare. 

According to Tolstoy’s own words, he read Shakespeare’s best works: “King Lear”, “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”, but did not expect that the books would be that bad. Overall he hated Shakespeare’s writing.

By Arslan Batyrovich

Founder of
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