Tolstoy’s birth anniversary

09 September 2013

Today (September 9) marks Tolstoy’s 185th birth anniversary. Lev Tolstoy (Лев Толстой), born in 1828, is arguably one of the greatest and most famous writers of all time, and his works inspired many writers in the following centuries.

War and Peace (Война И Мир) and its follow-up Anna Karenina (Анна Каренина) reshaped the genre of the novel. In fact, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are considered the founders of the so-called “Russian novel”. Those long books with a deep insight into the human mind and feelings influenced modernist writers in the 20th century. But Tolstoy’s literary craftsmanship was not relegated to just one genre: he also wrote short stories, drama plays and essays.

However, he was much more than a renowned writer: he was also a great and controversial man. Tolstoy was magnanimous and generous, and he dealt with charity for all his life. As an old man, he turned into a devoted religious man. He founded the “Tolstoyan movement”, which preached peace and freedom from lust. A great enemy of the Russian Orthodox Church, he was even excommunicated in 1901. His philosophy of nonviolence was also an inspiration for great pacifists like Martin Luther King and Gandhi.

Reading a novel by Tolstoy is a great way of getting acquainted with Russian society. So, it is a great idea to do it if you want to complement your Russian language skills with essential notions of Russian culture.

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