Tolstoy was born on August 28, 1828 at the Yasnaya Polyana estate in Tula and raised with his siblings by an aunt and a distant relative, after the death of his mother and father. He abandoned his studies because of his disagreement with the right of the state to punish or coerce an individual. Tolstoy came to own the family estate, and experienced a period of drinking and gambling with heavy losses. He enlisted in the army during the Crimean War, which inspired his Sevastopol Stories. During travels through Europe, he discovered the guillotine in Paris and swore to never serve any state. Upon his return, he tried unsuccessfully to indoctrinate potential brides into his view of a perfect marriage. Tolstoy founded the free School for Peasant Children in 1859, of which the police grow suspect, thinking it was a breeding ground for radicalism. In September of 1860, the author’s beloved elder brother Nicholas died of tuberculosis, which forced Tolstoy to rethink the meaningfulness of existence. In 1862, he married Sophia Andreevna Bers, with whom he fathered 13 children.
In 1869, Tolstoy published War and Peace which solidified his role as the leading Russian author.His writing continued with Anna Karenina and investigations of natural and physical phenomena. Tolstoy wrote a series of sketches on philosophical-religious issues asking: does immortality exist? Is there a sure proof of immaterial reality and being? He became engrossed in the Bible, the Gospels, attending services, religiously at first. He began to draw inspirations for new fictional plots from crime chronicles and court proceedings.
Tolstoy‘s anarchic religious turn took place in 1878. He rejected Orthodoxy and its tenets and created his own version of Christianity, emphasizing nonviolent resistance to evil, charity, labor and brotherly love. He ploughed and mowed his fields, serviced his own needs, and made boots to order despite his family wealth.
In his late works, Tolstoy investigated human capacity for free labor and for overcoming the tyranny of the material realm. In 1901, Count Leo Tolstoy was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church by decree of the Holy Synod. His life ended with dozens of unfinished fiction and literary projects.
In this multi-media show, “Bridge to Tula: The Realm of Tolstoy” will exhibit Tolstoy as a writer, social anarchist, and prophet, bringing his contributions into the 21st century. Come see the man who influenced Mahatma Gandhi, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and many others.
This exhibit is made possible by the contributions of filmmaker Sara Winter and Tolstoy expert Inessa Medzhibovskaya.