Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

I.e. Repin. Portrait of Leo Tolstoy in the pink Chair. 1909Leo Tolstoy (1828 — 1910) is one of the best-known Russian writers and thinkers, who gave the future generations 174 fiction works including ‘War and Peace’, ‘Anna Karenina’, and ‘The Resurrection’. His creative work made a great impact on the development of realism in the world history, while his works on philosophy laid foundation for a whole public movement – “Tolstoyism”. Many of the Moscow addresses mentioned in these works have survived until the present day. Leo Tolstoy himself often visited Moscow and stayed there for a long time. Today in one of the districts of Moscow called Khamovniki (Russian: Хамовники) there are two museums dedicated to the great writer – a memorial museum in Leo Tosltoy street and a literary museum in Prechistenka (Russian: Пречистенка). In fact, this district together with the neighbouring Arbat (Russian: Арбат) comprise many more of Tolstoy’s family and literary addresses.


Особняк Щербачева на улице Плющихе, 11Leo Tolstoy loved the capital with his whole heart, although he spent most of his time in Yasnaya Polyana (Russian: Ясная Поляна, literally: “Bright Glade“) – a family estate 200 km south of Moscow). The writer saw Moscow for the first time at the age of nine. His impressions of the encounter with the city found a reflection in his school essay entitled “The Kremlin”. The future writer’s father rented Shcherbachev’s one-storey mansion in Plyushchikha street (Russian: Плющихa) at that time. This building has survived to the present day (11, Plyushchikha street).


605_pic_1_sThe way of life in the Tolstoys’ house was typical of a noble family. The first-floor rooms with tall windows – the great hall, the state dining room, the state drawing room – served a ceremonial purpose. The adults occupied the rooms overlooking the courtyard while the children with their tutors lived on the mezzanine floor. This house was always full of guests: the Gorchakovs, the Musin-Pushkins, the Kaloshins and other relatives and friends of the Tolstoys, who belonged to Moscow’s hereditary nobility. Later Leo Tolstoy described many of them in his novel “Childhood”. In 1838 the family moved to a cheaper apartment in Zolotarev’s house in the Arbat area (4 Bolshoi Kakovinskiy sidestreet (Russian: Большой Каковинский переулок)).

Улица Пятницкая, дом 12The writer’s new encounter with Moscow took place in his youth, when he had left his studies at the Kazan University. In December 1850 he rented a small apartment at 36, Sivtsev Vrazhek street (Russian: Сивцев Вражек). The house where Tolstoy lived has survived. It was there that Tolstoy began his literary work: there he conceived the idea for a story of the gypsy lifestyle and then the “History of Yesterday”, and also drew an outline of the novel “Four Epochs of Development”. Sivtsev Vrazhek is also mentioned in “War and Peace”: having returned to Moscow after the fire of 1812 and his father’s death, Nikolai Rostov settled there “in a small apartment” with his mother and Sonya.

606_pic_2_sIn the mid-1850s Tolstoy only made short visits to Moscow, and after he returned from his first trip abroad in the autumn of 1857, he rented an apartment in Pyatnitskaya street (Russian: Пятницкая улица), in merchant Vargin’s house. Leo Tolstoy lived there with his sister Maria, her children, and his brother. The Vargins owned three houses at 12, 14, and 16 Pyatnitskaya street (present-day addresses). It is not known which of them served as the Tolstoys’ residence. In 1985, at 12 Pyatnitskaya Street an exhibition hall of the Leo Tolstoy State Museum was opened, which runs thematic and storeroom exhibitions based on the museum collection.

Главка церкви Рождества Богородицы в КремлеIn the early 1860s Tolstoy frequented the Kremlin. There in the Commandant’s quarters of the Poteshny Palace (Russian: Потешный дворец) was the flat which belonged to his old friends Andrei and Lyubov Bers. In the autumn of 1862 Leo Tolstoy married their middle daughter Sophia. For as long as 48 years, she became not only his wife and mother of his thirteen children but also a close friend, assistant, and secretary. Their wedding took place on 23 September 1862 in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God (Russian: tserkov Rozhdestva Bogoroditsy, or церковь Рождества Богородицы) in the Kremlin (today it is part of the Grand Kremlin Palace complex).

A still larger number of places in Moscow are linked to Tolstoy’s residence in Khamovniki. Over the period of 1882-1901, the years of mental block and change of his worldview, Tolstoy lived in a house in Dolgokhamovnichesky sidestreet (Russian: Долгохамовническийпереулок). Now the address is 21 Leo Tolstoy street, the location of the Leo Tolstoy Museum-Estate. This is one of the few memorial museums that has remained mostly intact to this day. The house interior features genuine objects owned by the writer.

607_pic_3_sAt that time Tolstoy frequented Devichye Pole (Russian: Девичье поле). Today the place is marked with a monument to him by A. Portyanko (15, Bolshaya Pirogovskaya str. (Russian: Большая Пироговская) in a garden square. Tolstoy often attended public lectures at the Moscow University, meetings of the Language Art Connoisseurs Society, exhibitions and concerts at the college in Myasnitskaya street (21, Myasnitskaya str.), where his daughter studied. The writer was often seen in the Tretyakov Gallery too (10, Lavrushinsky side street (Russian: Лаврушинский переулок). Leo Tolstoy’s famous portraits are displayed in it today. The earliest of them is the one painted by I. Kramskoy.

After 1901 the Tolstoys made only short visits to Moscow. 18 September 1909 was the last time the writer stayed at his house in Khamovniki. Leo Tolstoy left Moscow for Yasnaya Polyana from the Kursk railway station (Russian: Курский вокзал), where he was given a festive send-off by the Muskovites which was captured on tape by the first Russian camera operators. This footage has been kept to this day. Yasnaya Polyana (branch post office Yasnaya Polyana, Shchyokinsky district, Tula region (Russian: почтовое отделение Ясная поляна, Щекинский район, Тульская область) is now writer’s museum-reserve. There is no direct route there from Moscow: first you have to take a train to the city of Tula (Russian: Тула) (a roughly three-hour journey) and then change to a bus to the Museum-Reserve (a roughly thirty-minute journey). Still surviving you will find there the house, fully furnished, the large garden with apple trees and ponds and the tall gazebo where the writer’s mother used to love relaxing. There, near the ravine, Leo Tolstoy is buried, right at the place where, according to family legend, the “Green Wand” that could make all people happy was buried.


Monument to L. Tolstoy, executed in 1972, Portianko.In 1863 Tolstoy began work on his epic novel “War and Peace”. He studied the archives, memoirs of participants of the Patriotic War of 1812, magazines and newspapers of the time, to convey the “flavour” of the era he was depicting. During his short visits to Moscow the writer worked a lot with historical sources of the Manuscript Department of the Rumyantsev Museum, which was located in the surviving Pashkov House (14, bld.1, Mokhovaya str. (Russian: Моховая).

The pages of the novel vividly recreate the look of pre-1812 Moscow: the houses, streets, and boulevards; its dwellers’ life and customs. The Rostovs live in one of the most aristocratic Moscow streets, Povarskaya (Russian: Поварская). It is there that at the beginning of the novel carriages bring guests and that Nikolai Rostov comes on leave during his military service. Moscow legend identified the old city mansion located at the end of the street as “the Rostovs’ House” (52 Povarskaya street). Чистый переулок, 5In Chisty sidestreet (Russian: Chisty pereulok, or Чистый переулок) (5, Chisty sidestreet) you can still see the house in which N.D. Aphrosimova, the prototype of M.D. Akhrosimova in “War and Peace”, used to live. In the novel, having arrived from the village, the Rostovs – Count Ilya Andreyevich with Natasha and Sonya – stayed in this house. Natasha’s failed kidnapping by Anatole Kuragin is also linked to Akhrosimova’s house. Another building which has survived to this day is the house at 1 Petrovsky Boulevard (Russian: Петровский бульвар), built in 1775 to architect M. Kazakov’s design. Before the 1812 Fire of Moscow it housed the English Club described on the pages of “War and Peace”. It was in this club that in 1806 there was a celebration to honour Prince Bagration. These are but a few of the places in Moscow, depicted on the pages of the novel. An attentive reader will find a great number of other Moscow addresses and realities in “War and Peace”.

While working on the novel “Resurrection” (Russian: Воскресение, or Voskreseniye) at that time, Tolstoy visited the Butyrskaya prison (Russian: Бутырская тюрьма) (45, bld.11, Novoslobodskaya str. (Russian: Новослободская) and even accompanied a group of prisoners sent out to Siberia on their way from the “Butyrka” to the Three Station Square (Russian: Ploshchad tryokh vokzalov or Площадь трех вокзалов) to experience what he was going to write about in the novel.

In the early 1870s Tolstoy set to “Anna Karenina”. In the novel he described the places in Moscow which he often visited. Among them are the Zoological Garden with an excellent ice rink where Levin comes for a date with Kitty, open air festivities in Podnovinskoe (Russian: Подновинское), Khlebhy sidestreet (Russian: Хлебный переулок) near the Arbat (Russian: Арбат) where the Shcherbatskys live (2 Arbat), the Nikolaevsky Railway Station (Russian: Николаевский вокзал), now renamed Leningradsky (Russian: Ленинградский), where Vronsky first sees Anna on the platform after she arrived from St. Petersburg to visit her brother Steva Oblonsky, and the English Club in Tverskaya street (Russian: Тверская улица)  (now 37 Tverskaya street).


Английский клуб в наши дниOne of the oldest literary museums is housed in a former mansion at 11 Prechistenka street (Russian: ул. Пречистенка). It was built in 1817 to architect A. Grigoriyev’s design. The plastered wooden building is an excellent sample of the Empire style: its ceremonial halls are decorated with paintings and its facades – with columns and bas-reliefs. The museum was founded in 1911 on the initiative of the Tolstoy Society. Visitors are welcomed by a full-height seated figure of the writer by I. Ginzburg. The halls exhibit portraits painted by I. Repin and M. Nesterov as well as sculptures by P. Trubetskoy. It is in this Moscow urban estate that the writer’s complete archive, which is undoubtedly of great interest and paramount value, is kept. The museum exposition is arranged so that all the Leo Tolstoy’s legacy is presented in the most comprehensive way. The Museum preserves the most extensive collection of writer’s and his ambience’s authentic personal possessions, manuscripts, photos, and his military awards. Lecture courses on the history of Russian literature, music evenings, and performances are regularly held in the Museum.

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Addresses of Leo Tolstoy in Moscow:
str. Ploshiha, 11
Kakovinskij per., 4.
Sivtsev vrazhek, 36
Pyatnitskaya str., 12
The Moscow Kremlin: the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin (now included in the big Kremlin palace complex).
Str. Vozdvizhenka, d. 3/5s1 (Pashkov House
Cook, 52
Net per. 7
Petrovsky Boulevard, 1
Arbat street, 2
Komsomolskaya Ploshchad 5/43 (Leningradsky station)
Tverskaya Street, 37
str. Leo Tolstoy, d. 21
Khitrov market: Hitrovskij per., 3/1s4
Square maidens ' fields
Michurinsky Prospekt, 13 (Sparrow hills)
Prechistenka, 11
Novoslobodskaya UL., 45 (Butyrskaya tyurma)
Mohovaya, 9 (Moscow State University)
Myasnitskaya, 21
Bolshaya nikitskaya str., 13/6 (Moscow Conservatory)
Kamergersky pereulok, 3 (Arts Theatre)
Teatralny proezd., 1 (little theater)
str. Zemlyanoy Val, 29 (Kursk station)
Yasnaya Polyana
Red Square 1 (historical Museum)
10 lavrushinsky pereulok (Tretyakov Gallery)


Leo Tolstoy seated in an armchair. Sculpture
Newsreel footage
Leningradsky (Nikolayevsky) Railway Station
Devichye Pole
Devichye Pole today. Church of St. Dmitry of Prilutsk
Butyrskaya Prison today
Grand Kremlin Palace. Main facade
Arbat Street today
English Club today
5, Chisty Lane
Khlebny Lane today
Prechistenka Street today
Khamovniki District today
1, Petrovsky Boulevard
Shcherbachev's Mansion at 11, Plyushchikha Street
Moscow Kremlin
Moscow Zoo today
Amusement Palace. Tsar's home theatre
Nikolayevsky Railway Station. An old photo
Moscow University at 9, Mokhovaya Street
Building at 11, Plyushchikha Street
Kremlin. Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos. Dome
Kremlin and Zaryadye in the 1860s. An old photo
Building at 7, Chisty Lane (part of the former Afrosimov Estate)
Khitrovo Market
12, Pyatnitskaya Street
Tretyakov Gallery
Sofya Bers
Branch of the State Tolstoy Museum on Pyatnitskaya Street
Monument to Leo Tolstoy by Alexey Portyanko. 1972
Monument to Leo Tolstoy in the Museum's courtyard on Prechistenka Street. Sculptor: S. D. Merkurov. 1911-1913
P. P. Trubetskoy. Tolstoy on horseback. 1904.
P. P. Tolstoy. Leo Tostoy
M. V. Nesterov. Leo Tolstoy against the Backdrop of a Pond. 1907
L. O. Pasternak. Portrait of Leo Tolstoy
Ilya Repin. Portrait of Leo Tolstoy Sitting in a Pink Armchair. 1909
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