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Daily History

June 10 1881 Tolstoy disguises himself as a peasant and leaves on a pilgrimage

On June 10th 1881, Count Leo Tolstoy sets off on a pilgrimage to a monastery disguised as a peasant.

Tolstoy had already produced his two greatest masterpieces War and Peace (1865-1869) and Anna Karenina (1875-1877). The Russian nobleman was engaged in a spiritual struggle and felt torn between his responsibility as a wealthy landlord to improve the lot of the people, and his desire to give up his property and wander the land as an ascetic. He had started giving away his possessions and declared that the public owned his works, but his wife, Sofya, worried about the financial stability of the couple’s 13 children, gained control of the copyrights for all his work published before 1880.

Tolstoy was born in 1828. His parents died when he was a child, and he was raised by relatives. He went to Kazan University at age 16 but was disappointed in the quality of education there and returned to his estate in 1847 without a degree. He lived a wild and dissolute life in Moscow and St. Petersburg until 1851, when he joined the army. He fought in the Crimean war, and his experiences in the defence of Sevastopol became a successful literary memoir, Sevastopol Sketches, in 1855. While in the army, he wrote several other autobiographical works.

In 1857, Tolstoy visited Europe and became interested in education. He started a school for peasant children on his estate and studied progressive educational techniques. In 1862, he married, and the following year he published a successful novel, The Cossacks.

Later in his life, Tolstoy embraced Christian anarchism and was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1910, he fled his home secretly with his youngest daughter but caught pneumonia and died at a remote railway station a few days later.

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About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner, Writer, Teacher and Business Consultant. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications. Please consider donating, to support our social justice campaign, by clicking on the "Donations Page" button in the top menu.


5 thoughts on “June 10 1881 Tolstoy disguises himself as a peasant and leaves on a pilgrimage

  1. He was an incredible writer, Blogged about him here after starting to read Anna Karenina, you might like to read my thoughts!http://amonikabyanyuvva.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/i-woke-up-thi/

    Posted by amonikabyanyuvva | June 10, 2012, 19:38
  2. Tolstoy is an unbelievable writer. I have enjoyed many of his works, even getting through War and Peace happily. Always very easy to read for me.

    Posted by Barbara Blackcinder | June 10, 2012, 22:50
  3. Read a few of his short stories, they’re pretty good.

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | June 11, 2012, 01:09
  4. My very dear friend’s grandfather was Tolstoy’s private doctor. I will share this with her.

    Posted by Susan Stessin | June 19, 2012, 20:48


  1. Pingback: June 20, 2012: Anna Karenina « Trailerwire – Blog - June 21, 2012

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