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Yasnaya Polyana, translated as "Bright Glade," is a 1,200 acre estate that was previously the home of Leo Tolstoy

It is located 120 miles from Moscow.

People Born in Yasnaya Polyana

Leo Tolstoy

Yasnaya Polyana in People's Lives

James McAvoy: I traveled here in 2008 to film scenes of the movie The Last Station

Leo Tolstoy: I was born here in 1828, the fourth of five children born in a wealthy aristocratic family. I had three older brothers, and one younger sister. My father was a Count and a veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812, and my mother was a Princess. My family lineage stretched back into noble legend. My mother died when I was just two years old, in 1830, without me ever knowing her. After that, one of my father's cousins took over the task of raising us. My father did not spend much time with his children, and he too passed away when I was a child, in 1837, when I was nine. My aunt was appointed my sibling and I's legal guardian. However, even this aunt passed away, and we were sent to live with another aunt in Kazan, around 1840. I moved back here in 1847, at the age of 19, in disgrace. I had recently failed to graduate at Kazan Federal University, despite attending the school for four years and even switching majors to easier studies. I decided to return to my late parent's estate here and attempt farming and managing the manor. I attempted to become the leader of the manor, ordering about the serfs, but was often absent, running off to the larger cities to drink and gamble. Due to this, my tries at leadership and management harmed the estate more than they helped. Having failed at yet another venture, and having racked up heavy gambling debts, I was persuaded by my brother to join the army. I left my childhood home and my dismal farming life behind in 1851, at the age of 23. Again, I returned years later in a very different stage of my life. It was now 1862, I had recently married my wife Sophia, and was now 34 years old and a successful, celebrated novelist. I established 13 schools for the recently freed serfs in the area here, but most of these schools were shut down by the secret police. Nevertheless, they were the first moves toward a democratic education system in Russia. After moving here and starting a family, I began working hard on the book that would become my masterpiece: War and Peace. It was published to worldwide acclaim in 1869, after which I began working on my second masterpiece, Anna Karenina, which would be published in installments between 1873 through 1877, to equal success. I became a wealthy man off the sales and royalties of my books, but remained unsatisfied. I turned to religion in 1878, and, despite believing Christian churches to be corrupt, began attending the Russian Orthodox Church. However, it was not for me, and I soon decided to establish my own beliefs, free of corruption and greed. I began to preach about my ideas of religion and become regarded as spiritual leader, and was condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church and even watched by the Tsarist secret police. I began giving away my money, but my wife strongly objected to this and forbade it. This disagreement put a strain on our marriage, but ultimately I gave in and allowed my wife to manage my finances. After this, I wrote many religious tracts, and novels focusing more on morality, such as The Death of Ivan Ilych in 1886. My status as a religious leader grew, and my ideas about nonviolence impacted the world, even inspiring Mahatma Gandhi. My wife was a constant burden on me, as she dissaproved of my "invented" religion, and my disciples, who frequently visited and stayed at our home. Matters became worse when the press learned of our difficulties, and began reporting it in the tabloids. In October of 1910, I decided that I must free myself from my wife. I decided to leave our home together and embark on a pilgrimage. I took my eldest daughter Alexandra with me. I would never see this childhood home of mine, or my wife, again.

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