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Yasnaya Polyana (Clear Glade)

The town lies some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Moscow (about a three – hour drive).

The Great Russian writer, Count Lev (Leo) Nikolayevich Tolstoy, was born in Yasnaya Polyana (Clear Glade) on August 28, 1828, and lived and worked here for over 60 years; he inherited the property in 1847. Everything on the estate, situated in a pastoral setting of birch forests and orchards, has been preserved as he left it – his living room (Tolstoy was born on the leather sofa), library (with 22,000 volumes), and parlor (where his wife Sofya Andreyevna meticulously copied his manuscripts). On the Persian walnut desk in the study, Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina, War and Peace (which Sofia recopied by hand nine times, when not busy bearing his 13 children!) and chapters of The Resurrection. Portraits by Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov decorate the walls. Today the manor house functions as the Tolstoy House Museum. The writer also opened a school for local peasant children, and this now houses the Literary Museum. Peasants and other followers would gather outside under the Tree of the Poor to ask his advice.

The 445 – hectare (1,100 – acre) Yasnaya Polyana was the main source of creative inspiration for Tolstoy, and the location is reflected in many of his works. Here he wanted to create a miniature of Russian society. Tolstoy also developed a philosophy of Christianity so potent that the Russian Church excommunicated him. Me also became a vegetarian, enjoyed wearing simple peasant attire and worked in the fields alongside his serfs. Tolstoy wrote: “It is difficult for me to imagine Russian without my Yasnaya Polyana”. On October 28, 1910, at the age of 82, Tolstoy decided to renounce all his possessions and left the estate with his youngest daughter, Alexandra and his doctor to embark on a journey. When they arrived at Astapovo Railway Station almost 320 kilometers (200 miles) away, Tolstoy was stricken with influenza. The great writer died in the station master’s hut on November 7; his last words were said to be: “To seek, always to seek”.

A short walk down a well – worn path leads to Tolstoy’s simple grave – a small mound of earth with no headstone (be prepared for mosquitoes in summer). Tolstoy’s wife, and then his daughters, managed the estate until 1956, when it was placed under Soviet control. Today Tolstoy’s great – great grandson Count Vladimir Tolstoy (over 200 relatives are scattered around six countries) presides over the daily management. Yasnaya Polyana is open 10 am– 5 pm (House Museum 11 am – 3 pm); closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

In Moscow you can also visit two other Tolstoy museums.

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