Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy Yasnaya Polyana, Russia

The Yasnaya Polyana (Russian: Я́сная Поля́на) is a writer’s house museum, the former home of the writer Leo Tolstoy. Yasnaya Polyana estate is located in the very center of Middle Russia, with its quiet but strikingly moving nature, and is likewise modest, but beautiful and noble in its simplicity.

The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was born and lived most of his life at Yasnaya Polyana. It is here that the world began for him, and it is here that the world of his literary works and characters came into being. For Tolstoy, Yasnaya Polyana was the only home he really loved, the ancestral seat of his family. But the history of the Yasnaya Polyana estate goes back to the more distant past.

Yasnaya Polyana It is 12 kilometres (75 mi) southwest of Tula, Russia, and 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Moscow.

The house of Leo Tolstoy had originally been a wing of the larger house, built by Tolstoy’s father, where Tolstoy was born Tolstoy was forced to sell the main part of the old house, which was dismantled and moved to another estate, leaving only the two wings Leo Tolstoy moved into one of the wings in 1856, and lived there for more than fifty years He brought his wife to live with him there in 1862, and enlarged the house to make more space for his growing family The house today is kept as it appeared when he died in 1910, at 82 years of age

The Kuzminsky wing, like the house of Leo Tolstoy, was originally part of the large house built by Tolstoy’s father, and later demolished In 1859 Tolstoy turned it into a school for the peasant children of his estate, where he practised his theories of education After 1862, it became the home of the younger sister of his wife, Tatyana Andreyevna Kuzminskiy, and her family

The Volkonskiy house, where Tolstoy’s grandfather Nikolai lived, is the oldest structure on the estate During Tolstoy’s time it was the home of servants Later the east wing of the house became the studio of Tolstoy’s daughter Tatyana, who was a painter

The house passed from Nikolai Volkonskiy to his only daughter, Maria Nikolayevna, the mother of Leo Tolstoy Her husband, Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy, a veteran of the war against Napoleon in 1812, built a 32-room house and an ensemble of work buildings, and enlarged the park

Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, in a house (since demolished) at Yasnaya Polyana His parents died when he was very young, and he was raised there by relatives In 1856, at age 28, after he finished his military service, he moved into a house, which had been one wing of the previous mansion, and brought his wife there in 1862, when he was 34

At the time Tolstoy lived there, the Yasnaya Polyana estate comprised about 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres), on a gently sloping hillside with dense original forest (The Forest of the Old Order) at the upper end, and a series of four ponds at different levels The estate had four clusters of peasant houses for about 350 peasants living and working on the estate

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Tolstoy wrote War and Peace at Yasnaya Polyana between 1862 and 1869, and wrote Anna Karenina there between 1873 and 1877 He wrote the novels in his study by hand in very small handwriting, with many additions and deletions and notes, and gave the draft to his wife, who made a clean copy at night, which Tolstoy then rewrote the next day Each chapter went through five or six drafts, and she recopied War and Peace seven times before it was finished All the drafts were saved by his wife and are now in the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow

Tolstoy’s thirteen children, of whom four died in childhood, were all born at Yasnaya Polyana They were born on the same leather sofa where Tolstoy himself was born, which was kept in his study next to his writing desk, and is still there today

When he was living and working at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy awakened at 7:00 am (07:00 local time), did physical exercises, and walked in the park, before starting his writing During the harvest season he often worked in the fields with the peasants, both for physical exercise and to make his writing about peasant life more realistic He also visited the school for peasant children which he had created in one building, where he told stories to the children

Tolstoy entertained almost all the important Russian cultural and artistic figures of his time at Yasnaya Poloyana His guests are known to have included Anton Chekhov, Turgenev, Maxim Gorky, the painters Valentin Serov, and Ilya Repin, as well as many others

In 1911, Tolstoy’s widow Sofia Alexandrovna applied to Tsar Nicholas II to have Yasnaya Polyana made into a state museum The Tsar refused, but did grant a pension to the family which allowed the house and estate to be preserved as they were

In 1919, the Soviet Government formally put Yasnaya Polyana under the protection of the state, and in June 1921 Yasnaya Polyana was nationalized and became a state museum, receiving 3,147 visitors in its first year

In October 1941, as the Germans approached Moscow, 110 crates filled with the exhibits of the museum were evacuated to Moscow, and then to Tomsk The estate was occupied by the Germans for 45 days, who turned the Leo Tolstoy House into a hospital, and German soldiers who died in the hospital were buried around Tolstoy’s grave A fire during the occupation damaged the upper floor of the house Following the war the estate was restored to the way it looked when Count Tolstoy lived there Soviet propaganda made use of the Germans’ disregard of the house’s cultural value in the 1942 war documentary film Moscow Strikes Back

Tolstoy was born in the house, where he wrote both War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He is buried nearby. Tolstoy called Yasnaya Polyana his “inaccessible literary stronghold”. It is 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) southwest of Tula, Russia, and 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Moscow.

In June 1921, the estate was nationalized and formally became his memorial museum. It was at first run by Alexandra Tolstaya, the writer’s daughter. The current director of the museum is Vladimir Tolstoy, also one of Tolstoy’s descendants. The museum contains Tolstoy’s personal effects and movables, as well as his library of 22,000 volumes. The estate-museum contains the writer’s mansion, the school he founded for peasant children, and a park where Tolstoy’s unadorned grave is situated.

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