Nikolayevich Tolstoy: The Aristocratic Renunciator of Materialism


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Path Will Be Clear if the Worldly Weeds Are Renounced and Removed

Count Nikolayevich Tolstoy “respected” as Leo Tolstoy by the West circa 1900.
Note the Black Islamic Sufi attire , with a cap, although there is no hard evidence to conclude that Tolstoy had converted to Islam before his death.

It was Tuesday, 09th September 1828 in Yasnaya[1] Polyana, Moscow, Russian Empire, when Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy [2]and Countess Mariya Tolstoya[3] became the proud parents of a little, baby boy, whom they proceeded to name Lev Nikolayevich.[4]  Tolstoy was born into a very old Russian aristocratic family, whose lineage was, quite literally, made of Russian legends. According to the family history, they could trace their family tree back to a legendary nobleman named Indris[5], who had left the Mediterranean region and arrived in Chernigov, Ukraine[6], in 1353 with his two sons and an entourage of approximately 3,000 people. His descendant then was nicknamed “Tolstiy,” meaning “fat,” by Vasily II of Moscow[7], which inspired the family name. Other historians trace the family’s origins to 14th or 16th century Lithuania,[8] with a founder named Pyotr Tolstoy[9].  He was born on the family’s estate, the fourth of five children to Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy and his wife, the Countess Maria Tolstoya. Because of the conventions of Russian noble titles, Tolstoy also bore the title of “count” despite not being his father’s eldest son. His mother died when he was 2 years old, and his father when he was 9, so he and his siblings were largely brought up by other relatives. In 1844, at age 16, he began studying law and languages at Kazan University[10], but was apparently a very poor student and soon left to return to a life of leisure.

Tolstoy did not marry until his thirties, after the death of one of his brothers hit him hard. On 23rd September, 1862, Tolstoy, aged 34, married Sophia Andreevna Behrs[11], known as Sonya, who was only 18 at the time, 16 years younger than Lev and was the daughter of a doctor at court.[12] Between 1863 and 1888, the couple had 13 children; eight survived to adulthood. The marriage was, reportedly, happy and passionate in the early days, despite Sonya’s discomfort with her husband’s wild past, but as time went on, their relationship deteriorated into deep unhappiness.

Being born in a leap year and under the zodiac sign of Virgo[13], it was predicted that the newborn will be an extremely hardworking, intelligent, and adventurous. The Virgo man traits include rational thinking, problem-solving, and somewhat being adventurous. They are very calculative yet somehow follow their heart in different scenarios. They have very strong intuitive skills and thus can find deceitful people easily.[14] In addition, He is an “all-around nice guy”, sometimes reserved, sometimes very social; he is kind-hearted but may not come off as that; he is tough on himself, making him sensitive to criticism and at times defensive; he has no problem stating his opinions; he loves his privacy; he analyses and pays attention to detail; he is intelligent and is extremely productive, with a great deal to offer.[15]

Tolstoy’s journey from a “thoroughbred” aristocrat to socially agitating writer was shaped heavily by a few experiences in his youth; namely, his military service and his travels in Europe. In 1851, after running up significant debts from gambling, he went with his brother to join the army. During the Crimean War[16], from 1853 to 1856, Tolstoy was an artillery officer and served in Sevastopol[17] during the famous 11-month siege of the city between 1854 and 1855.

Young Tolstoy in the Russian Army as a Lieutenant

Although he was commended for his bravery and promoted to lieutenant, Tolstoy did not like his military service. The gruesome violence and heavy death toll in the war horrified him, and he left the army as soon as possible after the war ended. Along with some of his compatriots, he embarked on tours of Europe: one in 1857, and one from 1860 to 1861.

During his 1857 tour, Tolstoy was in Paris when he witnessed a public execution[18] of a robber-murderer named Francis Richeux by guillotine[19]. The traumatic memory of that experience shifted something in him permanently, and he developed a deep loathing and mistrust of government in general. He came to believe that there was no such thing as good government, only an apparatus to exploit and corrupt its citizens, and he became a vocal advocate of non-violence. In fact, he corresponded with Mahatma Gandhi [20]about the practical and theoretical applications of non-violence.

A later visit to Paris, in 1860 and 1861, produced further effects in Tolstoy which would come to fruition in some of his most famous works. Soon after reading Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Miserables, Tolstoy met Hugo himself. His War and Peace was heavily influenced by Hugo, particularly in its treatment of war and military scenes. Similarly, his visit to the exiled anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon gave Tolstoy the idea for his novel’s title and shaped his views on education. In 1862, he put those ideals to work, founding 13 schools for Russian peasant children in the aftermath of Alexander II’s emancipation of the serfs. His schools were among the first to run on the ideals of democratic education, education which advocates democratic ideals and runs according to them, but were short-lived due to the enmity of the royalist secret police.

Nikayelovich Tolstoy’s Magnum Opus

Tolstoy’s early and epic novels were penned between 1852 and 1877.  These included: Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854), Youth (1856), “Sevastopol Sketches” (1855–1856), The Cossacks (1863), War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). However, between 1852 and 1856, Tolstoy focused on a trio of autobiographical novels: Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth. Later in his career, Tolstoy criticised these novels as being overly sentimental and unsophisticated, but they are quite insightful about his own early life. The novels are not direct autobiographies, but instead tell the story of a rich man’s son who grows up and slowly realises that there is an insurmountable gap between him and the peasants who live on the land owned by his father. He also wrote a trio of semi-autobiographical short stories, Sevastopol Sketches, which depicted his time as an army officer during the Crimean War.

For the most part, Tolstoy wrote in the realist style, attempting to accurately and in great detail convey the lives of the Russians he knew and observed. His 1863 novella, The novel Cossacks, provided a close look at the Cossack people in a story about a Russian aristocrat who falls in love with a Cossack girl. Tolstoy’s magnum opus was 1869’s War and Peace, a massive and sprawling narrative encompassing nearly 600 characters, including several historical figures and several characters strongly based on real people Tolstoy knew. The epic story deals with Tolstoy’s theories about history, spanning many years and moving through wars, family complications, romantic intrigues, and court life, and ultimately intended as an exploration of the eventual causes of the Decembrist revolt[21], which took place in Russia on 14 December (O.S. 26 December) 1825, during the interregnum following the sudden death of Tsar Alexander I[22].  Interestingly, Tolstoy did not consider War and Peace to be his first “real” novel; he considered it a prose epic, not a true novel.  Tolstoy believed his first true novel to be Anna Karenina, published in 1877. The novel follows two major plotlines which intersect: an unhappily married aristocratic woman’s doomed affair with a cavalry officer, and a wealthy landowner who has a philosophical awakening and wants to improve the peasantry’s way of life. It covers personal themes of morality and betrayal, as well as larger social questions of the changing social order, contrasts between city and rural life, and class divisions. Stylistically, the novel lies at the juncture of realism and modernism.

His musings on radical Christianity led to the writings of novels between 1878 and1890. A Confession (1879), Church and State (1882), What I Believe (1884), What Is to Be Done?  (1886), The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886), On Life (1887), The Love of God and of One’s Neighbour (1889) and The Kreutzer Sonata (1889).  After Anna Karenina, Tolstoy began further developing the seeds of moral and religious ideas in his earlier works into the center pieces of his later work. He actually criticised his own earlier works, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina, as not being properly realistic. Instead, he began developing a radical, anarcho-pacifist, Christian worldview that explicitly rejected both violence and the rule of the state.

As a Virgo and polymath, Tolstoy diversified between 1871 and 1874  and tried his hand at poetry, branching out from his usual prose writings. He wrote poems about his military service, compiling them with some fairy tales in his Russian Book for Reading, a four-volume publication of shorter works that was intended for an audience of schoolchildren. Ultimately, he disliked and dismissed poetry.  Two more books during this period, the novel The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) and the non-fiction text What Is to Be Done? (1886), continued developing Tolstoy’s radical and religious views, with harsh critiques of the state of Russian society. His Confession (1880) and What I Believe (1884) declared his Christian beliefs, his support of pacifism and complete non-violence, and his choice of voluntary poverty and asceticism.

There was a transformation into a political and moral Essayist between 1890 and his death in 1910. Tolstoy wrote The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), Christianity and Patriotism (1894), The Deception of the Church (1896), Resurrection (1899), What Is Religion and What is its Essence? (1902), The Law of Love and the Law of Violence (1908), In his later years, Tolstoy wrote almost exclusively about his moral, political, and religious beliefs. He developed a firm belief that the best way to live was to strive for personal perfection by following the commandment to love God and love one’s neighbor, rather than following the rules set by any church or government on earth. His thoughts eventually garnered a following, the Tolstoyans, who were a Christian anarchist group devoted to living out and spreading Tolstoy’s teachings. In this movement, Tolstoy was the leader of a team of disciples propagating his message of love for the creation of he Lord rather than the Church, as a religious institution.  By 1901, Tolstoy’s radical views, were a great embarrassment to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church which he labelled as an institute of hypocrites needed to act.  The decision of the Russian Orthodox Church was to excommunicate Tolstoy, a difficult decision, for the church, noting his aristocratic background and famed social standing, throughout Russian and the Balkans.  Finally, his excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church, was formally announced, a serious step which ensured that no salvation would be achieved if a member was excommunicated.  However, Tolstoy was unperturbed. In 1899, he had written Resurrection, his final novel, which critiqued the human-run church and state and attempted to expose their hypocrisy. His criticism extended to many of the foundations of society at the time, including private property and marriage. He hoped to continue spreading his teachings throughout Russia.

For the last two decades of his life, Tolstoy largely focused on essay writing. He continued advocating for his anarchist beliefs while also cautioning against the violent revolution espoused by many anarchists. One of his books, The Kingdom of God Is Within You, was one of the formative influences on Mahatma Gandhi’s theory of nonviolent protest, and the two men actually corresponded for a year, between 1909 and 1910. Tolstoy also wrote significantly in favour of the economic theory of Georgism, which posited that individuals should own the value they produce, but society should share in the value derived from the land itself.

The literary styles and themes varied as Tolstoy grew older. In his earlier works, Tolstoy was largely concerned with depicting what he saw around him in the world, particularly at the intersection of the public and private spheres. War and Peace and Anna Karenina, for instance, both told epic stories with serious philosophical underpinnings. War and Peace spent significant time criticizing the telling of history, arguing that it’s the smaller events that make history, not the huge events and famous heroes. Anna Karenina, meanwhile, centers on personal themes such as betrayal, love, lust and jealousy, as well as turning a close eye on the structures of Russian society, both in the upper echelons of the aristocracy and among the peasantry.

Later in life, Tolstoy’s writings took a turn into the explicitly religious, moral, and political. He wrote at length about his theories of pacifism and anarchism, which tied into his highly individualistic interpretation of Christianity as well. Tolstoy’s texts from his later eras were no longer novels with intellectual themes, but straightforward essays, treatises, and other non-fiction work. Asceticism and the work of inner perfection were among the things Tolstoy advocated for in his writings.  He was clearly on a path of renunciation.

Tolstoy did, however, get politically involved, or at least publicly expressed his opinions on major issues and conflicts of the day. He wrote in support of the Boxer rebels during the Boxer Rebellion in China, condemning the violence of the Russian, American, German, and Japanese troops. He wrote on revolution, but he considered it an internal battle to be fought within individual souls, rather than a violent overthrow of the state.

Over the course of his life, Tolstoy wrote in a wide variety of styles. His most famous novels contained sweeping prose somewhere between the realist and modernist styles, as well as a particular style of seamlessly sweeping from quasi-cinematic, detailed but massive descriptions to the specifics of characters’ perspectives. Later, as he shifted away from fiction into non-fiction, his language became more overtly moral and philosophical.

Tolstoy playing chess, one of his favourite hobbies  circa 1900

Tolstoy also wrote short stories aimed at children, especially his grandchildren, but the emphasis was on moral regeneration and forgiveness.  Papa Panov’s Special Christmas is a short children’s story by Leo Tolstoy with heavy Christian themes. Not many are aware of his short stories as he is famous as a literature giant, and is known for his lengthy novels such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. But his expert use of symbolism and way with words is not lost on shorter texts, such as this children’s tale.[23]  Papa Panov is an elderly cobbler who lives by himself in a small Russian village. His wife has passed and his children are all grown up. Alone on Christmas Eve in his shop, Papa Panov decides to open the old family Bible and reads the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus.  That night, he has a dream in which Jesus comes to him. Jesus says that he will visit Papa Panov in person tomorrow, but that he will have to pay special attention since the disguised Jesus will not reveal his identity.  Papa Panov wakes up the next morning, excited about Christmas Day and meeting his potential visitor. He notices that a street sweeper is working early on a cold winter morning. Touched by his hard work and dejected appearance, Papa Panov invites him inside for a hot cup of coffee.

Later in the day, a single mother with a worn face too old for her young age walks down the street clutching her baby. Again, Papa Panov invites them in to warm up and even gives the baby a beautiful brand-new pair of shoes that he made.  As the day goes by, Papa Panov keeps his eyes peeled for his holy visitor. But he only sees neighbors and beggars on the street. He decides to feed the beggars. Soon it is dark and Papa Panov retires indoors with a sigh, believing his dream was only a dream. But then the voice of Jesus speaks and it is revealed that Jesus came to Papa Panov in each and every person he helped today, from the street sweeper to the local beggar.   Leo Tolstoy focused on Christian themes in his novels and short stories and even became a major figure in the Christian Anarchism movement. His works such as What Is to Be Done? and Resurrection are heavy readings that promote his take on Christianity and are critical of governments and churches. On the other side of the spectrum, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas is a very light read that touches on basic, non-controversial Christian themes.  The main Christian theme in this heart-warming Christmas story is to serve Jesus by following his example and thus serve each other. The voice of Jesus comes to Papa Panov at the end saying,  “‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ he said. ‘I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in every one of those you helped and welcomed.” This refers to a Bible verse in Matthew 25:40,  “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  In being kind and charitable, Papa Panov reaches Jesus. Tolstoy’s short story serves as a good reminder that the spirit of Christmas does not revolve around getting material presents, but rather giving to others beyond your immediate family.[24]

Another short story which many have not heard about is “The Emperor’s Three Questions”.

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.  The three questions were{ What is the best time to do each thing?,  Who are the most important people to work with?, What is the most important thing to do at all times? Wanting a response in the form of answers, the emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task, and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Another input stated that certain matters require immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.  One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers.  Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given.

After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived on a mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions:  When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.“ The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now?  I can take over again.“ But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally, the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on my way home.“

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?”  The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods.  He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from a long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he awoke, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.” “But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked.  “You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back and kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognised me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I had not met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.”

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.”   “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled.

“Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore, the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me.”  “Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound.”

“Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Resolution is the story comes to a reasonable ending. The evidence of resolution in the story of “The Emperor’s Three Question”, is after ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before. The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.”

“How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled. “Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore, the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me.”

“Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound.”

“Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”[25]

Tolstoy also corresponded extensively with scholars, globally. The first is a surprising, little known link between the great Russian novelist and the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Muhammad Abduh[26] was the country’s spiritual leader and one of the giants of his time.  The Grand Mufti was a man of frank and keen intelligence, holding precise ideas on men’s conduct and their ability to evaluate events. He was conversant with the principal works of European thinkers, and enriched his wide scholarship with many journeys through Africa and Europe. He often said that he needed these journeys “to renew himself.” He had numerous occidental and oriental friends, and entered into correspondence with European thinkers, among whom were W. S. Blunt, Gustave le Bon, Herbert Spencer, and  indeed Nikolayevich Tolstoy.[27]  Hence Muhammad Abduh constantly upheld the principle of ijtihad, that is, the right of unfettered personal inquiry, of thought free from all fetters, and did not cease to fight against taqlid, that is, the passive acceptance of dogmas from religious authorities without asking for proof, and without thinking of the rights of free examination and personal initiative.[28]

By the end of his life, Tolstoy had reached a breaking point with his beliefs, his family, and his health. He finally decided to separate from his wife Sonya, who vehemently opposed many of the ideas and was intensely jealous of the attention he gave his followers over her. In order to escape with the least amount of conflict, he slipped away secretively, leaving home in the middle of the night during the cold winter.

His health had been declining, and he had renounced the luxuries of his aristocratic lifestyle. After spending a day traveling by train, his destination somewhere in the south, he collapsed due to pneumonia at the Astapovo railway station. Despite the summoning of his personal doctors, he died that day, on November 20, 1910. When his funeral procession went through the streets, police tried to limit access, but they were unable to stop thousands of peasants from lining the streets, although some were there not because of devotion to Tolstoy, but merely out of curiosity about a nobleman who had died.

Tolstoy and his wife Sophia shortly before his death.

The Bottom Line, it is said that the eighty-two-year-old Tolstoy spent his last hours speaking passionately on social matters to passengers aboard a train before ultimately succumbing to pneumonia at Astapov Railway Station on 20th November 1910.[29]  Tolstoy was blessed with 13 children, including Count Sergei Lvovich Tolstoy, Countess Tatiana Lvona Tolstoya, Count Ilya Lvovich Tolstoy, Count Lev Lvovich Tolstoy, and Countess Alexandra Lvona Tolstoya.  Tolstoy leave the world with notable legacy of quotes and books, but this quote is the very essence of Tolstoy, encapsulating his multifaceted philosophy, put into practice by action, “There can be only one permanent revolution, a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of hanging humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”.  It can be noted that Tolstoy had great influence on the lives of activists: Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King, [30] half way across the world in the United States, based on the commonality of their words of wisdom, as political activists.

In many ways, Tolstoy’s legacy cannot be overstated. His moral and philosophical writings inspired Gandhi, which means that Tolstoy’s influence can be felt in contemporary movements of non-violent resistance. War and Peace is a staple on countless lists of the best novels ever written, and it has remained highly praised by the literary establishment since its publication.

Tolstoy’s personal life, with its origins in the aristocracy and his eventual renunciation of his privileged existence, continues to fascinate readers and biographer, and the man himself is as famous as his works. Some of his descendants left Russia in the early 20th century, and many of them continue to make names for themselves in their chosen professions to this day. Tolstoy left behind a literary legacy of epic prose, carefully drawn characters, and a fiercely felt moral philosophy, making him an unusually colorful and influential author across the years. An important point to note is that Tolstoy received nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909. That he never won is a major controversy and speaks volumes for the process of selection of the winners.[31]


































Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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