Ilya Tolstoy

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Ilya Tolstoy
Count Tolstoy, with hat.jpg
Born (1866-05-22)May 22, 1866
Yasnaya Polyana, Russia
Died December 11, 1933(1933-12-11) (aged 67)
New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Ilya Lvovich Tolstoy (Russian: Илья́ Льво́вич Толсто́й; May 22, 1866 – December 11, 1933) was a Russian writer and a son of Leo Tolstoy.

Early life[edit]

Ilya was born at Yasnaya Polyana and spent most of his young life there, until the family took a house in Moscow in 1881. He received his early education at home; his mother taught him to read and write, first in Russian, and later in French and English, and his father taught him mathematics, and later Greek and Latin. He and his siblings were also schooled by private tutors.[1]

Leo Tolstoy, in an 1872 letter to his father's cousin Alexandra Andreyevna Tolstaya, described his children; he said the following of his son Ilya: [1]

"Ilya, the third, has never been ill in his life; broad-boned, white and pink, radiant, bad at lessons. Is always thinking about what he is told not to think about. Invents his own games. Hot-tempered and violent, wants to fight at once; but is also tender-hearted and very sensitive. Sensuous; fond of eating and lying still doing nothing. When he eats currant-jelly and buck-wheat kasha his lips itch. Independent-minded in everything. When he cries, is vicious and horrid at the same time; when he laughs every one laughs too. Everything forbidden delights him; he recognizes it at once."

In 1881 Ilya entered a private gymnasium to continue his education. His father had originally planned for him to attend a state school, but had refused to sign a declaration of Ilya's loyalty to the Tsar, which was required for entry.[1]


Ilya (second from left) with his brothers.

Ilya left school before graduating, and entered military service in the Sumy Dragoons. In 1888 he married Sofia Filosofova. After his time as an officer, he was a bank employee, and later an agent for an insurance company. He assisted his father in relief efforts during the Russian famine of 1891-2.[1] During World War I he worked for the Red Cross. He also tried his hand at journalism. In 1915 he founded the newspaper New Russia.[2]

In 1916, Ilya left Russia, and travelled to the United States. In the US he married Nadezhda Katulskoy. To make a living he lectured on art and on his father. He took part in movie versions of the novels Anna Karenina and Resurrection, which were unsuccessful. He died on December 11, 1933 in New Haven, Connecticut.

He is best known for his book of memoirs about his father Reminiscences of Tolstoy. He also wrote the short novel The Corpse in 1890 (published posthumously), and the story One Bastard Less which was published in the journal Russian Thought in 1905.[2]

English Translations[edit]

  • Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Century Company, NY, 1914. from Google Books
  • Tolstoy, My Father; Reminiscences, Cowles Book Company, Chicago, 1971.


  1. ^ a b c d Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Century Company, NY, 1914.
  2. ^ a b