Alexandra Tolstaya

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Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya
Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya.jpg
Alexandra with her father
Born(1884-07-18)18 July 1884
Died26 September 1979(1979-09-26) (aged 95)
Parent(s)Leo Tolstoy
Sophia Tolstaya

Countess Alexandra (Sasha) Lvovna Tolstaya (Russian: Александра Львовна Толстая; 18 June 1884 – 26 September 1979), often anglicized to Tolstoy, was the youngest daughter and secretary of the noted Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.[1][2][3]


The youngest daughter of Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) and of his wife Sophia (1844–1919), Alexandra was close to her father. In 1901, at the age of seventeen, she became his secretary. He appointed her as executor of his will, a task she had to undertake in 1910.[4] Although Alexandra shared her father's belief in non-violence, she felt it was her duty to take part in the events of the First World War and served as a nurse on the Turkish and German fronts. This led to her being gassed and admitted to hospital herself. After the war, she worked on an edition of her father's writings. However, after allowing White Russians to meet in her Moscow home, she was arrested five times by the Bolsheviks and in 1920 was sent to prison for a year.[4]

In 1921 she became the director of the Tolstoy museum at Yasnaya Polyana. She was given permission to leave the Soviet Union in 1929, and settled in the United States, where she gave lectures and worked as a chicken farmer. Some years into this life, she was visited by Tatiana Schaufuss, an old friend who had spent several years in prison and in exile in Siberia. Together, in 1939 they founded the Tolstoy Foundation.[4]

Tolstaya became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1941, abandoning the use of the title of countess.[5]

In the summer of 1948, Tolstaya met 18 year old future United States Senator Mike Gravel, who had intended to volunteer for the Israeli forces in a fight to defend the state of Israel, and she allegedly told him to instead "go on back home and finish school", to which he complied.[6][7]

In 1974, at the age of ninety, Tolstaya received birthday greetings from President of the United States Richard Nixon, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and others, and was interviewed by The New York Times.[4] She commented:

“I don't believe in everything the Orthodox Church says, I don't believe in miracles, but want the people to go to church. Maybe my father could live without church and without God, but we weaker people need something to support us. They will say I am old fashioned, but I am afraid for this country, because of lack of religion among the young ones, drugs, immorality and the shamelessness of youth.”[4]


  1. ^ "Alexandra Lvovna Tolstaya Biography". Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Alexandra Tolstaya Biography". Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "The Tolstoys". Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e Israel Shenker, “Alexandra Tolstoy, at 90, Is Honored for Lifetime of Helping Others” in The New York Times dated July 2, 1974
  5. ^ Deseret News, 2 July 1974 p. 2A.
  6. ^ "Mike Gravel on Foreign Policy". OnTheIssues. 2019-12-15. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  7. ^ Gravel, Mike; Lauria, Joe; Ellsberg, Daniel (2008). A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Man's Fight to Stop It. New York: Seven Stories Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1583228265.


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