Leo Tolstoy, novelist and moral thinker, was one of the all-time greatest writers of realistic fiction. Tolstoy was born on Sept. 9, 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow. He was orphaned at the age of nine and was educated by tutors. At 16 he enrolled in Kazan University but became dissatisfied with formal study and left without a degree. In 1851 he joined his brothers army regiment in the Caucasus, where he came into contact with cossacks. Between battles, he wrote three autobiographical novels, Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1856) which received instant acclaim. In 1862 Tolstoy married and started a village school in Yasnaya Polyana. During the next 15 years he raised a family of 19 children and wrote his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). War and Peace, considered one of the greatest novels ever written, contains 559 characters and is a masterpiece of realism. Anna Karenina has been hailed as one of the great modern psychological novels.
Returning to imaginative fiction, Tolstoy wrote a number of short stories, including The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) and Master and Man (1895). At his death on Nov. 20, 1910 at the age of 82, Tolstoy was hailed around the world as a uniquely powerful literary and moral force.