Almost any person, from any culture, knows, or at least has heard of, William Shakespeare; this great English playwright has a Russian counterpart, and that’s Leo Tolstoy, the author behind such classics as Anna Karenina and War and Peace. His works has been translated into dozens of languages, and he is recognized as one of the greatest writers of the world. No wonder Leo Tolstoy, even in the Soviet time, has been a cultural icon whose life and works have been carefully studied and whose houses and belongings have been carefully preserved.
There are at least four major museums in Russia dedicated to Leo Tolstoy, his family estate of Yasnaya Polyana (for which you have to travel far), the station house where he died (this episode is forever immortalized in the recent movie The Last Station starring Helen Mirren as his wife), a literary museum in Moscow, and, finally, the most interesting and accessible, Leo Tolstoy’s Town Estate in Moscow.
If you have a couple of hours to spare in Moscow, we do encourage you to take a Leo Tolstoy Town Estate Museum Tour. This museum is located close to the city center and is easily accessible by metro or car. It is a meticulously preserved 19th century house, complete with 2.5 acres of land, a stable and gatekeeper’s house, which is tucked away in a quiet side street. Leo Tolstoy and his family spent here 19 years of his life, in the late 19th century, while his elder children attended the Moscow Imperial University. As you walk through the door, you will have a chance to experience a Russian upper-class family lifestyle and learn amazing facts about Leo Tolstoy’s life.
The dining room where the family had lunch and dinner together, the rocking horse used by his children, even the bills the family paid – these and many other details will enable you to have a true insight into Leo Tolstoy’s everyday life and routine, the relationship with his children and friends.
As you walk up the stairs, do stop in the landing and gaze into the mirror that remembers the reflection of His Highness (yes, this would be official form of address for Leo Tolstoy, as he was count, and never renounced his title despite his revolutionary ideas). In the parlor on the second floor, and Leo and his wife, Sofia, held receptions for their guests, world-famous composers and writers among them. Tucked away in the corner of the building, you will find Leo Tolstoy’s office, his desk and even his bicycle.
And, finally, walk around the garden in the backyard, under the century-old linden trees. Learning about Leo Tolstoy’s attitudes (for example, he had very patriarchal view on the family life and the role of women – we could call him an ardent anti-feminist), the evolution of his views will allow you to better understand and visualize his novels. And if you haven’t read any yet, do grab a copy of Anna Karenina or War and Peace, even in translation, it’s a wonderful and captivating reading, richer and fuller than any screen version. Tolstoy was a genius, after all.
Private tours to Leo Tolstoy Town Estate Museum can be arranged by appointment only.
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