Leo Tolstoy - Rare Historic Video

Leo Tolstoy, one of the 19th-century's greatest novelists, had a difficult time near the end of his life. So burdened was he by events at home that he decided to run away. Literally, not figuratively.

Alexandra, one of Tolstoy’s youngest children, helped her father to “escape” from Yasnaya Polyana—the estate where he was born, and lived, located about 100 miles south of Moscow—near the end of his life.

Living a long life, like her father, she is featured in this documentary entitled “Tolstoy Remembered.”

Tolstoy’s international fame rests, primarily, on two of his still-valued novels: War and Peace (written between 1865–1869) and Anna Karenina (1875–1877). He was a contemporary of Fyodor Dostoevsky, but the two famous Russian authors never met.

What was Tolstoy’s focus?

He was a thinker, not only a writer, who was concerned about mankind’s spiritual future. He tried to confront what he viewed as a gradual erosion of traditional values.

He developed characters who came to understand how important their own personal development is (compared with their efforts to change the world). Better to change oneself, and to understand one’s own purpose —Tolstoy might observe—than to change the world (if, in changing the world, we lose our own selves and our own way).

Tolstoy believed that humans respond well to labor and love. He developed those themes through characters like Konstantine Levin (in Anna Karenina) and Pierre Bezukhov (in War and Peace).

At the end of his life, Tolstoy was searching for personal peace. He had grown tired of all the scrabbling with his wife. So ... he got on a train, heading for anywhere away from his own home, and died at the station master’s house at Astapovo.

Why there? Because that was the closest train stop after Tolstoy fell ill during his last journey.

This rare historical footage, captured during the last year of Tolstoy's life, is from the Russian State Archives. 

It includes his deathbed scene (at the Astapovo station master's home), the return of his body to his estate (at Yasnaya Polyana) and his burial.

The inter-titles, which describe many scenes, are in Russian. Hereafter are the English translations:

Tolstoy's Last Visit to Moscow.  September, 1909

00:03  -  Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy leaves for Moscow from Chertkov's estate.

00:17  -  Countess Sofiya Andreevna Tolstoy

00:29  -  L.N. Tolstoy, Chertkov and the great writer's family

1:34  -  Arrival in Moscow

1:43  -  At the Bryansk station

1:51  -  Leo Tolstoy arrives at his house in Khamovnikakh; this home will ultimately be converted into the Tolstoy museum

Tolstoy Returns to Yasnaya Polyana - 2:16

2:49  -  Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana

2:51  -  Family of L.N. Tolstoy

3:02  -  Leo Nikolaevich gives out alms to the poor peasants

4:05  -  Tolstoy with Doctor Makovetsky - [He traveled with Tolstoy on the final trip and was with him at Astapovo Station]

4:57  -  L.N. taking a walk at 5:00 a.m.

5:05  -  Leo Nikolaevich and his wife, the Countess Sofiya Andreevna

5:56  -  Grandsons of Leo Nikolaevich

6:34  -  Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy at work

6:47  -  Count Tolstoy on the balcony with the family

7:13  -  L. N. Tolstoy on the balcony during the day of anniversary.  August 28, 1908 [Old School Date].

Death in Astapovo and burial at Yasnaya Polyana  -  November 7-9, 1910  [Old School Date]

7:22  -  L.N. Tolstoy on his deathbed

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

Media Credits

Historic footage of Leo (Lev) Tolstoy, during the last year of his life, online courtesy the Russian State Archives.

Original Russian inter-titles:


1. Лев Николаевич Толстой уезжает в Москву из имения Черткова (00:03)

2. Графиня Софья Андреевна Толстая (00:17)

3. Л. Н. Толстой, Чертков и семья великого писателя (00:29)

4. Приезд в Москву (01:34)

5. На станции Брянск (01:43)

6. Лев Толстой прибывает в дом свой в Хамовниках; дом этот будет превращен в толстовский музей (01:51)

7. Отъезд Льва Николаевича в Ясную Поляну (02:16)


8. Семья Л. Н. Толстого (02:51)

9. Лев Николаевич раздает милостыню бедным крестьянам (03:02)

10. Прогулка Толстого верхом в сопровождении доктора Маковецкого (04:05)

11. Л. Н. на прогулке в пять часов утра (04:57)

12. Лев Николаевич и его супруга графиня Софья Андреевна (05:05)

13. Внуки Льва Николаевича (05:56)

14. Лев Николаевич Толстой за работой (06:34)

15. Граф Толстой на балконе с семьей (06:47)

16. Больной гр. Л. Н. Толстой у себя на балконе в день юбилея. 28 августа 1908 г. (07:13)


17. Л. Н. Толстой на смертном одре (07:22)

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