Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy entered the field of literature with the long story «Childhood» (1852) in the year of N.V.Gogol's death and was immediately recognized by the contemporaries as an outstanding master of word belonging to the generation of writers who succeeded the author of «The Dead Souls».
Tolstoy was born in the estate of Yasnaya Polyana of Tula Region - the family estate of the Princes Volkonsky. He became an orphan in his early childhood and together with his sister and three senior brothers was taken by his father's sister P.I.Yushkova to Kazan, where in 1844 he entered the Oriental Department of the University and later moved to the Law Department. In 1847 haven't finished his studies, he left for Yasnaya Polyana where he tried to carry out his plans of agricultural economy. These plans were closely connected with Tolstoy's ideas about life and the predestination of a man reflected in his diary, that he had begun in spring 1847 and had been keeping (with minor intermissions) till the end of his life. From the very first pages the diary is filled with the idea of moral self-perfection that was the key thought of Tolstoy's work.
In spring 1851 Tolstoy left for the Caucasus where he wrote a petition asking to enlist him in military service. The end of that came four years later with his participation in the defense of Sevastopol. This period of Tolstoy's life was exceptionally artistically fruitful: he finished working on «Childhood», continued composing «Boyhood» and «Youth», wrote «The Raid», «The Wood-Felling», «Notes of a Billiard-Marker», conceived the idea of «The Novel of a Russian Landowner» and «The Cossacks», created the series of «Sevastopol Sketches».
In 1855 being already the acknowledged master of literature Tolstoy came to Petersburg, where he met famous Russian writers - N.A.Nekrasov, I.S.Turgenev, I.A.Goncharov, N.G.Chernyshevsky, A.F.Pisemsky, A.A.Fet, V.P.Botkin, A.V.Druzhinin, P.V.Annenkov and others. In the second half of the 1850s - early 1860s Tolstoy made two foreign trips. He visited Poland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England. His second trip (in 1861) took place at the height of his pedagogical undertakings in Yasnaya Polyana.
In September 1862 Tolstoy married to the daughter of a physician of The Court Office Sofia Andreevna Bers (1844-1919). They had lived together for nearly half a century. They had 13 children. Mutual understanding reigning during the first twenty years of their marriage served Tolstoy a strong background for his creative activity.
In the first of these decades he created «War and Peace» (1863-1869), in the latter – «Anna Karenina» (1873-1877). The progress of personality towards new understanding of life and the state of moral stasis - these main directions of artistic research in these two novels in many ways anticipate problems of «Confession» (1879-1882), where the discovery of the purport of life that is not obliterated by the inevitability of death is presented as a series of successive states that culminate in the discovery of faith. Tolsoy defines faith as a knowledge that cannot be explained rationally, as a psychological necessity to follow moral law where the personal and the social coincide.
In the 1880s Tolstoy produced a number of religious-philosophical works («Union and Translation of the Four Gospels» (1881), «What I Believe?» (1884), «On Life» (1887) and others). In 1893 he completed the treatise «The Kingdom of God is Within You» where Tolstoy's conception of the world view (personal, social and Divine) received its logical form. Understanding of Christianity as humane teaching, common to all mankind in its moral fundamental principle, brought Tolstoy to the idea of opposition between the state and Church that first resulted in most severe censorship repressions and in February 1901 a Church excommunication. People not only from all provinces of Russia, but also from all over the world sympathized with Tolstoy.
Tolstoy's artistic legacy of the 1880 - 1900s is diverse in its genre nature. He created folk stories (that are closely associated with the writer's activities in the «Brotherhood» publishing house), numerous long and short stories («The Death of Ivan Ilyich», «The Kreutzer Sonata», «Master and Man», «Father Sergius», «Hadji Murad», «Divine and Human» and others), dramas («The Power of Darkness», «The Live Corpse», «The Light Shines in the Darkness»), novel «Resurrection», treatise «What is Art?». Problems of current Russian reality provoked Tolstoy's social and political journalism («What Then Must We Do?», «On the Famine», «The Slavery of Our Times», «The End of an Age», «I Cannot Be Silent», «The Law of Violence and the Law of Love» and others).
Beginning from 1909 Tolstoy had begun making more and more diary entries about impossibility for him to stay in Yasnaya Polyana. Spiritual discord with his wife that had become obvious for Tolstoy from the early 1880s was growing ever wider in the subsequent years. S.A.Tolstaya did not share her husband's convictions (his denial of the existent social order, critics of property and social inequality), though sometimes was able to see sublime moral pathos of his teaching. On October 28, 1910 Tolstoy left Yasnaya Polyana. He got ill on his way and stopped at Astapovo railway station, where he died on November 20. The writer was buried in Yasnaya Polyana on November 22, 1910.
Tolstoy's manuscript legacy is enormous. In 1931 Pushkinsky Dom received a major part of the archive from the closed Tolstoy Museum in Leningrad. However, because of the state Decree of August 27, 1939 about concentration of the whole Tolstoy's manuscript legacy within the State L.N.Tolstoy Museum in Moscow; Tolstoy's manuscripts that had been previously kept in the Manuscript Department of Pushkinsky Dom, were transferred to this museum. At present in the possession of the Manuscript Department there are only several letters that were acquired at a later time. As for pictorial materials of Tolstoy Museum, they have remained within Pushkinsky Dom.
In the Literature Museum of the Institute there are preserved Tolstoy's portraits made by N.N.Ge, I.E.Repin, L.O.Pasternak, G.G.Myasoedov, N.P.Bogdanov-Belsky, sculptural representations made by N.L.Aronson, I.Y.Gintsburg, K.A.Klodt, P.P.Trubetskoi and others; numerous photos that captured the writer with his family; views of Yasnaya Polyana painted from nature by S.A.Tolstaya; some personal things.