Leo Tolstoy was born on the family estate at Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow, in 1828. His parents were of the Russian nobility. They died when he was young, leaving him and his three brothers to be brought up by aunts.
He began the study of law in 1844, but was a poor student and soon dropped out. In 1851, after running up heavy gambling debts, he joined the army in the Caucasus. It was about this time he began writing.
Of his early work, perhaps the best known are the three novels of his autobiographical trilogy, Childhood (1852), Boyhood (1854), and Youth (1857). They portray his happy childhood and young manhood.
Tolstoy married Sophia Behrens, 16 years his junior, in 1862. It was a marriage marked by sexual passion and emotion. Even so, their early married life was ostensibly happy and allowed Tolstoy much freedom to write.
Tolstoy died in 1910, and today is considered one of the giants of Russian literature. His most famous works include the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina and novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich and The Kreutzer Sonata.