Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana, his father's estate in Tula Province, about two hundred miles from Moscow. Both of his parents belonged to the Russian nobility, and his mother died when he was two and his father when he was nine. Tolstoy served in the army in the Caucasus and the Crimea, and after leaving the army he traveled and studied educational theories. While in the service, Tolstoy wrote Childhood, a short, semi-autobiographical novel. This was well received, and he continued to write other stories when he left the army.
He and Sophie Behrs married in 1862 and had 13 children. For the next 15 years Tolstoy lived as a farmer and gentleman and wrote. War and Peace was finished in 1864-1869 and Anna Karenina in 1873-1876. Tolstoy went through a serious spiritual crisis, after which he wrote the autobiographical A Confession. From then on he began to publicize his views on religion, morality, non-violence and renunciation of the flesh. Other works from this time are What Then Must We Do? and The Kingdom of God is Within You. Relations between he and his wife became strained because of his new beliefs and fame as a pacifist. In 1910 he left home at the age of 82 and died of pneumonia at a local railway station.
Tolstoy's writings have influenced much of 20th-century literature, and his ethical and religious works have influenced the beliefs of many spiritual and political leaders. In addition to Tolstoy's famous novels, he wrote many plays, stories and sketches, autobiographical and educational works, ethical and religious books and essays, and social and political essays and addresses.