- (Count) Lev Nikolayevitch Tolstoy was born on his father’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, which he would later succeed and live in. Visitors from all over, including Japan (Tokutomi Roka go to his trivia page to find out more), flocked there to meet the great Russian writer and thinker.
- He attended university in Kazan, where he was related to the most aristocratic house, and only associated with the most well-bred and proper. He quit school early and went back to his estate, where his sympathy for the peasant class began.
- Even then, Tolstoy felt it was his duty to improve the terrible conditions of the peasants on his estate, and he started developing his humanitarian outlook around this time. Tolstoy strove for moral perfection, but was ridiculed for his ideals, so he succumbed to the debauch pleasures and ambitions encouraged by the nobility. He loved hunting and had amassed a huge amount of debt due to gambling, so he was easily influenced in joining the army. 
- Despite the pacifism he was later known for, young Tolstoy initially sought military distinction. He first began writing and publishing in his military days, out of vanity and for the sake of fame and money. He fought in the Crimean war in which he first became aware of the futility and horrors of war. He used his experiences and explored the psychology of war and its senselessness in his Sevastopol Sketches (1855), and later, War and Peace (1869).
- After the war, he went to St. Petersburg, where he was welcomed and flattered by literary circles, joining great writers like Turgenev. He grew increasingly critical of his contemporaries and their (and his) hypocrisy. They championed themselves as prophets of educating the masses through art, all while they indulged in immoral pleasures. While he renounced those self-gratifying beliefs, Tolstoy continued his social activities with those writers.
- Despite his theoretical humility (quoting Turgenev), Tolstoy did not practice the asceticism he preached in the earlier part of his life. “Tolstoy was always distinguished by his originality, which often amounted to extravagance,” quoting his sister, Marie. 
- Tolstoy left the capital to return to the country estate, where he focused on literature and agricultural projects. He did farm work on his own fields, such as plowing and sowing, and aimed to better the condition of his serfs. He embarked on projects such as his earliest attempt at establishing a school in his estate, before realizing he lacked knowledge on what to teach.
- When Tolstoy had just barely turned 32, his brother, the person closest to him, literally died in his arms. Tolstoy’s mental health seriously declined during this period as he confronted death and his own mortality, anguished over life and its futility; even art had lost its appeal.
- Still, he continued life with “a faith only in progress,” occupying himself with teaching and education. He experimented with radical methods in a school he started (the first school to ever to be free in Russia) for the peasant children of his estate. He became mentally ill due to burnout and doubts of his projects’ success. He abandoned them all and fled to the steppes to live a “healthy, natural life of [animals]” among the nomads. 
- He eventually recovered with the stability and happiness that came with his marriage and family. He and his writing flourished in the next 15 years, during which he wrote his two great books, War and Peace, and Anna Karenina. He peaked in his fame and wealth. However, he started suffering towards the end of this happy period.
- When he was 50 years old, Tolstoy became suicidal and disillusioned with life again. He no longer found comfort and pleasure in the two things that most strongly motivated him to live—family and writing. Tolstoy envied the working class for their simpler and fulfilling approach to life, compared to that of the hedonistic upper class “parasites” which he belonged to. 
- He eventually found peace in his restored faith in God (though he was excommunicated because of his criticism of orthodox institutions). He renounced his title, stopped writing for the masses, and aimed for an ascetic and humble life of faith and labor, like the peasants he so loved. This lifestyle and philosophy change earned Tolstoy a new set of admirers.
- In a 1880 letter to Strakhov, he wrote that he did not know "in all modern literature, Pushkin included, any better book" than Fyodor Dostoevsky's House of the Dead. Tolstoy asked Strakhov to "tell [Dostoevsky] that I love him". After Dostoevsky's death in 1881, he wrote another letter to Strachov expressing that despite never seeing the man or having direct relations with him, he "realized that he was to me the man nearest, most dear and most needed." Tolstoy considered that man as his friend, and looked forward to the day they met. He wept over Dostoevsky's death after it became clear how "dear he was to [him]".
- Despite his earlier praise, Tolstoy later disagreed with Dostoevsky's writing in the last years of his life. He criticized Fyodor's Brothers Karamazov (which he apparently never finished), but revisited it a few days before he died.
- Akutagawa Ryuunosuke wrote a short fiction, titled Yamashigi (Woodcock), with Tolstoy and Turgenev as his characters. He most likely based it on a real anecdote that Tolstoy's son had written about, and used various other sources to paint a picture of their personality and interactions.
- Bain, R.N. Tales from Tolstoi. Jarrold & Sons, 1901.
- Tolstoy, Leo. A Confession. 1882.
- Leo Tolstoy, His Life and Work: Autobiographical Memoirs, Letters, and Biographical Material. Vol. 1. C. Scribner, 1906.
- Maude, Aylmer. Leo Tolstoy: A short biography. Arden Library, 1902.
- Koteliansky, Samuel Solomonovisch, ed. Dostoevsky Portrayed by His Wife: The Diary and Reminiscences of Mme. Dostoevsky. Routledge, 2014.
- Lantz, Kenneth A. The Dostoevsky Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.