Breathing Leo Tolstoy’s air in Moscow

He is revered both at home and abroad, while his epic War and Peace has been read by millions around the world. So it is no wonder that Russia is full of museums dedicated to Leo Tolstoy.

­One Leo Tolstoy museum in central Moscow offers a unique glimpse at the life and work of one of the country’s favorite authors.

It is located on a side street now named after Tolstoy in the district of Khamovniki, known since the 17th century as the heart of Moscow’s textile industry. The writer bought this mansion in 1882 and lived here with his family for 19 years. He did this after he had penned his masterpieces Anna Karenina and War and Peace, but here he wrote more than a hundred other works, including novels, essays and short stories.

A big fan of the countryside, Tolstoy wanted a quiet place with a garden. And the then-suburban area proved perfect.

The story goes that the count came to view the house in the evening and the owner was upset that the prospective buyer would not see much.

I don’t need to see the house, I see the garden,” Tolstoy apparently replied. His guests used to say that the mansion smelled of books and apples. And it feels like the family never left.

Tolstoy had the house enlarged for his huge brood: his wife bore him 13 children, 10 of whom lived here.

And with 6,000 original items, there is plenty to see.

You are greeted by a bear holding a plate for visitors to leave their business cards. There is a small dining room where the family gathered for meals, a larger one to receive guests, a living room that the writer called “the boring room”, where his wife Sofia entertained her friends, and the children’s rooms filled with textbooks and toys. For literature buffs, the most moving room is Tolstoy’s study.

And you can get a pretty good idea about his hobbies, too – like his love of cycling, which he first tried at the age of 67.

At the end of his life, Tolstoy began to question religion, his own wealth and marriage. He took to physical labor – and some of the boots he made can be seen here.

After his death in 1910, aged 82, his wife apparently remarked: “I lived with him for 48 years, but I never really learned what kind of man he was.”

The Tolstoy museum in Khamovniki can certainly help the world learn more about the great author.

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