Revered in the West, Considered Extremist at Home

By Nataly Teplitsky, Epoch Times
October 2, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

A monument to Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in central Moscow. Tolstoy is still a controversial figure in his homeland. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
A monument to Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in central Moscow. Tolstoy is still a controversial figure in his homeland. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)
This year the world commemorates the centenary of Leo Tolstoy’s death. His most famous novel, War and Peace, led last year‘s Newsweek Top 100 Books of All Time. George Orwell's 1984 and James Joyce's Ulysses were second and third.

For Tolstoy fans, 2010 was supposed to be an exciting and meaningful year. To mark the centenary of Leo Tolstoy's death, The Guardian newspaper has published a series of contemporary retrospectives and initiated the discussion: “Tolstoy: The Greatest Writer of all Time?”

Michael Hoffman's The Last Station, an Oscar-nominated film about the final year of the Count Tolstoy’s life, was released earlier this year. 80-year old actor Christopher Plummer received his first Oscar for his role as Leo Tolstoy. The film tells of how in October 1910, Leo Tolstoy left his home at Yasnaya Polyana (Clear Meadow), 120 miles south of Moscow, in a final decision to separate himself from his family and his wealth.

The Eugene Lang College at The New School for Liberal Arts, NY, announced ‘A year for Tolstoy’. An international conference Tolstoy in the 21st Century is scheduled there for October 14-17, 2010 and will be attended by the leading Tolstoy international scholars and writers.

A Centennial Festival that will commemorate 100 years since the death of Leo Tolstoy is expected to be an important cultural event for Greater Los Angeles, and a tribute to the renowned 19th Century Russian writer.

The International Tolstoy Conference at Korea University in Seoul will take place on October 1-2, 2010. The new bilingual exhibition "Leo Tolstoy and the Doukhobors: Conscientious Objection” is on display in Berlin now until 29 January 2011. Earlier this year Mexico and Cuba have organized book fairs dedicated to this anniversary. New translations of Anna Karenina were published in four languages.

This list of internationally held celebrations can go on and on. But as Lisa Grainger ( wrote: “Strangely, though, in spite of many Russians' passion for his works, celebrations are being held everywhere but his own country.”

Actually, in November, 2010, Russia is planning to hold a low key International Leo Tolstoy Forum.

Unloved at Home

In his article in The Guardian Leo Tolstoy: the forgotten genius? Luke Harding raised a question: “…why is his native Russia lukewarm about the literary genius?”

Indeed, while numerous centenary celebrations are being held worldwide, in his motherland, Tolstoy was categorized as an extremist for the third time. The latest ‘recognition’ took place in March, 2010 in Kirov Court in Yekaterinburg. He was accused of taking part “in the incitement of religious hatred against the Orthodox Church.”

In 2009 Tolstoy was accused of attacking the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 as he developed singular views on pacifism, anarchy, and Christianity.

Ernest J. Simmons, a distinguished Professor of Russian Literature at Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia wrote about Tolstoy’s philosophical and religious views: “After a thorough study of the dogmas of the Church, he concluded that they were false and an insult to human intelligence.

“The Church itself, he charged, supported its tenets by deceitful verbal tricks, and sought merely power instead of trying to fulfill its obligation to spread a right understanding of religion on the basis of Christ's teaching.”

Mr. Simmons also acknowledged that Leo Tolstoy “combined with a profoundly religious spirit, an unsparing truthfulness.”

To paraphrase George Orwell, telling the truth is truly a revolutionary act in a time of universal deceit.