Tolstoy A. K.

Writer, poet, and historian Count Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy (1817 – 1875) was yet another member of the talented and prominent Tolstoy clan and a second cousin to Leo Tolstoy. He is best known for his trilogy of historic novels following three Russian monarchs: Ivan the Terrible, Fyodor Ioannovich, and Boris Godunov. Those who know him best as the serious scholar and narrator of history would be surprised to learn he had a series of satirical pieces published both under his own name and under the collaborational pseudonym Kozma Prutkov – a fictional writer created by Tolstoy himself and the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers.

Coming from a privileged background, Tolsoy had an opportunity to receive an excellent education, overseen by his uncle Antony Pogorelsky (a prominent writer in his own right), learn multiple languages, and travel extensively. During one of his trips to Germany, he met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The meeting had a significant influence on Tolstoy’s writing, henceforth bearing unmistakable traits of German Romanticism and Gothic tales.

A period of life as a quintessential aristocrat – complete with balls, hunts, surreptitious romance, and more travel – was followed by years of state service, including the appointment as a personal aide to Tzar Alexander II and service as an infantry major during the Crimean War. In the 1860s, Tolstoy left service to become a full-time writer. He died tragically in 1875 of a self-administered lethal dose of morphine at his Krasny Rog estate in the Chernigov Governorate.

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