Tolstoy

Death of Leo's Mother

Leo Tolstoy’s parents, Countess Marya and Count Nicholas Tolstoy, have their first child, Nicholas, on June 31, 1823, in Moscow. The family moves to the country estate of Yasnaya Polyana and three more boys are born in quick succession: Sergey on February 17, 1826, Dmitry on April 23, 1827, and Leo on August 28, 1828. Marya (known also as Masha), a girl, is born on March 2, 1930.

After having five children in about seven years the Countess falls ill and dies on August 4, 1830. Little Leo is nearly two years of age. He earns a reputation as a cry baby but his childhood is happy. He never knows his mother but lives with women who dote on him, siblings to share his adventures, and servants for his every need, including cooks, housekeepers, tutors and nursemaids. Hundreds more peasants tend the Tolstoy land.

A major female influence in early life is Tatyana Alexandrovna Ergolskaya, known as Aunt Toinette. She tells Tolstoy from an early age that he can be a great writer. Aunt Toinette is not an aunt by blood but an adopted child who grew up with his father.

Nicholas’s sister, the pious Alexandra Ilinichna Osten-Saken, is another of the children’s carers. She is in the household due to misfortune: her husband attempted to shoot her with a pistol and cut out her tongue. She has a stillborn child and, to help her cope, is given Pashenka, the newborn child of the cook and his wife. Leo’s grandmother, Pelagya Nikoayevna Tolstoy, also lives with the family and dotes on her five grandchildren. They take turns to sleep in her bedroom, where an old blind man tells the old woman stories after she retires each night.

Death of Leo's Father