Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was Russian writer, often considered to be one of the greatest authors in history, best remembered for his realistic epics War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He also wrote numerous shorter pieces, including The Death of Ivan Ilyich. His later life was devoted to an extreme religious point of view, but his writings on pacifism, including nonviolent resistance, were influential on both Gandhi and Dr. King.
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born into a family of old Russian nobility. He studied at Kazan University, but left without a degree and entered the army. From 1860 to 1861, he traveled throughout Europe, meeting Victor Hugo, who was a tremendous influence on the writing of War and Peace. In 1862, he married Sophia Behrs, who bore him 13 children (8 of whom survived) and often served as his secretary and proofreader. However, their later marriage has been described as very miserable, due to his increasingly radical beliefs, including the rejection of his aristocratic wealth.
Numerous writers and critics hail Leo Tolstoy as a master writer, with War and Peace often called the greatest novel in history. Tolstoy’s personal belief in pacifism and Christianity led him to write The Kingdom of God is Within You, which outlined his vision of non-violent resistance. It was this work which Gandhi read and applied to his campaign for Indian independence.