The Death of Tolstoy: Russia on the Eve, Astapovo Station, 1910

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Cornell University Press, Aug 15, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 224 pages

In the middle of the night of October 28, 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the most famous man in Russia, vanished. A secular saint revered for his literary genius, pacificism, and dedication to the earth and the poor, Tolstoy had left his home in secret to embark on a final journey. His disappearance immediately became a national sensation. Two days later he was located at a monastery, but was soon gone again. When he turned up next at Astapovo, a small, remote railway station, all of Russia was following the story. As he lay dying of pneumonia, he became the hero of a national narrative of immense significance.

In The Death of Tolstoy, William Nickell describes a Russia engaged in a war of words over how this story should be told. The Orthodox Church, which had excommunicated Tolstoy in 1901, first argued that he had returned to the fold and then came out against his beliefs more vehemently than ever. Police spies sent by the state tracked his every move, fearing that his death would embolden his millions of supporters among the young, the peasantry, and the intelligentsia. Representatives of the press converged on the stationhouse at Astapovo where Tolstoy lay ill, turning his death into a feverish media event that strikingly anticipated today's no-limits coverage of celebrity lives—and deaths.

Drawing on newspaper accounts, personal correspondence, police reports, secret circulars, telegrams, letters, and memoirs, Nickell shows the public spectacle of Tolstoy's last days to be a vivid reflection of a fragile, anxious empire on the eve of war and revolution.


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User Review  - spounds - LibraryThing

I bought this book as a recommendation from LibraryThing. I haven't studied much about Tolstoy and this slim volume was interesting reading. One dark night in November 1910, Lev Tolstoy left his home ... Read full review


1 The Family Crisis as a Public Event
2 Narrative Transfigurations of Tolstoys Final Journey
3 The Media at Astapovo and the Creation of a Modern Pastoral
4 Tolstoyan Violence upon the Funeral Rites of the State
5 On or About November 1910
Conclusion The Posthumous Notes of Fyodor Kuzmich
A Word on My Sources

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About the author (2011)

William Nickell is Licker Research Chair, Cowell College, University of California, Santa Cruz.

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