At all times, under all rulers, and even in all the different forms of government, the Tolstoys never themselves strived for eminence, but distinguished themselves nevertheless as people of “uncommon expression”, to borrow a phrase from the poet Baratynsky. Among them were well-known scientists, public figures, writers, artists, and travelers. As S. M. Tolstoy wrote:
The significance of the Tolstoys’ activities in the history of Russia may also be judged by orders and medals:
there is virtually no award which has not been granted to the members of this family, from the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, the arms of St. Anna “for bravery”, and St. George’s crosses of all classes, to the Red Banner of Labor.
Pyotr Andreyevich Tolstoy was the first count in the Tolstoy family, an Actual State Councillor, a diplomat, a close associate of Peter I, and an extraordinary and controversial figure.
There are many debates about whether his actions were on the whole positive or negative, but his role in the history of Russia is undeniable, as is the role of another Tolstoy, who had a second noble surname, Osterman.
Aleksandr Ivanovich Osterman-Tolstoy took part in many wars and battles in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, had many wounds and medals, became a role model for the Russian troops in the war of 1812. Like many other Tolstoys, he belonged to a Masonic lodge.
Another Tolstoy who became a Freemason was Fyodor Petrovich Tolstoy, the vice-president of the Academy of Arts and an honorary member of almost all the European academies of art.
In his youth, after he graduated from the Naval Corps, he was supposed to participate in the first Russian circumnavigation of the world, but he declined, instead dedicating himself to art, and according to the story, was replaced by another Fyodor Tolstoy, later known as the “American”. The unusual personality of Count Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy served as an inspiration for characters in the works of Pushkin, Griboyedov, Leo Tolstoy, and Turgenev.
The well-known statesmen among the Tolstoys were the Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, Minister of Education, and Minister of the Interior Dmitrii Andreyevich Tolstoy; the writer, church historian, and researcher of Russian antiquities.
Count Mikhail Vladimirovich Tolstoy; the writer and archaeologist Count Dmitrii Nikolayevich Tolstoy-Znamensky; the physician and publicist Konstantin Konstantinovich Tolstoy (the works of the last are stored in the personal library of Leo Tolstoy).
Another exciting milestone in the life of this family is the story of the so-called “junior branch” of the counts Tolstoy. They are called “junior” because their title of count was obtained only under Alexander II in 1866 by Ivan Matveevich Tolstoy, Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, a personal friend of the emperor.
His children were well-known political and cultural figures of Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Ivan Ivanovich, a famous numismatist, vice-president of the Academy of Arts, Minister of Education, mayor of Petersburg/Petrograd; Dmitrii Ivanovich, colleague of the director of the Russian Museum, then director of the Hermitage, who saved Russian cultural treasures in the tumultuous year of 1917.
An indisputable contribution to Russian culture came from the writers Aleksei Konstantinovich Tolstoy and Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy, the latter of whom was also concerned for the fate of Russia, as evidenced by his letter to Joseph Stalin on 25 March 1943, in which he request that the money from the Stalin Prize he won for his novel “The Road to Calvary” be used to build a tank.
“What is a stock? The traits of ancestors which are repeated in the descendants. In this way every living thing carries within itself the traits (or the potential) of all its ancestors ... and passes on its traits, which will be indefinitely modified, to all future generations ... So I, Leo Tolstoy, am the temporary manifestation of the Tolstoys, Volkonskys, Trubetskoys, Gorchakovs, and so on”
Among them are a ruby and diamond ring, bought by Leo Tolstoy for his wife with the royalties from the publication of Anna Karenina, the manuscript of which was copied by Sophia Tolstaya, who worked out the difficult handwriting of her husband; a silver chain with petal pendants, on which are inscribed the names of Leo Tolstoy’s children; and Sophia Andreevna’s gold bracelet with a portrait of her husband.
“The Tolstoy family tree is ancient and mighty, but it is not threatened by wilting and desiccation. The roots go back centuries, the trunk is still strong and straight, the branches spread wide, many of them have young, strong shoots... I am convinced that the Tolstoys have still not said their last word, they will still serve the Fatherland many times and enter their names into its history”
V. I. Tolstoy, advisor to the president of the Russian Federation.
Sources of images:
The State Historical Museum. Moscow
The State Museum of Leo Tolstoy. Moscow
The State Hermitage Museum. Saint Petersburg
The State Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow
The State Russian Museum. Saint Petersburg
All-Russian Museum of AS Pushkin. Saint Petersburg
Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House). Saint Petersburg
Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Moscow
State Literature Museum. Moscow