Happy Birthday, Leo (С днем рождения, Лев Николаевич)
Лев Николаевич Толстой, or Leo Tolstoy as he's known in English, was born today (or August 28 Old Style) in 1828 on his family's estate in Yasnaya Polyana. His family was aristocratic (he was a count, or graf) and he lived wildly as a youth, running through a great deal of money. He also served in the army, participating in the defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. After his marriage he settled down in an austere lifestyle and wrote... War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and the lesser-known works such as Resurrection, The Death of Ivan Ilych, and After the Ball. Ivan Bunin called his unfinished novel The Cossacks one of the finest pieces of Russian prose ever written. In his later life he became a Christian anarchist (though he disliked the term), a pacifist, and (in Gandhi's words) "the greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced", and the founding president of the International Union of Vegetarian Esperantists.
Read him in Russian here, and in English here.