The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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A Young Elm Tree Was Planted Near the Tolstoy House


On the day of the anniversary of Leo Tolstoy’s death, November 20, a young elm tree appeared in front of the Tolstoy House, at the place of the old elm that had died several years ago. It was planted by the museum director Ekaterina Tolstaya, the writer’s great-great-grandson Ilya Tolstoy, and the director of the SCA Hygiene Products Russia factory (in the town of Sovetsk) Artem Lebedev. Photos can be see here >>>

“Today we planted a tree at the very place where an elm grew in Tolstoy‘s lifetime – ‘the tree of the poor’ that, unfortunately, had died. We can say that we restored historic justice,“ Ekaterina Tolstaya said.

The young elm was presented to the museum by the SCA Hygiene Products Russia factory and brought from a plant nursery in Zaoksk District. The tree is ten years old.

“It is a great social responsibility for our company to participate in such events. It is rewarding to feel that we are a part of the great cause of the preservation and maintenance of cultural and historical heritage for future generations,” noted Artem Lebedev.

“The tree of the poor“ (a Scotch elm) was one of the most well-known trees of the Tolstoy estate. The elm used to grow near the house at Yasnaya Polyana throughout the writer’s whole life. Sitting on the benches under the elm, Tolstoy used to talk to Gorky, Repin, and other outstanding people of his time. It was also here that various petitioners waited for him in the mornings – often beggars, sick people, pilgrims, or peasants. Hence the name of the tree – “the tree of the poor.” There was also a bell on the tree, which summoned the family members and guests for dinner. “At five,” the writer’s son Ilya Tolstoy remembered, “they ring the bell that hangs on the broken branch of the old elm in front of the house, and we run to wash our hands and gather for dinner...”

As time went by, the tree grew big, and became strong and branched out, but was crooked, and had many hollows; the bell half grew into the wood of the elm’s trunk. After the writer’s death, in the mid- 1920s the hollow on the northern side of the trunk was covered with cement. Under the weight of the canopy, the tree leaned more and more towards the house and the terrace. In 1928-29, a wooden prop was placed under the tree, and in 1955 a big branch, almost 40 cm in diameter was cut; it was later used to tell the age of the tree. In 1955, the elm was about 120 years old.

On July 20, 1965, employees of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum opened the cemented hollow. Then it became clear that due to the seal, the accumulation of moisture and the absence of air, part of the wood had turned into damp dust. In the late 1960s the elm slowed down its growth, and in the spring of 1970 leaves ceased to appear on it. The “tree of the poor” outlived Tolstoy by 60 years.

“There are detailed descriptions of that tree in the memoirs of Leo Tolsoy‘s children. We selected a new, young elm based on those descriptions. The tree has the same kind of bifurcated top, and the branches face the writer’s house in a similar way. We hope that this elm will take root and its appearance will please all our visitors,” said Ekaterina Tolstaya.

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