The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Exhibition devoted to Leo Tolstoy's sister Maria Tolstaya


February 13 - June 30, 2013
Local History Museum of Chern
(Tula Region, Chern, Voznesenskayast., 13/15) 

On February 13, at 14.00, our museum opens an exhibition at the Local History Museum of the town of Chern. The exhibition tells the story of the long and complicated life of Leo Tolstoy’s only sister, Countess Maria Tolstaya (1830 - 1912). The visitors will see photographs, letters, and other documents from the collections of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum and the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow.

This exhibition was created in 2012 (the year of the centenary of Maria Tolstaya’s death) and was originally shown at the Yasnaya Polyana Gallery in Tula (in August of 2012).There were more exhibits on display then, some rare objects among them – Maria’s original personal items, not many of which have been preserved.Some of those objects were borrowed from the Local History Museum of Kaluga and the Shamordino Convent. The idea to have at least part of the exhibition on display in Chern belonged to the Chern Local History Museum, and it is quite logical: the estate of Small Pirogovo that was owned by Maria Tolstaya is located very close to Chern.  Now it is a branch of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum.

Having inherited traits of character of her both parents – such as honesty, sincerity, and frankness – Maria was very close to her brother Leo Tolstoy in many respects, and their correspondence clearly demonstrates that.

Married off at an early age, Maria lived at her husband's estate of Pokrovskoye, a beautiful but secluded place. Fortunately, there were interesting people among her neighbours; one of them was the famous writer Ivan Turgenev who devoted one of his works to Maria Tolstoy.

At Pokrovskoye, three of Maria's children were born – Varvara, Nikolai, and Elizaveta. But her marriage turned out very unhappy, and she finally left her husband. After their break-up Maria travelled in Europe where she met the future father of her youngest daughter Elena.

After her return to Russia, Maria lived at the estate of Pirogovo (which she inherited from her parents) and often visited her brother Leo at Yasnaya Polyana. At the age of about fifty, she entered a completely new stage in her life: she sincerely turned to faith, decided to take the vows, and lived at the Shamordino convent since then. In spite of Leo Tolstoy's attitude to the Orthodox Church, the relations between brother and sister remained as tender and affectionate as before, and probably even more so. Once Tolstoy signed a letter to his sister in the following way: «Your brother in blood and in spirit – don't abandon me... I love you so much». Their last meeting took place in Maria's cell at the convent right after Leo Tolstoy left his home for good shortly before his death.

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