The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Exhibition “From Serbia to Russia. For the 90th birthday of Nikita Ilyich Tolstoy”

NIT-portret-002May 17 - June 30, 2013
Yasnaya Polyana Estate, Volkonsky House

Opening: on May 16 at 14:00

You are welcome to see an exhibition devoted to the 90th birthday of Nikita Ilyich Tolstoy – a grandson of Leo Tolstoy’s second son Ilya Lvovich. As a young man, he was a soldier in the Red Army, and later a philologist, Slavicist, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an outstanding scholar, and an extraordinary individual. Someone said he was “surprising and absolutely interesting, because his amazing knowledge, academic profundity and human insight let him see what is hidden from ordinary mortals’ eyes.”


“I want to fight in the war like my great-grandfather fought in Sevastopol,” Nikita Tolstoy wrote in his application to enter the Red Army as a volunteer. It was in October of 1944, and he was 21 years old. He had never been to Russia and didn’t recognize the Soviet Power, but he believed it was necessary to defend his Motherland whatever the circumstances. He was born in Yugoslavia in the family of a White Officer – the emigrant Ilya Tolstoy. He went to a Russian school in Belgrade and helped with church ceremonies in a Russian church. When the Red Army entered Yugoslavia, the Tolstoy family helped Serbian guerillas and Russian soldiers, and Nikita joined the Soviet army to fight with the Nazis in Hungary and Austria.  

In 1945 Leo Tolstoy’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren wrote a letter to Stalin, in which they asked him to allow them to return to Russia. Nikita Tolstoy graduated from Moscow State University and devoted his whole life to research and scholarship – he studied Slavonic languages, history and culture. He became a professor and an academician, and educated and influenced many students. He was happy to live in Russia, did not like to leave it, and often sang the Russian song: “Sit at Home, Jerome…”   


Now the work of the scientific school created by N.I. Tolstoy is continued by his adherents, among them his widow Svetlana Tolstaya, doctor of philology, professor, head of the department of ethnolinguistics  and folklore of the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and his elder daughter Marfa – a Slavicist, specialist in Serbian studies, and a research associate of the same Institute. His younger daughter Fyokla is a journalist and works for radio and television, and recently she began to work for the State Museum of Leo Tolstoy in Moscow.

On display at the exhibition you will see photographs, documents, items related to the life of the Tolstoy family in Serbia, Nikita Tolstoy’s letters from the front which he addressed as “Moscow, Khamovniki, to Anna Ilyinichna Tolstaya” (Khamovniki is the name of the place where Leo Tolstoy had a house in Moscow, later part of the Tolstoy Museum), and also original documents conferring the right to return to Russia to the Tolstoys. Part of the exhibition will be a reconstruction of Academician Tolstoy’s study, with some family portraits which our visitors will see for the first time.

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