The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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“The Joy of Childhood” Exhibition
__July 26 - October 26, 2014
Yasnaya Polyna Estate, Volkonsky House

The opening of the exhibition will take place July 26 at 14:00. Until September 10, it is open to visitors who have bought a ticket, without advance booking. Beginning September 10, it is open upon booking in advance by telephone +7 (48751) 76-1-10 (except Saturdays and Sundays).

The project “The Joy of Childhood” acquaints visitors with the first, most surprising and happiest period in the life of the Tolstoy children. The exhibition will include items from the collections of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum and the State Tolstoy Museum in Moscow.

The “Joy of Childhood” project clearly demonstrates the everyday life and interests of the great writer's children, tells about the influence of their parents on their lives and characters, and about the methods of upbringing and education in the Tolstoy family.

The basic responsibilities for the initial home schooling of the children fell to Sofia Tolstaya. Possessing the skills of a teacher, she was able to combine the process of mastery of basic subjects with the development of the creative abilities of her children. Regular lessons in arithmetic, reading, and languages alternated with music lessons, drawing, and dance.  At the age of 12-14 Sergey, Ilya, Lev, and Mikhail continued their studies in Moscow in the private school of Lev Polivanov.  The exhibition displays textbooks with markings and drawings by the children: “Detailed Course for the Study of Latin for Upper Classes of the School” by Yakov Smirnov, “A Russian Reader” by Lev Polivanov, “The Geography of the Russian Empire,” and the school notebooks of Vanya, Alexandra, Andrey, and Mikhail.

Активно в семье Толстых использовалась популярная в то время в дворянских семьях система гувернерства. Среди экспонатов продемонстрированы фотографии многочисленных гувернеров: Ханны и Эмили Табор, выписанных из Англии, Доры Хэллиер, Анни Филлипс и др.

The Tolstoy family actively utilized the services of governesses, which was popular in noblemen's families at that time. Among the exhibits shown are photographs of many such governesses: Hanna and Emily Tabor, invited from England, Dora Helliare, Annie Phillips, and others.

Sofia always tried to enliven the regular life of the family and thought up various amusements and entertainments. Visitors to the exhibition can see the table games of the children: a small children “bix” (a kind of Chinese billiards), a literary lotto for children, etc. One of the evening leisure activities was puppet theater, which in time turned into real theater performances staged at home.

An interesting activity for the whole family turned out to be the game “Letterbox,” which Sofia Tolstaya and her sister Tatiana Kuzminskaya invented. Over the course of a week, each person anonymously dropped into the mail box written out thoughts, jokes, stories, or verses. On Sundays, the whole family gathered at the round table in the hall, opened the box, and read its contents aloud. The compositions were usually written in a good-natured, joking fashion, but about some topical events. This practice drew the family unusually close together, provoked laughter or reflection, and helped them to see their own shortcomings or to open up to other people.

An inseparable part of the family's life was reading aloud. Leo Tolstoy selected the books to be read and considered this task to be enormously important. He sought to choose books which, in his opinion, could be of interest to both adults and children. Thus, frequently read books in the family included these, shown at the exhibition: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes; Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift; Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and works by Jules Verne, Alexandre Duma père, and Charles Dickens.

The exhibition illustrates the influence of Tolstoy on the children's lives. Emphasizing the love of sport and physical labor, he gave lessons in gymnastics and horseback riding. Tolstoy taught his sons from a very young age to ride horseback without saddle or stirrups, in order to teach them to maintain their balance. In the museum display cases there will be children's jump ropes, bowling pins, and a children's rake and watering can from the collection of the State Tolstoy Museum in Moscow.

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