The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Exhibition: “If You Do Burn, Burn All the Way Down . . .”

_________April 8 - May 15, 2016 
Yasnaya Polyana Gallery

On April 8, an exhibition dedicated to the life of an outstanding woman, Leo Tolstoy‘s grand-daughter, and Sergey Yesenin‘s last wife, Sophia Andreevna Tolstaya-Yesenina, opened at the Yasnaya Polyana Gallery in Tula. The exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of her assuming the office of director of the joint Tolstoy Museums.

The exhibition is divided into three conceptual elements: Sonechka – Leo Tolstoy’s granddaughter; Sonya – Sergey Yesenin’s wife; and Sophia Andreevna – director of the Tolstoy Museums.

On display will be documents, photo materials, books and personal items from the collections of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum, the Leo Tolstoy State Museum (Moscow), the S.A. Yesenin State Museum-Preserve (Village of Konstantinovo), and the State Literary Museum (Moscow), and also from private collections. 


Sophia Tolstaya-Yesenina (1900-1957) was an extraordinary, intelligent, strong, and passionate person. She shone, all the time and in whatever she did. In 1909, Leo Tolstoy wrote A Prayer to My Grand-daughter Sonechka, which began with the following words: “God demands one thing from all people: to love one another.” And she did love – with all her soul, whole-heartedly, sincerely, and devotedly. And if she started doing something, she fully abandoned herself to it, following her grandfather’s other words: “Do what you should, and whatever will be, will be.”

In 1925, Sophia met Sergey Yesenin. Their love was difficult, even bitter. In a letter to her mother, she wrote: “I knew that I would have to bear a cross, and I chose it with my eyes open, because I wasn't sorry about  anything in my life.” After Yesenin’s death, when his name had been officially banned, she managed to gather her late husband’s archives, prepared his collected works for publication, had books published, and in 1928 opened the first Sergey Yesenin Museum. 


Sophia Tolstaya-Yesenina also published various works related to Leo Tolstoy‘s literary heritage. In 1941, she became the director of the Yasnaya Polyana Museum. During the war, with the assistance of other museum employees, she obtained official permission to evacuate numerous museum objects to Tomsk (Siberia), and later (in May of 1945) organized the return of those items to Yasnaya Polyana and Moscow, thus ensuring the preservation of the priceless treasures for future generations. Under her supervision, Yasnaya Polyana was restored after the occupation in the shortest possible time; in May of 1942, the museum was again opened to visitors.

It was due to Sophia‘s efforts that the joint Tolstoy Museum appeared. It was more than a museum –it was a research centre for the study of Leo Tolstoy‘s literary and philosophical heritage. Sophia Tolstaya-Yesenina served the Tolstoy museums honestly, selflessly, giving her very best, and she believed that she was accomplishing a work of huge importance, preserving Leo Tolstoy’s priceless heritage for the future.

The exhibition can be visited from Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00. The cost of a ticket without a guided tour: free of charge for visitors under 16; 15 rubles for discounted tickets; 30 rubles for full-priced tickets. Cost of a ticket for a guided tour: 30 rubles for visitors under 16 and for discounted tickets; 45 rubles for full-priced tickets.  

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