Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye is the ancestral estate of the Tolstoy family which belonged to Leo Tolstoy’s ancestors on his father’s side. The estate is located to the south of Yasnaya Polyana - in the Chern district of the Tula region where it borders the Oryol region, on the river Chern. According to a popular legend, an icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle-maker was found in the river, and from that time the village got the name of Nikolskoye.
The other part of the name comes from the last name of its first owner – Prince Fyodor Vyazemsky. From 1747, Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye belonged to Leo Tolstoy’s great-grandfather, Prince Nikolai Gorchakov, a retired Second Major. When his eldest daughter Pelageya married Count Ilya Tolstoy, her parents gave them Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye as her dowry.
After the death of Ilya Tolstoy in 1820 the estate was mortgaged for debts, but in 1824 Tolstoy’s father Nikolai redeemed the mortgage and assumed management of the estate. In 1836, to fulfill a vow made during the war of 1812, he built the Assumption Church at Nikolskoye. In 1847 a division of their parents’ estates between Leo Tolstoy and his siblings took place. The estate of Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye and the village of Plotitsino with 317 serfs and over 2000 acres of land went to the writer’s eldest brother Nikolai. After he graduated from Kazan University, Nikolai Tolstoy joined the military and in 1846 went to the Caucasus. In 1858 he left the army, settled at Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye and lived in a small wooden house. At that time the writer Ivan Turgenev and the poet Afanasy Fet often visited Nikolskoye.
After the death of his brother Nikolai in 1860, Leo Tolstoy became the owner of the estate. He reared cattle and sheep here, planted apple trees and birches, and also kept bees. Besides, Tolstoy often came here to hunt, as there always were plenty of game birds and animals around Nikolskoye. In War and Peace the Rostovs, who are zealous hunters, go hunting at their estate of Otradnoye, which has a lot in common with Nikolskoye. Leo Tolstoy’s eldest son Sergey wrote: “From my childhood Nikolskoye produced a strong impression on me: thick deciduous forests, deep ravines, hilly fields, ancient poplars and a stately pine in the apple orchard; the river Chern running into the distance and sparkling amongst the trees, the always noisy water-mill, open views of the river, forested hills, fields, remote villages and churches, big stones at the highest spot of the estate – all that was new to me and seemed to me unusually beautiful, and it was beautiful indeed.”
On the 7th of July, 1892, after Leo Tolstoy renounced his property, Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye was inherited by his eldest son Sergey who served at the local zemstvo. When Sergey Tolstoy lived at Nikolskoye, a wooden house on a high foundation was brought to the estate from a local farm; it became the main part of the manor-house. Sergey lived at his estate till the summer of 1918 when Nikolskoye shared the fate of a great many burned and ruined country estates. Sergey Tolstoy had to leave Nikolskoye and move to Moscow.
From that time, the former Tolstoy estate was neglected for years, till 1983 when the Tula Machine-building Factory took Nikolskoye under its patronage. Four years later, a museum was opened here. The manor-house and the tennis-court were reconstructed and the Assumption Church built by Tolstoy’s father was partly restored. In 2000, the Tolstoy Museum at Nikolskoye-Vyazemskoye became a branch of the Yasnaya Polyana museum.