10 Jun:
Tolstoy’s Monastic Adventures

The renowned author of “War and Peace,” Count Leo Tolstoy, set off on a pilgrimage to Optina Monastery on 10th June, 1881, disguised as a peasant.

Accompanied by his valet, Sergei Arbuzov, Tolstoy traipsed 130 miles from his vast estate; his feet bleeding from blisters thanks to his insistence that he be dressed in authentically threadbare sandals.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly assess whether Tolstoy’s pilgrimage should be considered a spiritual journey, mid-life crisis, or poverty tourism; consider the impact his impulses had upon his poor wife, Sophia; and uncover the great author’s final moments, seeking ‘solitude’ at a railway station, as the world’s news cameras whirred away… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Tolstoy disguises himself as a peasant and leaves on a pilgrimage’ (HISTORY, 2009): https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/tolstoy-disguises-himself-as-a-peasant-and-leaves-on-a-pilgrimage

• ‘A.N. Wilson on Tolstoy’s life and work, 100 years on’ (Financial Times, 2010): https://slate.com/culture/2010/11/a-n-wilson-on-tolstoy-s-life-and-work-100-years-on.html

• ’1908-10: Footage of the life and death of Leo Tolstoy’ (Public Domain Archive, 2022):