Born in 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, he was tutored privately and then studied Oriental languages and law at the University of Kazan.
His experience as a junior officer in the Crimean War added realism to his depiction of battle scenes, but also persuaded him that military commanders and theorists had little effect on the outcome of the fighting, an attitude most clearly expressed in his best-known novel, War and Peace (written between 1863-9). He is also well known for Anna Karenina (1874-8), The Kreutzer Sonata and his short stories.
In 1879 he began turning his attention to religion, distancing himself from his literary excesses. Anna Karenina, for him, was 'an abomination that no longer exists for me'.  He renounced the copyright of Karenina and his other pre-1880 works to his wife. A Confession reflected his new outlook on life and religion, becoming an extreme rationalist and moralist. Whilst his subsequent religious works gained him many followers and supporters, he was eventually excommunicated by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901.
- A Confession and Other Religious Writings, Tolstoy. Translated by Kentish, Jane. Penguin Classics, 1987. p.7