Leo Tolstoy
What He Learned About Communication

In the past several months, I have written many articles on the importance of music. These essays address my need for music even though I have absolutely no musical ability and can’t play any instrument. Nonetheless, I benefit from all sorts of music. It allows we to focus on items with which I am dealing.

Interestingly, a former colleague of mine gave me a gift, A Music Lover’s Diary. In the diary, I came across dozens of one-liners by famous people about the importance of music. In my previous essay, I wrote about Lenin and music. This article is about another Russian, Leo Tolstoy. Most Americans know that he wrote Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Aside from that, most don’t know very much about his life.

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy was born in 1828 and died in 1910 just about a dozen years before Lenin. Therefore, their lives overlapped each other. What is interesting about Tolstoy’s life was that it was chaotic and tragic. He lost his mother when he was only two years old. When Tolstoy was nine, his father was murdered. His grandmother died not long after that. As a result, his early years were a time of being moved around from one set of his relatives to another.

When he grew up he studied at a university for awhile and finally joined the army. He fought in the Crimean War, which resulted in him being a pacifist. This was the period of time that he turned to writing. After leaving the military, he toured Europe and returned to Russia. He married his wife, and they had thirteen children. Five of his children died in their infancy or before they were seven. Both his early years and his adult years were not pleasant times. They were filled with pain and loss.

Interestingly, Tolstoy really got into the importance of education. He understood the problem with education in Russia. He believed that Russia would benefit through the education of the next generation. Therefore, he got involved in education. He pushed for new ideas. Tolstoy’s ideas were based upon an inquiry by the student and not forcing them into some old rigid curriculum. His ideas would benefit Russia and the student. Even as an old man, he wanted to teach.

Tolstoy, the teacher

It is said that if you go to his home in Yasnaya Polyana, that it contains many of the teaching tools and supplies that he used with his students. There is a collection of microscopes so that students could see things differently. He also pushed literature and writing.

Leo Tolstoy was a great educator, thinker, and writer. However, this genius with the written word wrote, “Music is the shorthand of emotion. Emotions, which let themselves be described in words with such difficulty, are directly conveyed to man in music, and in that is its power and significance.” One of the greatest writers of all time sees music as a means to communicate with more power than the written word.