Count Leo Tolstoy was a Russian novelist, moral philosopher, and social reformer renowned as the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and as an outstanding thinker of the 19th century. One of Russia's most beloved novelists, he has been praised by critics for the extraordinary truthfulness and realism of his fiction and for his profound psychological analysis of his characters, such as Natasha Rostova, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, Pierre Bezukhov, and Anna Karenina.
His two most famous rivals, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev, paid him lofty tributes. The first regarded him as superior to any living novelist, and the second called him "great author of the Russian land." During Tolstoy's lifetime, his fiction was slow to penetrate Western Europe and the United States. Since his death, however, his novels and short stories have been translated into many languages throughout the world, and several have been turned into films.
Such unanimous approval has not always been accorded Tolstoy's many nonfiction works, which have frequently been attacked for their moral absolutism and uncompromising opposition to the established order of things. However, the persuasiveness and brilliant style of the best of these works have been generally recognized, and some discerning modern critics, aware of the peculiar relevance of his reforming views to the major religious, moral, political, and social problems, have begun to credit him with unusual insight and prophetic wisdom.
From the Encyclopedia Americana