Leo Tolstoy’s Final Note to Sophia, October 28, 1910


In 1910, eighty-two year old Leo Tolstoy famously fled his home in the middle of the night, leaving only a note for his wife Sophia. He visited his eighty-year old sister Maria at the convent of Shamardino, then decided to head for the Caucasus. He contacted pneumonia, and died at the Astapovo stationmaster’s house on November 20, 1901.

“My departure will upset you. I regret it, but understand me and please believe that I could not have done otherwise. My position at home was becoming– has already become– intolerable. Without mentioning anything else, I cannot continue living in the luxury which has surrounded me up to now, and I am doing what most old men of my age generally do: they give up the world to spend their last moments in solitude and silence. Please understand this, I beg you, and don’t try to find me, even if you discover where I am. Your arrival will only exacerbate your position and mine, and won’t alter anything in my position. I thank you for the forty-eight years of honest life you spent with me and beg you to forgive all the wrongs I’ve done you, in the same way that I forgive those you may have done me.”

The Tolstoys, Twenty-Four Generations of Russian History, 1353-1983, Nikolai Tolstoy, Hamish Hamilton, 1983.