Leo Tolstoy


9th September 1828 – 20th November 1910

“We do not acknowledge allegiance to any human government. We recognize but one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind. Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity only as we love all other lands. The interests and rights of American citizens are not dearer to us than those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism to revenge any national insult or injury”

–  The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy was a Russian author and spiritual leader. After a successful career as literature author Tolstoy experienced a spiritual awakening which lead him to become a dedicated follower of the teachings of Christ as an Anarchist and pacifist.

Born to an aristocratic family in 1828 Tolstoy grew up surrounded by wealth and affluence and benefitted from a top rate education. Despite this he left university early and joined the army and travelled Europe. During one of his trips to France Tolstoy witnessed a state execution which started his questioning and criticism of the State and the use of violence. He spent many years corresponding with important Anarchist and political thinkers across Europe exchanging ideas and manuscripts of his writings.

Tolstoy’s religious beliefs gradually became more radical which eventually lead to him renouncing much of his family’s wealth and inheritance. He also gave away the rights to his huge body of work and spent the last years of his life living a much simpler life. This lead to difficulties in his marriage due to his refusal to compromise with his wife.

Tolstoy argued that pacifism was an essential part of the Christian faith but that the State could only exist through the use of violence. Therefore, he argued, it was impossible for the Christian and the State to live in harmony. These beliefs and practices began to attract followers and soon a movement sprang up with small “Tolstoyan” colonies being formed across the country.

Tolstoy’s spiritual and political writings were hugely influential in radical Christian and anarchist circles and he is still revered as a founder of the Christian Anarchist movement and an important voice in the history of the pacifist movement.

Leo Tolstoy died of pneumonia on this day 1910.


A Prayer for Leo Tolstoy:

Heavenly Father we give you thanks and praise for Your servant Leo Tolstoy. We thank you for his writings on Your Kingdom, peace and Christian morality. We pray for all those who renounce this world in search of greater knowledge of You and pray especially for all those committed to the pacifist way of life. We pray to for all those living under State violence and pray for a swift end to war everywhere. In Your most Holy Name we pray. Amen

Suggested Bible verse:

Matthew 5.1-11