THE FUTURE NOVELIST WHOSE WRITING WAS SHAPED BY THE SIEGE OF SEVASTOPOL 1828-1910 RUSSIA
Born into an aristocratic family, Tolstoy’s father had fought during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. The future novelist became a junior artillery officer and already had three years’ military experience from campaigns in the Caucasus before he arrived in the Crimea in the winter of 1854. Tolstoy fought at the Siege of Sevastopol and celebrated his 27th birthday on the same day that the port fell to the Allies after an 11-month bombardment. During the siege, Tolstoy wrote realistic dispatches that were published in an influential St Petersburg journal. These were later collected into a book called Sevastopol Sketches and his graphic, unflinching accounts of siege warfare made him famous.
The Crimean War also deeply disillusioned Tolstoy and heavily informed his writing. He came to consider that battles were deliberate folly and that ordinary Russians did not deserve the treatment they received from their rulers. Common humanity replaced blind patriotism in his mind and these ideas borne of conflict found their most potent expression in his novel War And Peace.
Tolstoy pictured in his artillery officer’s uniform in 1856