The re­treats that inspired Rus­sia’s great writ­ers

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Cuba -

Sara Wheeler vis­its the coun­try es­tates where Pushkin, Dos­to­evsky, Tur­genev and Tol­stoy wrote and so­cialised

Tol­stoy’s es­tate, Yas­naya Polyana (the name means Bright Glade), lies 120 miles south of Moscow in the Tula re­gion; in his day it cov­ered 4,000 acres and the fam­ily “owned” 350 serfs. Tol­stoy al­ways said Yas­naya Polyana – the in­spi­ra­tion for many scenes in War and Peace – was “an or­ganic part of my­self ”, and in his di­aries he de­scribes can­dle­light flickering on the icons in a cor­ner of his grand­mother’s bed­room, and a serf or­ches­tra play­ing as he, a small boy, walked down the al­ley of beech trees lead­ing to the main porch.

You sel­dom hear up­lift­ing news from con­tem­po­rary Rus­sia. But deep in the prov­inces, far from mass­ing troops and oli­garchs, I toured the tran­quil houses of that coun­try’s un­par­al­leled 19th-cen­tury writ­ers and won­dered if I had landed in another Rus­sia. Much of his­toric Moscow might be at peril as de­vel­op­ers gather, but when the will is there, Rus­sians pre­serve the coun­try es­tates of their Golden Age mas­ters won­der­fully.

On the mound mark­ing Tol­stoy’s grave, an ori­ole pulled at a worm. He and I were alone among shafts of midsummer light fil­ter­ing through a stand of ashes. Be­yond clumps of blue­bells and hol­ly­hocks, yolkyyel­low lily blooms pat­terned the sur­face of a pond. A small sign at

Tol­stoy’s study at Yas­naya Polyana, a re­treat he said was ‘an or­ganic part of my­self’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.