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Russian Orthodoxy To Keep Its Tolstoy Tradition

100 years after Tolstoy's excommunication, the Church has no wish to re-examine the novelist's views, reports Andrei Zolotov of Ecumenical News International from Moscow.

A hundred years after it excommunicated Leo Tolstoy, the Russian Orthodox Church has ignored a plea by his great-great-grandson, Vladimir Tolstoy, to reconsider the writings and reflections of the famous novelist.

Vladimir Tolstoy, director of Leo Tolstoy's Yasnaya Polyana estate museum, told ENI this week that he had written to the church's leader, Patriarch Alexei, in January asking him to review Tolstoy's teaching - the reason for his rejection by the church - on the grounds that the excommunication was a hindrance to national reconciliation.

He told ENI the media had misinterpreted his letter as a plea to lift the excommunication. "I was simply inviting the church to hold a dialogue on this painful subject," Tolstoy said in an interview. "In my letter, there was no request to lift the excommunication or to forgive Tolstoy."

In his letter to the patriarch, the writer's descendant stated that the decision on 22 February 1901 by the Russian Orthodox Church synod to excommunicate Tolstoy had had a "painful effect on all the following course of Russia's history".

The church's act had forced "every Russian Christian" to make a difficult "moral choice". "An Orthodox Christian cannot reject God, but it is also difficult to reject the national genius and prophet, who to this day constitutes the pride and glory of our national culture," Vladimir Tolstoy wrote.

Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) is known world-wide for his novels, in particular for War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

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