Aleksey Tolstoy

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Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy

Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a very successful author in both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. He started out in the symbolist vein but was known, after 1917 obviously, as the “Red Count”.
Born Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy
10 January 1883(1883-01-10)
Pugachyov, Saratov Oblast(then Nikolaevsk), Russian Empire
Died 23 February 1945 (aged 62)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Nationality Russian
Occupation Novelist, Poet, Journalist, Short story writer
Influenced by Symbolism, Eugene O'Neill

Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy (10 January 1883 – 23 February 1945), nicknamed the Comrade Count, sometimes Red Count, was a Russian and Soviet writer who wrote in many genres but specialized in science fiction and historical novels. During World War II, his role in the Extraordinary State Commission was recognised by the Nuremberg Trials of the allegiated "war criminals" and their allegiated attempted genocide of Europe's Jews by means of gas vans.[1]



In 1917, Tolstoi worked for General Anton Denikin's propaganda section. Though he welcomed the February revolution he was unable to accept the Bolshevist October Revolution, and emigrated in 1918 with his family to Paris.

Between the wars

A few years later he went to Berlin where he joined a pro-Communist émigré group and became the editor of the Bolshevik newspaper Nakanune. With the introduction of the New Economic Policy in Russia and a change in his political beliefs, Tolstoi broke with the emigre circles and returned with his family to his homeland. From West Tolstoy brought with him to the novel Syostry (1922), the first part of his trilogy Road to Calvary (1922-42). In 1936, Maxim Gorky died and Aleksey Tolstoy became the leading figure of the official Soviet Pen Organisation. In 1937, Tolstoy was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. Tolstoy became a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939.


End of 1943 Aleksey Tolstoy, as a member of the Soviet "examination committee" of war history, he fabricated "evidences", that stated among others, that in Katyn "German fascists" killed Polish officiers. This script was used during the Nuremberg trials under USSR-054 identification nr. Similar "evidences" he fabricated were script USSR-008 about the camp in Auschwitz and script USSR-001 about the "Gas vans". These scripts were later used by "historians" like Raul Hilberg, William L. Shirer or Jean-Claude Pressac.


George Orwell branded Tolstoy, along with contemporary Ilya Ehrenburg, as a “literary prostitute” whose freedom of expression was denied by Soviet totalitarianism. Nikolai Tolstoy wrote the following about his remote relative, Aleksey Tolstoy:

Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy's life remains in large part an enigma... It is not hard to believe that the degrading personal role he undertook in Soviet society exerted a damaging effect on his creative capacity. His personal character was without question beneath contempt, reflecting as it did the pitiful morality of many contemporary European intellectuals. His friend Ilya Ehrenburg wrote once that Tolstoy would do anything for a quiet life, and his personal philosophy rose no higher than this confessio vitae, uttered when an exile in Paris: 'I only know this: the thing that I loathe most of all is walking in town with empty pockets, looking in shop windows without the possibility of buying anything – that's real torture for me.' There was no lie, betrayal, or indignity which he would not hasten to commit in order to fill those empty pockets, and in Stalin he found a worthy master. Few families have produced a higher literary talent than Leo Tolstoy, but few have sunk to one as degraded as Alexei Nikolaevich. [...] In fact, he never experienced the 'hard life' of which he wrote, and it seems certain that he never expected to do so. Clearly, he would not have contemplated return without the motives already noted: a profound patriotism and nostalgie de la boue. It was probably Mayakovsky who finally persuaded him to take the crucial step in Berlin, together with overtures from members of the Soviet diplomatic mission. (Some fifteen years ago, I received a similarly flattering invitation from a high Soviet official). They would certainly have assured him as to the social status that an artist would enjoy in a society where the artist was for the first time freed from the degrading shackles of bourgeois patronage. On a more prosaic note it was clear that Mayakovsky and artists like him enjoyed a comfortable standard of life, unaffected by the appalling tribulations suffered by ordinary Russians.

Baltic German Professor Gleb Struve (1898–1985), a former White Army soldier and committed anti-Communist, made the following assessment of the writer in 1941:

Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy is, without doubt, one of the most gifted Russian writers of the 20th century…But—and this is the point—this man, endowed with so many extraordinary gifts and sharing the heritage of the great age of Russian literature, lacks one quality which distinguished all of the great Russian poets and writers : a sense of moral and social responsibility. His essence is that of a cynic and opportunist. After about five years' exile in Berlin, during which he professed to be a monarchist, he returned to Russia. His subsequent change over from monarchism to communism was too quick and effortless to be sincere. He surpassed his less able colleagues in the art of glorifying Stalin by drawing subtle analogies between the latter and Peter the Great. He made a rapid career, became one of the leaders of the officially sponsored Association of Authors, and was recently awarded the highest academic distinction in Russia, the Stalin Prize...I think this is sufficient to show that Alexei has not got a grain of that grandeur which made his namesake the undisputed moral authority in Russia, of whom even the most obscurantist Tsarist Ministers were afraid. No one in Russia, not even Alexei's most ardent admirers (and there are many), would dream of putting him into the same category as that great, sincere and fiery old heretic, Leo Tolstoy. There is, therefore, nothing remarkable in the fact that this brilliant and faithful bard of Stalin was called upon to extol Pan-Slavism, if that is what his master wanted.


Tolstoy was born in Nikolaevsk (now Pugachyov, Saratov Oblast) in 1883 into an impoverished branch of the counts Tolstoy. His father was a retired hussar and landowner, Count Nikolay Alexandrovich Tolstoy, and his mother was a children's writer, Alexandra Leonievna Bostrom (born Turgeneva, also known as Alexandra Tolstoy). Tolstoy was the fourth child in the family. When his mother was two months pregnant with him, she fled the family with her lover, Aleksei Apollonovich Bostrom, leaving three other children behind. In accordance with the divorce law of the time, the guilty party (Alexandra) was forbidden to remarry, and the only way for her to keep her newborn son was to register him as a son of Bostrom. Thus, until the age of thirteen, Tolstoy had lived under the name of Aleksei Bostrom and had not suspected that Aleksei Bostrom, Sr. was not his biological parent. In 1896 both Tolstoy and Bostrom families went into bureaucratic pains to re-register Aleksei as Count Tolstoy. Still, he considered Bostrom his true father and had hardly ever seen Nikolai Tolstoy and his older siblings.In 1900 Nikolai Tolstoy died, leaving Tolstoy with 30,000 rubles (a considerable fortune for the time) and a famous family name.


Tolstoy was married four times. His first wife was Yulia Vasilievna Rozhanskaya and his second was Sophia Isaakovna Dymshits. In 1915, he married his third wife, Natalia Vasilyevna Grandievskaya. He married his fourth wife, Lyudmila Ilyinichna Krestinskaya, in 1935. He had one daughter, Maryana, and two sons, Nikita (physicist) and Dmitriy (composer). His grandchildren are Mikhail (physicist), Natalya (philologist) and Tatyana (writer).

Selected works

  • Lirika, a poetry collection (1907)
  • Nikita's Childhood (1921)
  • The Road to Calvary, a trilogy (1921–40, Stalin Prize in 1943)
  • Aelita (1923)
  • The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin (aka The Garin Death Ray) (1926)
  • The Golden Key, or the Adventures of Buratino (1936)
  • Peter I (1929–34, Stalin Prize in 1941)
  • A Week in Turenevo (published posthumously, 1958)
  • "Count Cagliostro" (supernatural short story)


  1. Tolstoy was credited by Counsellor Smirnov, a Soviet prosecution lawyer at the Nuremberg Trials, of being the first person to 'ascertain without reasonable doubt' the use of gas vans by the National Socialists to commit genocide. The claim, of course, remained unsubstantiated and was not further explained.