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Oleg Tolstoy with Rosamund Bartlett: Photographing the Tolstoys

The revered Russian writer Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, widely known as Leo Tolstoy, was justly proud of his family history.  The Tolstoy ancestry can be traced as far back as the fourteenth century, and includes prominent statesmen and military leaders, as well as distinguished figures in the arts.  Tolstoy placed so much significance on family that it became the great theme of his masterpieces of fiction.  Instrumental to his literary inspiration was the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana in central Russia, where he was born, spent most of his life and where he is buried.  Today Yasnaya Polyana is one of Russia's best-known museums, and since 2000 it has been the focal point of regular Tolstoy family reunions.

Oleg Tolstoy is a professional photographer and has recently published a unique portrayal of the modern-day Tolstoy dynasty - The Tolstoys in the 21st Century, photographed by Oleg Tolstoy, himself a relative of the acclaimed novelist.  When more than eighty descendants and relatives of Lev Tolstoy, now living as far apart as Russia, Italy, Sweden, France, the Czech Republic and North America, gathered for a reunion at Yasnaya Polyana, Oleg photographed them in a room containing the writer's personal possessions.  The result is an engaging collection of intimate portraits, in a classical portrait-painting style, that captures the diaspora of a family whose name is synonymous with culture and creativity.  With texts by Tolstoy's biographer, the scholar and translator Rosamund Bartlett, art historian Edward Lucie-Smith and museum director Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Tolstaya, the book stands as a though-provoking celebration of familial bonds and a shared heritage. 

Come and hear how Oleg Tolstoy put the whole project together.  Rosamund Bartlett will discuss Tolstoy's own relationship with the camera lens, and comment on his wife Sonya's career as an amateur photographer at Yasnaya Polyana.  

Rosamund Bartlett is a writer, scholar and translator whose books include biographies of Tolstoy and Chekhov.  Her new translation of Anna Karenina was published by Oxford World's Classics in 2014.


Tickets for this talk at £7 (£5 for GB Russia members) are only available by email to: