Full name Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy was born September 9, 1828 in Yasnaya Polyana, Yasnaya Polyana, Russia . Leo Tolstoy came from an aristocratic Russian family with links to some of the most powerful Russian families. He was the fourth cousin of Alexander Pushkin. Leo Tolstoy was one of the world’s pre-eminent writers becoming famous through his epic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. War and Peace has been ranked as one of the greatest novels of all time, for its rich characterisation and sweeping view of Russian society. Tolstoy also became a leading critic of injustice, formal religion and the inequality of Tsarist Russia. While critical of the church, he believed in the essence of gospels and espoused a form of primitive Christianity. In politics, his exposition of pacifism and non-violence had a profound influence on others – most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.