Descendants of Leo Tolstoy spoke about family values

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Fyokla Tolstaya – great-great-granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy, philologist, journalist, TV and radio presenter and director, acted in films (“Simply Horrible!”, “Seraphim Polubes and Other Inhabitants of the Earth”). Fekla graduated from the philological faculty of Moscow State University, and then the workshop of Mark Zakharov at GITIS. At the festival “Tolstoy” she was responsible for the educational program “Word of Tolstoy”, which took place in the apple orchard. She delivered the lecture “From Manuscript to Bestseller. How Tolstoy’s Texts Reached the Reader”, she spoke about the drafts of Anna Karenina, what the manuscripts hide, and also invited experts on Tolstoy to talk about what happiness is in the understanding of Lev Nikolayevich, about his attitude to ballet and much more friend. Under the apple trees, we talked with Thekla.

– Does the current generation of Tolstoy’s heirs have any predestination in choosing a profession? You didn’t become a chemist, did you?

– When large congresses of the descendants of Leo Nikolayevich, the Tolstoy congresses, were held in Yasnaya Polyana, we saw a wide palette of their activities. Among the Tolstoys there are businessmen and financiers. Many of our Swedish relatives are engaged in agriculture. There are also representatives of creative professions – photographers, artists, jazz singer. But still, no one became a writer or does not dare to call himself that. As for the Russian part of the Tolstoys, we traditionally, starting from our fathers and grandfathers, chose the path of journalism and philology. I am from a philological family. My uncle taught at the Faculty of Journalism. Many of my second cousins ​​and sisters went in this direction. We are humanitarians. I do not know if there is a direct influence of Lev Nikolaevich here. One of my uncles was a geologist and quite famous, and his wife was just a chemist. Tolstoy’s family influence was expressed not so much in the fact that we have a great ancestor. It expressed itself differently. Now I speak only for myself. I remember that my parents always had a very careful attitude towards the family. Every day my father remembered his father and his aunt Alexandra Ilyinichna Tolstaya. Their path and choice of life direction – all this was in the atmosphere in which I was brought up. Like the other Tolstoys, I don’t know.

Fekla Tolstaya. Photo: Press service of the festival

Do you keep in touch with your foreign relatives?

Yes, and very tight. Before the pandemic, a large group of us met every two years here in Yasnaya Polyana. The pandemic has stopped everything. Finding myself in almost any country in the world, I always have a desire to meet my relatives. And we meet, we make friends, we communicate very closely. When planning a vacation, we always say: “Come on, if possible, we will pass through Rome and see our relatives”, “If we are in Paris, then we must definitely see our relatives.” We chat on social media.

Is this communication in English?

– It happens differently. Some of our relatives speak excellent Russian, some speak English.

– Dostoevsky’s great-grandson Dmitry Andreevich spoke about the congresses of the descendants of great people, noticed the similarities between the Karamzins and his ancestor. Mikhail Sholokhov’s grandson Alexander Sholokhov spoke of the striking resemblance of the Radishchevs. Have you ever attended such meetings?

– No, I have not been to such events, but I know some of the descendants. Vladimir Ilyich Tolstoy is friends with Mikhail Sholokhov’s grandson Alexander Sholokhov. I can call him my friend too. I am also familiar with a representative of the Lermontov family. I never met the Dostoevskys. We all know the wonderful and very bright family of the grandchildren of Alexei Nikolaevich Tolstoy. It seems to me that what gives them brightness is not only whose grandchildren they are, but their own deeds.

Ivan Tolstoy.

– Did great kinship in your life more often interfere or help?

“My father taught me to answer questions like this: sometimes in this way and sometimes in another way. On the one hand, there is pride in the family, people’s interest in your last name, and on the other hand, you feel responsible not only for Lev Nikolayevich, but also for your parents and grandfathers. All the time you think: what would they say, how they acted.

– I didn’t know that Ivan Tolstoy is a descendant of Leo Nikolayevich, inviting him with a short film to the film festival. Then it became clear who he was.

– I think it’s good. We were born and will forever remain the great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren of Leo Tolstoy. This will always be with us. It is important to do something else in life besides what you got from your mom and dad, from your grandfather. I wish I could be something other than that. It is important.

Ivan Tolstoy – great-great-great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy, film director. At the Tolstoy festival, he presented a retrospective of films based on the novel Anna Karenina, on which his famous ancestor began working 150 years ago. Actually, the festival was dedicated to this date. Ivan became the curator of the film program, which was shown on the territory of the museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy in an unusual place – in the hayloft. This is what we talked about.

– Why is the cinema in the hayloft? Who came up with such a great idea?

“The Tolstoy theater festival has been developing rapidly over the past few years. The program is expanding, more and more large-scale performances are coming – Vakhtangov’s “War and Peace” staged by Rimas Tuminas last year, the ballet “Anna Karenina” by the Bolshoi Theater – this year. So we decided, together with my sister, who oversees the latest festivals, to add a film program as well. Actually, the idea of ​​watching a movie in the hayloft belongs to her. I agreed with great pleasure. Watch Lava Diaz (“The Woman Who Gone” won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2016. — S.Kh.) in the hayloft – what can you think of cooler? Naturally, outside of the festival, I do not show films in the hayloft, although it is worth considering.

— Do you have any further plans related to film screenings in Yasnaya Polyana?

– I have been doing shows at the House of Culture in the village of Yasnaya Polyana for more than two years. Since April 2021, I have been the program director of the cinema, I invite filmmakers and film critics. Every weekend we show films – modern, mostly author’s, something radical and not radical at all. The range is extensive. We have different directions, but mostly it is auteur cinema, so its representatives come more often: from talented debutants to venerable authors, from Sokurov’s student Sergei Kalvarsky to Sergei Selyanov, who discussed Balabanov’s film with the audience. We also show audience films. “Heart of Parma” was presented by director Anton Megerdichev and producer Igor Tolstunov, and at the opening of the cinema Danila Kozlovsky presented his “Chernobyl”.

The hayloft in Yasnaya Polyana became a cinema hall.

– Do you communicate with other descendants of Tolstoy? What are their professions?

— We all know each other well, and before the pandemic, we used to gather in Yasnaya Polyana every two years. Our relatives came from more than ten countries, including Brazil and Uruguay. We keep in touch with our Italian and French relatives. When I traveled to the USA, I met American descendants there. All have different areas of work. There are excellent photographers, famous writers, businessmen.

– There are no film directors besides you?

– My aunt Fekla Tolstaya makes documentaries, many of which are about our family (sometimes I appear in the frame). My French uncle was also a documentary filmmaker.

How did you get into directing? What did your parents inspire you for?

“It all came from my father. Naturally, he did not insist, but when I was 15, he told me about this profession. And I got interested. It was also very important that in the year of my admission, the workshop was recruited by Sergei Solovyov.

– Did your father notice your predisposition to directing?

– Hope. I think that he himself is interested in the topic of cinema and directing. It’s better to ask him about it.

– You graduated from VGIK two years ago. Your short film “Being Viktor Pelevin. By whom?” inspires hope. It’s time to shoot a full meter.

– I have not abandoned my profession, I am finishing the script of a feature film. I just work very slowly. “Pelevin” also wrote for several years, and then filmed for a long time. My graduation came at a difficult time.

— Does any of your fellow students take pictures besides Stasia Venkova, whose painting “Secret Attraction” participated in the Russian MIFF competition?

“I don’t think so, but I think we’ll do something cool in the future. I even know who. It seems to me that the course should not be judged immediately after graduation. You have to give it some time.

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