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Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 in the Tula province. He studied at the University of Kazan, then led a life of pleasure until 1851 when he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus. He established his reputation as a writer with The Sebastopol Sketches (1855-6). After a period in St Petersburg and abroad, he married, had thirteen children, managed his vast estates in the Volga Steppes and wrote War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life, and in 1901 he was excommuincated by the Russian Holy Synod. He died in 1910, in the course of a dramatic flight from home, at the railway station of Astapovo.