Ilya (second from left) with his brothers
May 22, 1866|
Yasnaya Polyana, Russia
December 11, 1933
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Ilya was born at Yasnaya Polyana and spent most of his young life there, until the family took a house in Moscow in 1881. He received his early education at home; his mother taught him to read and write, first in Russian, and later in French and English, and his father taught him mathematics, and later Greek and Latin. He and his siblings were also schooled by private tutors.
Leo Tolstoy, in an 1872 letter to his father's cousin Alexandra Andreyevna Tolstaya, described his children; he said the following of his son Ilya: 
"Ilya, the third, has never been ill in his life; broad-boned, white and pink, radiant, bad at lessons. Is always thinking about what he is told not to think about. Invents his own games. Hot-tempered and violent, wants to fight at once; but is also tender-hearted and very sensitive. Sensuous; fond of eating and lying still doing nothing. When he eats currant-jelly and buck-wheat kasha his lips itch. Independent-minded in everything. When he cries, is vicious and horrid at the same time; when he laughs every one laughs too. Everything forbidden delights him; he recognizes it at once."
In 1881 Ilya entered a private gymnasium to continue his education. His father had originally planned for him to attend a state school, but had refused to sign a declaration of Ilya's loyalty to the Tsar, which was required for entry.
Ilya left school before graduating, and entered military service in the Sumy Dragoons. In 1888 he married Sofia Filosofova. After his time as an officer, he was a bank employee, and later an agent for an insurance company. He assisted his father in relief efforts during the Russian famine of 1891-2. During World War I he worked for the Red Cross. He also tried his hand at journalism. In 1915 he founded the newspaper New Russia.
In 1916, Ilya left Russia, and travelled to the United States, arriving in December; he lectured on his father's life and work.
His lecture tour ended in 1917 and he returned to Russia, but left the country when the Bolsheviks came to power later that year. He moved to Paris and then back to the United States, where in September 1920 he married Nadine Perchina; this was the second marriage for both. They moved to Waterbury, Connecticut, and he continued to lecture and write. He pawned some of the family treasures brought from Russia to raise money in 1922. He moved temporarily to California in 1926 to work on a movie version of his father's novel, Resurrection.
He is best known for his book of memoirs about his father Reminiscences of Tolstoy. He also wrote the short novel The Corpse in 1890 (published posthumously), and the story One Bastard Less which was published in the journal Russian Thought in 1905.
- Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Century Company, NY, 1914. from Google Books
- Tolstoy, My Father; Reminiscences, Cowles Book Company, Chicago, 1971.
- Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Century Company, NY, 1914.
- "Count Tolstoy, 68, dies in New Haven". New York Times. 13 December 1933. p. 23.