Leo Tolstoy Quotes

Portrait of author Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy, who served in the Russian artillery in the Crimean War. Getty Images

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy is one of the most famous writers in world literature. He penned many famous and lengthy tales such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Here are a few quotes from his personal and professional works.

  • "A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite."
    - Leo Tolstoy, On Civil Disobedience
  • "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy All violence consists in some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do."
    - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • "All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "And all people live, Not by reason of any care they have for themselves, But by the love for them that is in other people."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all."
    - Leo Tolstoy, Diary entry
  • "Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced."
    - Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?
  • "Art lifts man from his personal life into the universal life."
    - Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?
  • "At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal force in the heart of man: one very reasonably tells the man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of avoiding it; the other even more reasonable says that it is too painful and harassing to think of the danger, since it is not a man's power to provide for everything and escape from the general march of events; and that it is therefore better to turn aside from the painful subject till it has come, and to think of what is pleasant. In solitude a man generally yields to the first voice; in society to the second."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "Boredom: the desire for desires."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Faith is the sense of life, that sense by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but continues to live on. It is the force whereby we live."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "God is that infinite All of which man knows himself to be a finite part."
    - Leo Tolstoy, Diary entry
  • "Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Great works of art are only great because they are accessible and comprehensible to everyone."
    - Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?
  • "He never chooses an opinion; he just wears whatever happens to be in style."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back."
    - Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?
  • "If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals."
    - Leo Tolstoy, The First Step
  • "If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts, so many kinds of love."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "If there existed no external means for dimming their consciences, one-half of the men would at once shoot themselves, because to live contrary to one's reason is a most intolerable state, and all men of our time are in such a state."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "If you want to be happy, be."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "In historical events great men-so-called-are but labels serving to give a name to the event, and like labels they have the least possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "In order to obtain and hold power, a man must love it."
    - Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You
  • "In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness."
    - Leo Tolstoy The Kreutzer Sonata
  • "Life is everything. Life is God. Everything changes and moves and that movement is God. And while there is life there is joy in consciousness of the divine. To love life is to love God."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Music is the shorthand of emotion."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "Real art, like the wife of an affectionate husband, needs no ornaments. But counterfeit art, like a prostitute, must always be decked out. The cause of production of real art is the artist's inner need to express a feeling that has accumulated, just as for a mother the cause of sexual conception is love. The cause of counterfeit art, as of prostitution, is gain. The consequence of true art is the introduction of a new feeling into the intercourse of life, as the consequence of a wife's love is the birth of a new man into life. The consequences of counterfeit art are the perversion of man, pleasure which never satisfies, and the weakening of man's spiritual strength."
    - Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?
  • "Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "The chief difference between words and deeds is that words are always intended for men for their approbation, but deeds can be done only for God."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "The greater the state, the more wrong and cruel its patriotism, and the greater is the sum of suffering upon which its power is founded."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "The law condemns and punishes only actions within certain definite and narrow limits; it thereby justifies, in a way, all similar actions that lie outside those limits."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "The strongest of all warriors are these two -- Time and Patience."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can't eat it."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "True life is lived when tiny changes occur."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "War is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "War on the other hand is such a terrible thing, that no man, especially a Christian man, has the right to assume the responsibility of starting it."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "We lost because we told ourselves we lost."
    - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  • "We must not only cease our present desire for the growth of the state, but we must desire its decrease, its weakening."
    - Leo Tolstoy
  • "Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible."
    - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina