1 Rouble: 160th anniversary-birth of Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy was born in Yasyana Polyana, in the Tula district of Russia. The Tolstoys were a rich and influential family being the nobility. The initial part of his marriage was marked by sexual passion and emotional insensitivity as on marriage eve he handed his wife-to-be Sophie a diary which stated his philandering and libertarian ways, including the mention of a serf bearing birth to his son. But this did not hamper his marriage at all, and ostensibly all went smoothly.
War and peace is widely regarded as one the best ever novels, and is definitely Tolstoy's most renowned novel. In the novel he covered more than 800 characters; from a family room to Napoleon Boanaparte, from Tsar Alexander to the battefields of Borodino. He made his attempt at discovering about the war, and made clear that people like Napoleon and Alexander were insignificant as individuals. Interestingly, he did not consider War and Peace to be a novel, in sync with the zeitgiest of his times. He considered Anna Karenina to be his first novel. His novels bore profound influence of his own life experiences and many characters in his books were apparently blueprinted on his own character. He had contrastingly adverse reactions on reading Shakespeare: "Several times I read the dramas and the comedies and historical plays, and I invariably underwent the same feelings: repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment. At the present time, before writing this preface, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man of seventy-five, again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the "Henrys," "Troilus and Cressida," the "Tempest," "Cymbeline," and I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings,—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits,—thereby distorting their esthetic and ethical understanding,—is a great evil, as is every untruth."
In 1908, he wrote a letter to an Indian newspaper titled "A letter to a Hindu" which led to his correspondence with a young Mahatma Gandhi, who was then in South Africa, and was deeply infuenced to move unto the path of non-violence. Tolstoy was against the idea of a violent revolution. The two men also shared their ideals of celibacy, self abstinence and vegitarianism. Gandhi acknowledged the debt in his autobiography as: "The greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced." The correspondence, however, lasted only for a year until 1909.
Tolstoy's ideas became more radical in the later part of his life. He started believing he was unworthy and undeserving of the vast wealth that he had inherited, for one. He was known to dispense large sums of money to vagrants, street beggers and needy peasants, much to the chagrin of his wife. He had been mooting the aspect of leaving his inherited wealth for many decades and in the winter of 1910, he decided to leave his fortune and family and start leading an ascetic life even though he had not been keeping well. He suffered from pneumonia and after a few days, collapsed near Apastavo station. His personal doctors were called for but they could do nothing. He passed away at the age of 82.
1 rouble: 175 years-birth of T.H. Shevchenko
Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko is known as the father of modern Ukrainian literature. He also wrote in Russian and created many works as a painter and an illustarator.
He was born in 1814 in the village of Moryntsi in what is now Ukraine. By birth and heritage he was a serf(unfree peasant), orphaned at the age of 11. His painting skills caught the eye of the contemporaries and the Russian painter and professor Karl Bruillov donated a portrait, the proceeds of which were used to buy his freedom.
He started writing poetry when he was still a serf and in 1840, his first collection of poetry, Kobzar was published. Later on he made three trips to Ukraine, then under Russian empire, and he was moved by the poverty and the difficult conditions in which his countrymen lived. He proceeded to create an album titled picturesque Ukraine.
In 1845, he met the Brotherhood of the saints Cyril and Methodius, dedicated to liberation from the imperial rule. There was subsequent suppression of the society and in a search his poem "The Dream" was found. The poem was extremely critical of Tsar Nicholas I and his wife. So he was arrested along with members of the society and his punishment was the severest. He was exiled and put into prison and the Tsar took away his liberty to write or paint. But the Tsar's enforcement was weak and he continued to create new works and masterpieces.It was only in 1859 that he returned from exile.
Shevchenko died in 1861 following his harsh exiles and some illness. He died seven days before the serfs were emanciapted, and his works are revered in Ukrainians and his impact on Ukraine literature is immense.