- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

YASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Carrying only dim memories of her Russian childhood, Tatiana Paus —elegant and silver-haired at 87 — could not contain her excitement as she reached the country estate where her grandfather, Leo Tolstoy, wrote some of the best novels of the 19th century.

It was a day of stark contrasts as the celebrated Russian writers descendants clambered off the special train from Moscow in the sweltering summer heat Friday.

Girls in peasant dress brought bread and salt — the traditional Russian welcome — to the reunion crowd clad in shorts and T-shirts, video cameras slung over their shoulders. The girls, a 12-piece brass band and actors dressed as 19th-century aristocrats out for stroll welcomed the 90 Tolstoy descendants to a weeklong family gathering.

"I love it," Mrs. Paus said as she was helped down from the train in this bucolic village in the rolling, agricultural hills 120 miles south of Moscow. She is one of only two surviving grandchildren of Tolstoy — author of "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina."

They billed it the largest-ever Tolstoy reunion for what great-great-grandson Vladimir Tolstoy calls the birth of Tolstoys literary career and the birth of the family. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the writers first story, "Childhood," and the 140th anniversary of Leos troubled marriage to Sofia.

The reunions have been summer events for several years as the family tries to preserve ties that nearly were broken as descendants scattered across the globe after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The last family gathering there was in 2000.

Mrs. Paus left Russia when she was 3 as her parents fled the Communist revolt against the Romanov dynasty. Her only memory of Russia is the playroom at the family home in St. Petersburg. She grew up in Sweden and, like many members of the Tolstoy family, does not speak Russian.

Instead, relatives chatter in a babble of languages — English, French, Italian and Swedish — sometimes straining to understand each other.

The reunion is the brainchild of Vladimir Tolstoy, who became director of the state-funded Yasnaya Polyana museum and nature preserve eight years ago and has embarked on major renovations designed to attract tourists.

Guests arrived by train at a restored station near the foot of a birch-lined lane leading to Yasnaya Polyana. Porters in 19th-century costume and antique signs gave the visitors their first glimpse of the graceful life of their aristocratic grandfather who became deeply religious and an ascetic in his old age. Hes buried in a grove of trees at the side of a path through the pines that tower above the estate.

The activities for the week at Yasnaya Polyana —Clear Glade in Russian — include horseback riding, hunting with falcons and hounds, and a military re-enactment of scenes from "War and Peace."

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