Leo Tolstoy: Freemason Or Not?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason
1826 - 1910
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, also known as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories--his most famous novel War and Peace, takes place with the backdrop of the French invasion of Russia. Tolstoy is widely considered one of the world's greatest novelists.

Without question, Leo Tolstoy was very knowledgeable on the subject of Freemasonry.  His descriptions of Masonic rituals in War and Peace were extremely accurate and detailed.  In fact, so familiar with the subject of Freemasonry, Tolstoy was able to categorize Freemasons into four groups.  Upon reading this description, you'll see that Tolstoy was very accurate in that description, and for the most part, his description of these four types of Masons remains true today:

From War and Peace

"He divided the Brothers he knew into four categories. In the first he put those who did not take an active part in the affairs of the lodges or in human affairs, but were exclusively occupied with the mystical science of the order: with questions of the threefold designation of God, the three primordial elements- sulphur, mercury, and salt- or the meaning of the square and all the various figures of the temple of Solomon. Pierre respected this class of Brothers to which the elder ones chiefly belonged, including, Pierre thought, Joseph Alexeevich himself, but he did not share their interests. His heart was not in the mystical aspect of Freemasonry.
In the second category Pierre reckoned himself and others like him, seeking and vacillating, who had not yet found in Freemasonry a straight and comprehensible path, but hoped to do so.

In the third category he included those Brothers (the majority) who saw nothing in Freemasonry but the external forms and ceremonies, and prized the strict performance of these forms without troubling about their purport or significance. Such were Willarski and even the Grand Master of the principal lodge.

Finally, to the fourth category also a great many Brothers belonged, particularly those who had lately joined. These according to Pierre's observations were men who had no belief in anything, nor desire for anything, but joined the Freemasons merely to associate with the wealthy young Brothers who were influential through their connections or rank, and of whom there were very many in the lodge."
But the question remains.  Was Leo Tolstoy a Freemason? 

No, he was not.  

Although he is incorrectly cited as a Freemason frequently, there is no evidence that Leo Tolstoy was ever a Freemason.  However, the fact that so many Freemasons for so long have believed he was, based on his fictional writings, is a true testament to his tremendous skill as a writer.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL).  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org


  1. interesting how what Tolstoy wrote then applies to the membership of the Craft today
    isn't there a saying about how history repeats itself and we seem to never learn from our past mistakes ?

  2. Excellent posting. Very thought provoking. Would agree that it still is a good summary.

    No proof of membership for Tolstoy? I wonder how researched this has really been.

    Can we rule out that he kept it a secret in light of Czarist Russia? Dont know.

    Anyhow excellent posting.

  3. What a good read. Tolstoy's comments could easily apply to many other organizations as well. Good blog post. Neal Beard, 33°, Valley of Nashville, and member Mimosa Lodge #542, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

  4. Its difficult to explain Tolstoy and his knowledge of freemasonry. But then, we must understand that you don't necessarily be named in a lodge to be a freemason. The objective of freemasonry is to make a good man a better man, therefore, every better man is a freemason. Leo Tolstoy is a better man if looked upon from all angle.

    Obinwa Ugochukwu Sunday

  5. If he was not a Freemason, how did he know the exact rituals? I thought brothers were not allowed to divulge their rituals. His descriptions are very detailed. Not being a Freemason, I have no idea if they are even accurate. Are they?

  6. Great article. I have a point though. The fact that there is no document or evidence does not mean he was not a mason. It only keeps the question still open. We have to consider that masons were involved in the Decembrist revolt in 1825 - many were killed - and remained hidden afterwards in Russia, during the whole century. Besides, during the early decades of the URSS, many lodges were closed and their documents taken or destroyed. In sum, the lack of evidence is not a very strong argument in this case as it would be in other, more regular, cases. Anyway, common sense indeed recommends precaution against claims that Tolstoi was a freemason, but we can't say he was not.


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