On the snowy morning of February 8, 1897, the Saint Petersburg secret police were following Tolstoy's every move, and he was always in the company of a man named Chertkov. Tolstoy was recognizable enough, with his peasant garb and beard, but who was the man who towered over Tolstoy, twenty years younger, with a cold, impenetrable look on his face?
This man, Chertkov, was a relative to the Tsars and nephew to the chief of the secret police and represented the very things Tolstoy had renounced. He would become the writer's closest confidant, reading even his diary, and at the end of Tolstoy's life, Chertkov had him in his complete control, preventing him from even seeing his own wife on his deathbed.
Alexandra Popoff is the author of the award-winning biography Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography and The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants, a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year. She lives in Canada.