ANNA KARENIN PERIOD
An ardent partisan of Tolstoy's amongst the pedagogues was the well-known A. K Strannolubsky, and in the press N. K. Mikhailovsky.
Of course, Tolstoy, this time also, did not succeed in shaking the routine in schools, established, as he expressed it, "by a Zemstvo-Ministerial Department," but his agitation gave another impulse to the Russian educational world: it awakened its conscience, holding up new, living ideals, and it is no exaggeration to say that if Russian schools are free compared with those of western Europe, we owe this in great part to Tolstoy.
During this time he published "A New Primer" and reading-books, which became well known in Russia and circulated in many million copies, being even frequently plagiarised, notwithstanding their rejection by the Ministry of Education.
It seemed as if, during this educational activity, his artistic powers had accumulated, and once again he betook himself to purely literary work. At first he chose the epoch of Peter the Great. In December, 1872, he wrote to N. Strakhoff:
"Till now I have not been working. I am surrounded by books on Peter the Great and his time. I read, I mark; I try to write, but cannot. But what a wonderful epoch for an artist!