Pornographers set up shop on Tolstoy estate

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The Independent Online
OUTRAGED descendants of Count Leo Tolstoy claimed yesterday that Russian state funds were being used to set up dubious businesses - including a hotel for 'intimate encounters' - on the estate where the 19th-century novelist wrote such masterpieces as War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

The directors of the 400,000-hectare estate at Yasnaya Polyana, south of Moscow, had established firms including a pornography publishing house using the Tolstoy name for their own gain, the relatives said. 'Their aim is to make a personal profit,' Pyotr Tolstoy, the writer's great-great-grandson, told the news agency Agence France-Presse. 'What is happening there now has nothing to do with the museum, with Tolstoy or with protecting the site as a national treasure.'

Russia's severe economic crisis has made people desperate to earn money by any means and many historical sites such as the beautiful monastery at Zagorsk outside Moscow have been turned into garish tourist traps. But the scandal brewing at Yasnaya Polyana seems extreme even by the standards of today's young and unruly free market.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper) confirmed the accusations of the Tolstoy relatives in an article yesterday, which gave examples of advertisements placed in local newspapers for the new services on the estate. They include a hotel in the village of Grumant where clients are offered the chance to 'pass time with friends, conduct business negotiations or arrange intimate meetings. No questions will be asked, no formalities are required,' the advertisement croons. 'The contact with nature will do you good.'

Another great-great-grandson, Vladimir Tolstoy, added that the estate managers were illegally renting out land and allowing local politicians and businessmen to build private dachas in the grounds.

Yasnaya Polyana was one of the few great aristocratic estates not to be destroyed by the Bolsheviks. Lenin declared it a state museum in 1921. The present director, Andrei Tyapkin, who like his predecessors was chosen from the local Communist Party elite, was not available to comment yesterday.

The Tolstoy family wants to have Mr Tyapkin and his enterprising bureaucrats evicted so the site can be restored and preserved as a national monument on Unesco guidelines.

Meanwhile, officials of the Culture Ministry have accused the Tolstoys, who live abroad, of trying to recover their ancestral home for their own private use - an accusation firmly denied.