A conspiracy designed to exploit and to corrupt

Leo Tolstoy in 1897

Leo Tolstoy was appalled by the number of deaths involved in warfare and he left the army service immediately after the end of the Crimean War. His experience in the army and two trips around Europe converted Tolstoy from a dissolute and privileged society author to a non-violent and spiritual anarchist. During his 1857 visit, Tolstoy witnessed a public execution in Paris, a traumatic experience that marked the rest of his life. In a letter to his friend, Tolstoy wrote: "The truth is that the State is a conspiracy designed not only to exploit, but above all to corrupt its citizens ... Henceforth, I shall never serve any government anywhere." His European trip in 1860–61 shaped both his political and literary development when he met Victor Hugo.

Tolstoy's concept of non-violence or Ahimsa was bolstered when he read a German version of the Tirukkural (literally Sacred Verses, is a classic Tamil language text). He later instilled the concept in Mahatma Gandhi through his "A Letter to a Hindu" when young Gandhi corresponded with him seeking his advice.