Tolstoy grand-nephew loans icon to exhibit

Celebrating the humanitarian, cultural, religious and personal interactions between Russia and Utah, Elder Henry B. Eyring and Count Nikolai Tolstoy-Miloslavsky walked through a new exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art June 8.

Elder Eyring, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, expressed appreciation to Count Tolstoy, a grand-nephew of Count Leo Tolstoy, and to his family, for their contribution to the Church museum exhibit, "Towards Understanding: Russia in Utah - Utah in Russia."The display in the museum's foyer includes artifacts, photographs, letters, diaries, posters, and publications illustrating the Utah and Russia theme and was organized in conjunction with "Russia Days in Utah" the week of June 7. The exhibit will continue through June 25.

As part of the celebration, Count Tolstoy loaned the museum the Cross of Saint Spyridon, a Tolstoy family heirloom presented to the first member of the family to bear the Tolstoy surname by Czar Vasily the Blind in the 15th century.

Count Tolstoy, a visiting professor at Utah Valley State College, offered to share the cross - which he inherited from his father last year - when he heard about the exhibit. This is only the second time the icon has been on public exhibition. The first was 30 years ago in Paris.

"It is the most precious relic of our family," he said.

Before walking through the exhibit, Elder Eyring hosted Count Tolstoy at a luncheon. Also in attendance were Elder Bruce D. Porter and Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, both of the Seventy, and Robert and Margaret Kireiev of the Russian Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City.

The Kireievs also loaned a precious family icon to the museum for the display. Their Madonna and child painting, which has never been displayed before, symbolizes the old times in Russia, said Mrs. Kireiev.

She called the exhibit a "perfect representation of Utah in Russia and Russia in Utah."

Even though people from the two areas have shown an interest in one another for more than 100 years, the interaction has been magnified in recent years, said Glen Leonard, museum director.

The display notes the visit of lecturer Alexandra Tolstoy in 1931, a Molokan Christian settlement effort in Box Elder County in 1915, and the performances of popular song writers Sergey and Tatyana Nikitin in more recent years.

Performances of the Tabernacle Choir and BYU's Young Ambassadors performing group in Russia are documented with photographs and posters.

Among the personal letters on display are one from Brigham Young Jr., to his father written from St. Petersburg in 1866, and another from Leo Tolstoy's daughter Tatiana to Susa Young Gates in 1889.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed