In 1851, at the age of twenty-two, Tolstoy joined the Russian army. The four years he spent as a soldier were among the most significant in his life and inspired the tales collected here. In ?The Cossacks,? Tolstoy tells the story of Olenin, a cultured Russian whose experiences among the Cossack warriors of Central Asia leave him searching for a more authentic life. ?The Sevastopol Sketches? bring into stark relief the realities of military life during the Crimean War. And ?Hadji Murat? paints a portrait of a great leader torn apart by divided loyalties. In writing about individuals and societies in conflict, Tolstoy has penned some of the most brilliant stories about the nature of war.'