Anna Karenina (Russian: «Анна Каренина», IPA: [ˈanːə kɐˈrʲenʲɪnə]) is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in book form in 1878. Many authors consider Anna Karenina the greatest work of literature ever written, and Tolstoy himself called it his first true novel. It was initially released in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger.
A complex novel in eight parts, with more than a dozen major characters, it is spread over more than 800 pages (depending on the translation), typically contained in two volumes. It deals with themes of betrayal, faith, family, marriage, Imperial Russian society, desire, and rural vs. city life. The plot centers on an extramarital affair between Anna and dashing cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky that scandalizes the social circles of Saint Petersburg and forces the young lovers to flee for Italy in a futile search for happiness. Returning to Russia, their lives further unravel.
A second major plot line follows Levin, a character loosely based on Tolstoy himself, who rejects glitzy city life and those same social circles for his rural farm, but struggles with both his love for Kitty, who has rejected him, and with his Christian faith.
Trains are a recurring motif throughout the novel, which takes place against the backdrop of rapid transformations as a result of the liberal reforms initiated by Emperor Alexander II of Russia, with several major plot points taking place either on passenger trains or at stations in Saint Petersburg or elsewhere in Russia.
The novel has been adapted into various media including opera, film, television, ballet, figure skating and radio drama. The first film adaptation was released in 1911 but has not survived.