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 writers consider it to be one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and Tolstoy himself called it his first true novel. It was initially released in serial installments from 1875 to 1877, all but the last part appearing in the periodical The Russian Messenger.
A complex novel in eight parts, with more than a dozen major characters, Anna Karenina is spread over more than 800 pages (depending on the translation and publisher), typically contained in two volumes. It deals with themes of betrayal, faith, family, marriage, Imperial Russian society, desire, and rural vs. city life. The story 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 to Italy in a search for happiness, but after they return to Russia, their lives further unravel.
Trains are a recurring motif throughout the novel, with several major plot points taking place either on passenger trains or at stations in Saint Petersburg or elsewhere in Russia. The story takes place against the backdrop of the liberal reforms initiated by Emperor Alexander II of Russia and the rapid societal transformations that followed. The novel has been adapted into various media including theatre, opera, film, television, ballet, figure skating, and radio drama.