Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk (now present-day Udmurtia). He had four brothers: Nikolai, Ippolit, Anatoly and Modest (who were twins); a sister, Alexandra and a half sister from his father's first marriage, Zinaida. He began taking piano lessons when he was five years old and could read and play music as well as his teacher three years later; his parents took an interest in his musical ability, hired a tutor, bought him an orchestration, and encouraged him. But that did not last long because in 1850, they decided to send him to the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg; it would prepare him for becoming a civil servant.
June 25, 1854, Tchaikovsky's mother died of chlorea, her death a massive blow to him; it affected him for the rest of his life. A month after her death, he made his first serious efforts to composing, a waltz dedicated to her memory.
In 1861, Nikolai Zaremba taught music theory classes, which Tchaikovsky attended and the year after, followed his teacher to the new Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He left his career as a civil servant to be a musician in 1863 and graduated from the Conservatory in 1865. His First Symphony was performed in Moscow of February 1868, where it was well received.
In 1877 after a broken engagement with a Belgian soprano, Desiree Artot, and after Vladimir Shilovsky, his favorite student, married suddenly, he got the notion into his head that he too, should marry. So he married one of his former composition students Antonina Miliukova; the marriage did not last long. They continued to be legally married but lived separately. Tchaikovsky was forced to confront his sexuality, that he was homosexual; he never married again, accepting how he was.
Tchaikovsky returned to the Moscow Conservatory in the autumn of 1879, resigned from his post, and settled in Kamenka but always traveling. He had an assured, regular income from Nadezhda von Meck while traveling. He traveled to Eurpope and rural Russia, living alone and avoiding social contact whenever possible.
In 1884 of March, Tchaikovsky was bestowed by Tsar Alexander III the Order of St. Vladimir and also won him a personal audience with the Tsar.
On November 6, 1893, nine days after the premiere of his Sixth Symphony, Tchaikovsky died. Most people say that his death was the cause of cholera, but others have theorized it to be a suicide. In either case, Tchaikovsky is known and remembered throughout the world as one of the most significant Russian composers.
You may know some of his popular compositions: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin.