20 March 2012, 10:00

Moscow streets: The heroes of 1812. Part I

Moscow streets: The heroes of 1812. Part I
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Moscow treasures the memories of those who fought against Napoleon’s invasion in the 1812 war. The names of the 1812 heroes are perpetuated in streets, avenues, cinemas, metro stations and memorials that adorn roadsides and squares in both Moscow and the rest of Russia.

Moscow treasures the memories of those who fought against Napoleon’s invasion in the 1812 war. The names of the 1812 heroes are perpetuated in streets, avenues, cinemas, metro stations and memorials that adorn roadsides and squares in both Moscow and the rest of Russia.

A large number of streets, including 1812 Goda Street, that is the “Street of 1812”, Borodinskaya Street and Tarutinskaya Street, make up but a tiny faction of that glorious chapter of Russian history that remains engrained in the minds of Moscow residents.  It was the period between the Battle of Borodino and the Battle of Tarutino that became crucial for the outcome of the entire 1812 campaign. It was during that period that Moscow acquired a highly significant role in crushing the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.

“Right after they entered Moscow, the French had to endure all sorts of hardships having found no peace or abundance in the capital, - Field-Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov wrote. – Exhausted after tiring expeditions, emaciated as a result of acute food shortages, fearful of continuing attacks from the Russians, having lost thousands of men outside the battlefield and faced with nothing but a popular uprising which threatened to wipe them all out at a go, feeling a deadly threat coming from every villager and having eventually realized the futility of the reckless idea of destroying Russia by taking Moscow, the French quickly retreated. Moscow was cleared of the enemy”.

Borodino and Tarutino, two old Russian villages in the Moscow and Kaluga Regions, were the scenes of two decisive battles of the 1812 Patriotic War. The Battle of Borodino on August 26th destroyed the enemy’s hopes for victory and the Battle of Tarutino on October 6th marked the beginning of the Russian counter-offensive which finished off what remained of Napoleon’s Grande Armee.

Moscow’s Kutuzovsky Prospekt, named after the great Russian commander, is one of the most scenic and well-cared-for avenues of Moscow, stretching from the Moskva River to the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial.The Old Smolensk Road, the road of Russian military glory that remembers many Borodino heroes, is now covered in asphalt. In 1941 the defenders of Moscow marched through it to strike at the Nazis. At present, Kutuzovsky Prospekt is lined with multi-storey modern buildings which have replaced the old structures of the past.

Also in the west of Moscow, a street, a back alley and a side-street bear the name of Field-Marshal Kutuzov. Residents of Moscow are endlessly grateful to the field-marshal for assuming the huge burden of responsibility for the future of Moscow and bravely steering Russia to victory.

Mikhail Kutuzov rose up in rank from corporal to field-marshal. A military apprentice in his younger days, he climbed up the military ladder to the rank of commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in the 1812 Patriotic War. Born into the family of a military engineer in St.Petersburg on September 5th 1745, he was enrolled to an ordnance and engineering school at the age of 12 and was made senior warrant officer in 1761.

Kutuzov’s ardour for military service was crowned with success. Upon graduation from the ordnance school he was appointed to command a company of the Astrakhan regiment which was commanded by Alexander Suvorov. Kutuzov inherited a lot from Suvorov, including his strategy of how to win and the firm conviction that the strength of the army is in its soldiers. Over years of military service, Kutuzov acquired vast military experience and developed a flair for the art of warfare. A regimental officer, he achieved tremendous success through hard work and unequalled personal valour.

Even though he lost his right eye in the course of the Turkish campaign, Mikhail Kutuzov returned to military service. The 1812 Patriotic War was the pinnacle of his military career. His military talent and worldly wisdom turned out to be crucial in defeating the French army and securing a decline in Napoleon’s military career.

Field-Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov died on April 16th 1813, shortly before the triumphant march of Russian forces on Paris. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Kutuzov lived in Russia and for Russia. In his memoirs he wrote that it was a great honor for him to wear the Russian army uniform.

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