20 April 2012, 15:14

New history of old war

New history of old war

Ahead of the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1812 Patriotic War all debates that historians are currently involved in are becoming more and more heated. The fact that Napoleon’s big army that invaded Russia was defeated 6 months into the invasion causes no doubt.

Ahead of the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1812 Patriotic War all debates that historians are currently involved in are becoming more and more heated. The fact that Napoleon’s big army that invaded Russia was defeated 6 months into the invasion causes no doubt. However, what were the reasons for the frustration of the plans of the hitherto invincible conqueror of Europe? Was the strategy of the Russian emperor and his commanders well-thought out in advance? The participants of the scientific conference  “1812. People and Events of the Great Epoch” that is currently underway at the Borodino Battle Museum Panorama in Moscow have been searching for answers to these and many other questions for the second day now.    

Historians say that there are  about 2,500 documents that throw light on the events of the 1812 Patriotic War, including documents in English, German, Polish, and French. However, black spots in the history of the war still remain, Chief Keeper of the Borodino Battle Museum Panorama Lidia Ivchenko says.

"First of all, there are dark areas in the history of the Napoleonic wars in terms  of military campaigns that emerged when the links between civil, political and economic plots were broken and when little attention was paid to the micro-history, including people’s war-time life."

The reports of the participants in the conference focus on the least explored topics. That is why among those who are taking part are historians, economic experts, and also experts in the fields of medicine and fine arts. Linguists, local historians and mathematicians who have offered modern models for assessing the losses that Napoleon’s army suffered in Russia are among the reporters as well.

Nationalism has always been felt in world historiography. Not only Russia but also other countries claimed that they played a pivotal role in the destruction of Napoleon’s despotism. Presently, Western historians are showing a lively interest in studying Napoleon’s Russian campaign, Lidia Ivchenko says. 

"One of the most serious monographs about the 1812 Patriotic War has appeared in France. Its author is a woman, Marie-Pierre Rey. Earlier she wrote a monograph about Tsar Alexander I of Russia. And the author of a more detailed monograph is a British expert, Dominic Lieven. These two speak Russian fluently, and they worked with the Russian archives."

In his book “Russia Against Napoleon” Professor Dominic Lieven from the London School disproves the opinion that the defeat of Napoleon and his army was caused by a long winter, long distances and bad luck. Dominic Lieven says that Russia’s army was one of the best armies in Europe, that its commanders proved cleverer and that their resistance strategy was carefully planned.

While historians continue debating, tours are being organized in the restored museum. A group of cadets has already admired a 115-metre canvas by Franz Roubaud on which the Borodino Battle is pictured. And a new book about Field Marshal Kutuzov will be published soon. Probably, all scientific debates about the 1812 Patriotic War will become non-existent after the book is published.

  •  
    and share via