Moscow after Napoleon: Reconciliation, Rebuilding, and Contested Memories

  • Alexander M. Martin
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


When Napoleon’s army withdrew from Moscow in the middle of October 1812, it left behind a disaster of staggering magnitude. This was a situation no one had anticipated just a few months earlier. Napoleon had embarked on his ill-fated Russian campaign expecting a few decisive battles and a rapid victory, but the Russians had retreated and he had pursued them deep into the country’s interior. After the bloody but indecisive battle of Borodino, the Grande Armée had arrived in Moscow, where it hoped to resupply itself and settle in for the winter. But these hopes were soon dashed. Nearly the entire population had fled as the French approached, leaving the city an empty shell. In the first days of the occupation, an enormous firestorm reduced much of Moscow to cinders. Houses that survived were looted by Napoleonic soldiers and Russian peasants, and the city was strewn with corpses and animal carcasses that rotted in the unusually warm weather. One of the great cities of Europe was left a stinking, lifeless field of rubble, and as the season turned to winter, the remnants of Napoleon’s army were forced into a retreat that few survived.1


Animal Carcass Middle Stratum Religious Revival Russian Writer Autocratic Rule 
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© Alexander M. Martin 2016

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  • Alexander M. Martin

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