The Patriotism of the Russian Army in the ‘Patriotic’ or ‘Fatherland’ War of 1812

  • Janet Hartley


In general, it is probably fair to say that the term ‘popular resistance’ conjures up visions of the reaction of populaces to invasion and occupation. But in the Napoleonic Wars — a period, after all, of mass armies — the peoples of Europe were conscripted for military service in immense numbers, thereby providing us with an alternative focus for the study of popular resistance. What justification is there for the study of the Russian army as opposed to the Russian people in 1812? The military performance of the Russian army in 1812 has been examined extensively but the ‘mood’, if you can call it that, of the army has not been the subject of the same level of investigation. Scholarship has focused on the so-called ‘people’s war’ (in Russian, the narodnaia voina); that is, the resistance by ordinary people, by which is meant essentially the peasants, or, in fact, the serfs, to the invaders and the contribution that this made to the defeat of the Napoleonic forces.1 The extent to which this popular resistance can be seen as ‘patriotic’ or ‘nationalistic’ has been the subject of extensive debate.2 On the whole, Western historians have dated the emergence of modern forms of Russian nationalism to the later nineteenth century and have characterized peasant resistance during the Napoleonic invasion as ‘xenophobic’ rather than ‘nationalistic’ but, nevertheless, the events of 1812 are regarded as an important stage in this development.


Officer Corps Russian Historian Guerrilla Warfare Russian Army Regular Army 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Janet Hartley

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