Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This is a photo taken by a friend of mine in Russia of reenactors of the French-Russian War of 1812 (The First Patriotic War). This is at Borodino which is about 70 kilometers outside Moscow.

My dad gave me a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas so I splurged and bought a $70.00 edition of Sergey Bondarchuk's rendition of War and Peace. It is the most lavish thing ever filmed before CGI and is truly an amazing movie. It is 10 hours long and comes on 4 disks. I have been watching it in Russian with English subtitles. It has about 2 hours dedicated to the Battle of Borodino and is just overwhelming. This movie was made in the 1960's and was all but unavailable to the west until recently.

I have been fascinated with the story of this battle for quite some time. Napoleon chased the Russian Army all the way from Poland and it here that they turned and fought. The Russian Army was about the same size as the French and had proven itself against the Turks the year before. The French underestimated how well the Russians would fight and it was a blood bath. There were over 70,000 casulaties in a two day period, that's 15,000 more than the three days at Gettysburg.

The Russians left the field but they hurt the French so badly that they dared not re engage the forces. General Kutusov abandoned Moscow and the French found an empty shell of a city. They sacked and burned it and then turned around to leave as they could not believe that the Russians just kept drawing them further East. The winter came and it spelled the end of the Grande Armee of France.

In 2001 I made a trip to Russia to see my friend Scott who is working in Moscow. We took a private guide and went to tour the battlefield. It was an amazing day. The guide was a professor of Russian literature from Moscow State University and did this as a sideline as he made more as a guide in one day than he did as a professor in 2 weeks.

The battlefield has a museum that was opened in 1836. To put that in perspective, 1836 is when the Alamo was fought. The story is long and drawn out but like most Russian literature it has heroes, tortured love stories, tragedy, a huge scope, and tender elements all at once. War and Peace is a tough read but if you ever do read it you will not be dissapointed. To whit you may understand why the Prince stood in the square motionless while a grenade spun at his feet. He could have run but he did not, he simply saw the wind whipping through the trees and thought to himself, "I want to live,"


Blogger Casper said...

Sweet stuff! I remember studying about that war, truly fascinating! Can I maybe borrow that when your done if I treat it real careful and promise my first born?

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Don Cox said...

There is an interesting book by Clausewitz called "The Campaign of 1812 in Russia". He was present as an observer on the Russian side. It is available as a paperback reprint.

2:49 PM  

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