The Museum of Patriotic War of 1812Russian: Muzey Otechestvennoy voyny 1812 goda or Музей Отечественной войны 1812 года opened its doors in 2012 in Revolution SquareRussian: Ploshchad Revolutsii or Площадь революции, the heart of Moscow. It tells the story of one of the most complicated stages in the history of Russia, its victory over Napoleon and its role in the release of Europe from its occupiers. The display is housed in an early 19th century building constructed in the “Russian” style. The 1800 square metre venue comprises 13 modern spacious halls, which house more than 2000 unique exhibits – collections of weapons, military uniforms and awards, military household items, authentic documents and personal possessions of the participants of those battles, including both emperors’ (Alexanderreigned as Emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825 and Napoleon) possessions. A visit to the museum will undoubtedly be fascinating for lovers of military history. The exhibition space is successfully supplemented with interactive touchscreen kiosks.
FIRST LOOK AT THE MUSEUm
Although the museum opened only a short time ago, its collection started taking shape more than 200 years ago. In 1903, a small museum was set up at the BorodinoRussian: Бородино train station to commemorate the great battle and its participants; a collection of the first exhibits was organised there. The State Historical MuseumRussian: Istoricheskiy muzey or Исторический музей opened a display occupying nine halls to commemorate the centennary of the Patriotic War of 1812. This formed the basis of the collection of the modern museum, with many collectors and public officials taking part in its creation.
The modern museum occupies two floors and 13 halls. There are about 2,000 exhibits on display. A tour of it will take no less than two hours. In every hall, visitors have access to interactive touchscreen kiosks (in Russian only) with all the events in chronological order, maps, illustrations, and films about certain stages of the war. The museum also describes the fates of two soldiers, a Russian and a French. The crossing the River Neman and the beginning of the war are described, as is the story of the River BerezinaRussian: reka Berezina or река Березина, amongst other things.
The museum is chronologically divided into two parts, one detailing relations between Russia and France in 1801-1812 and the other covering the 1812 campaign and the consequent wars in Europe. The exhibits exemplify the change of leaders and regimes, the rise and fall of the Napoleon’s empire and the wars which redrew the map of Europe. Certain halls cover the short periods of peace and the attempts of the two empires to repair relations, the emperors’ personalities, the structure of their armies and battle tactics.
The museum features many rare exhibits like Alexander I’s personal possessions, weapons and personal possessions of such Russian officers and generals as Kutuzov, Platov, Davydov, Bagration, and Dorokhov, as well as some French commanders. Here, you will find a collection of military medals, Marshal Davout’s baton captured by Russian guardsmen in the battle of KrasnoiRussian: Krasniy or Красный, Napoleon’s signet ring-shaped seals, portrait sculptures and paintings depicting him and his marshals, Marshal Ney’s telescope arm, the keys to 20 cities and fortresses won by the Russian troops, a collection of weapons, buttons collected on the field of BorodinoRussian: Borodinskoye pole or Бородинское поле, and other rarities. The tremendously unique exhibits of the museum collection are Napoleon’s field kitchen, a lock of his hair and his death mask, as well as the sleigh he rode in from Moscow to Vilnathe former capital of Lithuania.
A huge collection of historical documents of the epoch is represented by notes, manifestos, orders of the Russian and French armies, engravings and paintings depicting events of 1812 (by I. Mansfeld and A. Adam), and battle paintings. The most interesting among the latter are V. Vereshchaginone of the most famous Russian war artists’s works from his 1812 collection.
THE MUSEUM DISPLAY
The museum opens with a rare fresco – a part of G. Smiradsky’s panel picture “St. Alexander Nevskythe Prince known for military victories over German and Swedish invaders, he was canonized as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church”. This panel picture is all that is left of the Cathedral of Christ the SaviourRussian: Khram Khrista Spasitelya or Храм Христа Спасителя founded in 1839 during the rule of Emperor Nicholas I, who was Alexander I’s brother. The cathedral was erected to commemorate the victory over the Napoleon’s France, and was blown up in 1931 by Soviet authorities.
The first floor is fully dedicated to the military campaign of 1812. The vast halls are overflowing with exhibits. Among them are French uniforms and military equipment, many endowed with symbols of the army – the Napoleonic eagles. One of the most interesting objects of this section is the field kitchen of the Emperor’s army. 60 field kitchens in total were made, however, only one has survived.
The commander in Chief of the Russian troops, His Highness M.I. Kutuzov played a special role in the victory. The museum displays the commander’s personal possessions: his 1st class St. George’s ribbona widely recognized military symbol in Russia, gilded cutlery, a telescope arm, a leather suitcase, a barrel-shaped samovara heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water he took to the field, and the Archangel Michael’s icon.
The centrepiece of the museum is the Battle of Borodino Hall, called the Battle by the Moscow riverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река in France. It illustrates in detail all the stages of the decisive battle, presents some weapons, maps, and personal possessions of P. Bagration and D. Dokhturov. Historians still disagree about the outcomes of the Battle of Borodino. The museum has tried to collect as many exhibits and documents as possible, offering visitors an opportunity to determine the true winner of that battle on their own. After the Battle of Borodino, the French captured Moscow. The city was plundered and was then set alight. These events served as the prologue to Napoleon’s fall. You will see orders of the French authorities, paintings of the fire of Moscow, and household items. One of the most valuable exhibits of that time is Napoleon’s preserved field bed on which he slept during his stay in Moscow. Later, he abandoned it during his retreat from Russian.
The section dedicated to the victorious campaign of the Russian army in Europe in 1813-1814 features objects which are directly related to Napoleon’s defeat: the candles which lit the room when he signed his abdication in 1814, a souvenir vase made of a pendant from the chandelier which was in the room where he abdicated, Napoleon’s sword which he gave to Count Shuvalovan Imperial Russian statesman when before leaving for exile in the isle of Elbe.
The exhibits of the halls dedicated to the fight of the anti-French coalition against Napoleon display objects demonstrating the power of France in Napoleon’s time. In the centre of the hall, there is a reproduction of the Vendome’s column which is claimed to have been cast from barrels of the Russian and Austrian cannons (in fact, the column is made of stone and decorated with bronze bass-relief).
The Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 is truly unique. Its every exhibit tells the story of the enormous effort put into the victory over the conqueror, of the way that the morale and sincere faith of the Russian people helped them to triumph despite their hardships, save their homeland and facilitate the freedom of Europe from under Napoleon’s grasp. For these reasons, people at the time considered considered this victory to be a miracle and built churches to commemorate the event.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com