Moscow under Napoleon: Social Experience of Cross-Cultural Dialogue (Part 2)

Vladimir Zemtsov

Abstract


This article completes the analysis of the social aspects of cross-cultural contacts during the Napoleonic occupation of Moscow. A great fire that ignited on the evening of 14 September, combined with looting and violence, destroyed the contacts between the soldiers of the Grand Army and the local population which had begun to emerge in the first hours of the occupation. However, less than a couple of days later, the situation started to change as dialogue between the occupiers and the inhabitants resumed. Along with the purely pragmatic goals of the occupation authorities, an important role was played by human empathy. As for the Muscovites, most were concerned primarily with survival and the preservation of property where possible. However, there were quite a few who grabbed this excellent opportunity to enrich themselves. The bulk of these people were criminals or part of the urban poor, but there were also some Russian merchants involved. The most successful contacts after the great fire and the cessation of ‘official’ looting arose between persons of similar social and cultural levels. A significant difference lay in the purposes and consequences of such contacts. If the result of interactions with the middle and higher social strata was at least a partial return to normal public relations, then the results of interactions at the lower level was the organisation of joint criminal and semi-criminal actions. In general, the short period of cross-cultural dialogue during Napoleon’s occupation of Moscow gave many European nations, especially the French and Russian ones, a wealth of experience that defined processes of self-identification and inter-ethnic and inter-state interaction for decades or even centuries.


Keywords


foreign occupation; intercultural dialogue; Moscow in 1812; the Patriotic war of 1812; Napoleon’s Russian campaign; Napoleon’s Great Army.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.4.202

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