COLLECTION OF REVIEWS AND ABSTRACTS: Patriotic War of 1812 in Contemporary Historiography (in Russian)

Otechestvennaia voina 1812 goda v sovremennoi istoriografii: Sbornik obzorov i referatov, ed. O. V. Bol’shakova (Moscow, 2012).

The text of the collection (PDF, 1 MB, in Russian).



Abstract: Charles Esdaile, Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803–1815 (London; New York: Allen Lane, 2007)

Abstract: D. Lieven, Russia against Napoleon: the True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace (New York: Viking, 2010)

Abstract: A. Castelot, The Russian Campaign [A. Castelot, La campagne russe (Paris: Perrin, 2002)]

Oksana V. Babenko, The Russian Campaign of Napoleon I in Polish Historiography (Joint abstract)

Abstract: N. A. Troitskii, Alexander I Against Napoleon [N. A. Troitskii, Aleksandr I protiv Napoleona (Moscow: Iauza: Eksmo, 2007)]

Abstract: V. M. Bezotosnyi, Intelligence and Parties’ Plans in 1812 [V. M. Bezotosnyi, Razvedka i plany storon v 1812 godu (Moscow: Rossiiskaia politicheskaia entsiklopediia, 2005)]

Abstract: A. I. Popov, The Grande Armée in Russia. Pursuing a Mirage [A. I. Popov, Velikaia armiia v Rossii. Pogonia za mirazhom (Samara: NTTs, 2002)]

Oksana V. Babenko, The Fatherland War of 1812 in Works of L. L. Ivchenko (Joint abstract)

Abstract: I. Iu. Lapina, Russian Territorial Militia in 1812–1814 [I. Iu. Lapina, Zemskoe opolchenie Rossii 1812–1814 godov (Saint Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo arkhitekturno-stroitel’nogo universiteta, 2007)]

Abstract: S. V. Belousov, Provincial Society and the Fatherland War of 1812 (Evidence from Middle Volga Region) [S. V. Belousov, Provintsial’noe obshchestvo i Otechestvennaia voina 1812 goda (po materialam Srednego Povolzh’ia (Penza: PGPU, 2007)]

Abstract: Ralph Ashby, Napoleon against Great Odds: The Emperor and the Defenders of France, 1814 (Santa Barbara, Denver; Oxford: Praeger, 2010)

Abstract: Andrew Roberts, Waterloo June 18, 1815: The Battle for Modern Europe (New York; London, etc.: Harper Collins, 2005)

Abstract: David King, Vienna, 1814 : How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna (New York : Harmony Books, 2008)

Abstract: Karl J. Mayer, Napoleon’s Soldiers: Everyday Life in the Grande Armée [Karl J. Mayer, Napoleons Soldaten: Alltag in der Grande Armée (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 2008)]

Julia V. Dunaeva, Female Faces of the Napoleonic Wars (Joint abstract)

Ol’ga V. Bol’shakova, 1812 and Russian National Self-Consciousness: Anglophone Historiography (Review article)

Abstract: Napoleonic Wars on Mental Maps of Europe: Historical Consciousness and Literary Myths [Napoleonovskie voiny na mental’nykh kartakh Evropy: Istoricheskoe soznanie i literaturnye mify, ed. N. M. Velikaia and E. D. Gal’tsova (Moscow: Kliuch-Ts, 2011)]

Abstract: Richard Stites, Decembrists with a Spanish Accent, in Kritika 12, no. 1 (2011): 5–23


We offer our readers a collection, prepared by the forces of the Department of History of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences of Russian Academy of Sciences, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. It seeks to give the slice of modern historiography, Russian and Western, with the twofold aim. On the one hand, the collection is designed to help the reader to get an idea of the topics and trends of modern studies of this important historical event, on the other—it contains a wealth of factual material that should be useful for anyone interested in history.

The War of 1812 has left an impressive mark in the history and culture of Russia. For two centuries it had been the subject of many volumes of historical and literary works, numerous paintings, museum exhibitions, films and even computer games. Although there were a great number of various wars in Russian history, “the twelfth year storm” stands out first of all for its images, familiar to everyone on the Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, appear in the public mind again and again during the turmoil. They embody the examples and samples of Russian patriotism that resonate in all layers of the population.

That is why the anniversaries of the French invasion of Russia were always celebrated throughout the country: celebrating its century in 1912, became an important social event, and to the 150th anniversary, the opening of such important monuments was timed as the Borodino Panorama in Moscow. Anniversaries stimulated the development of historical research as well. In 1912, seven-volume The War of 1812 and the Russian society was published which was attended by many of the leading historians of the time. 50 years later, in 1962, Soviet historiography was enriched by a number of interesting studies and publications of documents prepared for the nationwide anniversary. However, it was then that in the Soviet historical science, a model for studying the War of 1812 was established which was based on the ideology of the Cold War. The Iron Curtain by the time not only separated the Soviet scientific community from the international one, but also divided the Soviet researchers themselves; as a result, the war of 1812 was studied by specialists on the history of the USSR, while such topics as the War of the Third Coalition, foreign campaigns of the Russian army in 1813–14, the Congress of Vienna, became the prerogative of specialists in world history.

This bias is starting to be overcome, especially in Western historiography, which is no longer inclined to regard Russia in isolation, as something unique and dangerous. For Western scholars who study the “revolutionary era” in Europe and America, 1780s—1820s, the Russian Campaign is an important, but relatively poorly studied episode. However, after the end of the Cold War in the interpretations of Western historians, changes could be observed toward a more balanced and objective evaluations, recognition of the importance of the Russian Campaign for the course of the Napoleonic Wars as a whole.

In the new millennium, much more active study of the history of the Napoleonic era in Europe began. Perhaps we can talk about the beginning of a new phase of research on this topic, which is characterized by a high level of international cooperation. In modern research, much attention is given to Russia as well, as, for example, in the monograph of the British historian Charles Esdaile on the history of the Napoleonic Wars (see abstract prepared by Ol’ga V. Bol’shakova). This material opens the collection and places the Patriotic War of 1812 in the European context.

An extensive summary of the book by D. Lieven, a professor at the London School of Economics (the author of the abstract is Michael M. Mints), is entirely devoted to Russia and its struggle with Napoleon. The War of 1812 is presented in the text as a component part of a long historical process, as the culmination of the Napoleonic Wars.

French historiography of the campaign in 1812 was known for its anti-Russian position, but in the 1990s there was a tendency to revise one-sided views. An example of such a re-evaluation is presented in a library-research paper written by Tatiana M. Fadeeva on the book by French journalist, historian and writer A. Castelot. Polish historiography of the Russian Campaign, still not entirely free from secular bias against Russia, is reflected in the joint abstract written by Oksana V. Babenko.

Important episodes of Napoleonic Wars, not enough known for Russian readers, are highlighted in library-research papers written by Sergei V. Bespalov and Victor M. Shevyrin which address the final stage of the battle in Europe in 1814–15. A number of foreign policy issues is reflected in abstracts that deal with the Russian intelligence, comparative biographies of two emperors Napoleon and Alexander, and, finally, the ending event of the Napoleonic Wars’ era—the Congress of Vienna and the creation of the Holy Alliance (papers by Vadim S. Konovalov and Julia V. Dunaeva).

Considerable attention in Russian and Western historiography is payed to the study of everyday life in both the Russian, and Napoleon’s armies (abstracts by Oksana Babenko and Michael Mints). “Female face” of Napoleonic Wars is a topic of a joint abstract written by Julia Dunaeva.

New for the post-Soviet historiography aspect in the study of the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars in general is special attention to memory and mythology. The first sign in this respect was the international conference held in the Russian State University for the Humanities in 2011 (an abstract of its proceedings is submitted by Irina E. Eman). Another event which is important for further development of international cooperation in the investigation of this subject was the conference “After the storm. 1812 in the collective memory of Russia and Europe,” organized by the German Historical Institute in Moscow (May 2012). The role of war in 1812 in the formation of Russian national identity is the topic of a review of English literature, written by Ol’ga Bol’shakova.

The collection is concluded with a library-research paper devoted to the Decembrists’ movement, which is discussed in a posthumously published article by American historian Richard Stites in the European context, as a legacy of the Napoleonic Wars.

Ol’ga V. Bol’shakova

A collection of reviews and library-research papers, “Fatherland War of 1812 in Modern Historiography”, has been published

A new collection of reviews and library-research papers, Fatherland War of 1812 in Modern Historiography (in Russian), prepared by our Department, has been published. You can buy it, for example, here: (70 rubles).

I am going to post it here as soon as possible, my own materials are already posted.

Continue reading ‘A collection of reviews and library-research papers, “Fatherland War of 1812 in Modern Historiography”, has been published’ »