Sunday, September 18, 2011

1812 Moscow Fire Ends

‘…The fire continued to triumph unopposed, and consumed in a few days what it had cost centuries to raise. "Palaces and temples," says a Russian author, "monuments of art, and miracles of luxury, the remains of ages which had past away, and those which had been the creation of yesterday; the tombs of ancestors, and the nursery-cradles of the present generation, were indiscriminately destroyed. Nothing was left of Moscow save the remembrance of the city, and the deep resolution to avenge its fall." (Karamzin)
The fire raged till the 19th with unabated violence, and then began to slacken for want of fuel. It is said, four-fifths of this great city were laid in ruins.
On the 20th, Buonaparte returned to the Kremlin; and as if in defiance of the terrible scene which he had witnessed, took measures as if he were disposed to make Moscow his residence for some time. He even caused a theatre to be fitted up, and plays to be acted by performers sent from Paris, to show perhaps that it was not in the most terrible of elements to overawe his spirit, or interrupt his usual habits of life. In the same style of indifference or affectation, a set of very precise regulations respecting the Theatre Francais was drawn up by the Emperor amid the ruins of Moscow. He was not superior to the affectation of choosing distant places and foreign capitals for the date of domestic and trifling ordinances. It gave the Emperor an air of ubiquity, to issue rules for a Parisian theatre from the Kremlin. It had already been prophesied that he would sacrifice his army to have the pleasure of dating a decree from Moscow.
The conflagration of Moscow was so complete in its devastation; so important in its consequences j so critical in the moment of its commencement, that almost all the eye-witnesses have imputed it to a sublime, yet almost horrible exertion of patriotic decision on the part of the Russians, their government, and, in particular of the governor, Rostopchin. Nor has the positive denial of Count Rostopchin himself diminished the general conviction that the fire was directed by him. All the French officers continue to this day to ascribe the conflagration to persons whom he had employed…’
The text above is from Sir Walter Scott’s “The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte”.  Current dating of the fire’s end is September 18, 1812.

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