Russian poets during the reign of Alexander I widely employed images and stories from Old Testament Scriptures to describe the ongoing wars with Napoleon, especially regarding the invasion of 1812. Their ideas are collected in a body of patriotic literature, which has received little attention for its literary merits but provides insight into the contemporary climate of opinion and the ways in which Russians responded to the French Revolution and Napoleon. Across Europe, other writers and intellectuals exhibited millenarian tendencies, seeking a renewed world with the old order swept away. While Russian writers exhibited similar concerns with finding a way to regenerate the decadent European world, they did so by appealing to their own experience as expiation for Europe’s sins. This study argues that the Napoleonic Wars catalyzed the development of Romantic Nationalism and the development of a messianic national myth, which arose primarily in Moscow after its destruction in 1812.
A.N. Pypin, Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie pri Aleksandre I (Petrograd: Ogn’, 1916), 295ff.; A.K. Dzhivelegov et al., eds., Otechestvennaia voina 1812 goda i russkoe obshchestvo, 7 vols. (Moscow: Sytin, 1911–12).
Daniel Rowland, “Moscow – the Third Rome or the New Israel?”Russian Review55 (Oct 1996): 591–614; David Goldfrank, ed. and trans., Nil Sorsky: The Authentic Writings (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Studies, no. 221, 2008), 8.
Matvei Avramov, “Moskva, oplakivaiiushchaia bedstviia svoi, nanesennyia ei v 1812 godu rukoiu zhestokago i zlochestivago vraga, i vmeste uteshaiushchaia strazhdushchikh synov svoiikh,” in Sobranie 1812, 2: 78.
James Class, “Russian Messianism during the Napoleonic Wars” (PhD diss., Georgetown, 2004), chapters 5 and 7; James Class, “A Romantic Visionary Among the Orthodox: Archbishop Avgustin and Russian Messianism in the Napoleonic Wars,”St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly55, no. 4 (2011): 381–404.