Russia celebrates 200th anniversary of 1812 Patriotic war with Napoleon Bonaparte

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This year Russia celebrates the 200th anniversary of the victory in the war of 1812 – victory, which became not only a part of Russian history, but also of Russian culture.

On December 25, 1812 Emperor Alexander I issued the manifesto “On thanksgiving to God for the Liberation of Russia from the Enemy Invasion”.

St Petersburg has a lot of monuments dedicated to that war. Among them are monuments to:

Kutuzov and Barclay deTolly in front of the Kazan Cathedral.

The Narva Gate, the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace and the Alexander Column. There is also a monument to Bagration unveiled this September behind the Youth Theatre. Up until 1917 the Christmas holiday had been celebrated in Russia as a national day of victory. Annual prayer services and solemn ceremonies were held in the Winter Palace.

This year, it was decided to revive a celebration: as in old days, the ceremony (music, banners, military uniforms) would be solemn and spectacular and will take place on the Grand Staircase of the General Staff Building (which is a part of The State Hermitage Museum and situated on Palace Square).

This year many museums have opened exhibitions devoted to that glorious victory.

One example of such an exhibition is “The Secret War of the Twelfth Year” in the Museum-of-Russian-political-history. There was no organized military intelligence in the Russian state before the beginning of the XIX century. Ambassadors and diplomats often doubled as spies; occasionally useful information was delivered by individuals, but there was no organization. This was one of the causes for the defeat Russia and its Allies suffered in the first battles with Napoleonic wars. But in 1810 Mikhail Barclay de Tolly became The War Minister; to him Russia owes foundation of the first special agency, whose task was to coordinate the activities of intelligence, the so called “Secret Expedition with the Minister of war”. With the emergence of this new office, intelligence and counterintelligence became a unified leadership.

An exhibition about Mikhail Kutuzov – commander-in-chief of Russian troops in the war with Napoleon opened at the Military Museum of Artillery. Details and entertaining notes – about the family history of the future commander, his childhood, his pedagogical talent (as a math’s teacher!!), his statesmanship and valor which he exemplifies for many people. Kutuzov was one of the most well educated people Russia in his life time, knowing many languages (Polish, Turkish, Tatar, Italian and Latin). He knew French so well that famous French writer Germaine de Stael once said that he spoke French like a true Parisian, certainly much better than the Corsican Bonaparte.