Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Battle of Borodino

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino. On 7th September 1812 (or 26th August if one went by the Russian calendar then in use) Napoleon's advance through Russia with his Grand Army was halted at Borodino, a village 60 miles to the west of Moscow. The battle was immense - 122 000 men on the Russian side against 124 000 French troops. It lasted for hours and there were heavy casualties. Although the Russians were beaten they were not completely defeated and Napoleon later said of the encounter: "The French showed themselves to be worthy victors and the Russians can rightly call themselves invincible."

Napoleon marched on Moscow but the city refused to surrender. By now the French troops were far from their supply lines, starving and exhausted, with deteriorating morale. In October the French began a retreat from Moscow that was to prove a humiliating disaster. Seventy years later Tchaikovsky commemorated the French defeat in his 1812 Overture that celebrated this famous Russian victory.

My first introduction to this period of Russian history happened when, in my teens, I read the "Russian Regencies" of Dinah Dean. Both Flight from the Eagle and The Eagle's Fate were set against the French invasion of Russia and they enthralled me. I sought out all Dinah Dean's other books and was very upset when later I lost some of them in a house move. The remaining ones are on my keeper shelf. Did you read and enjoy Dinah Dean's Russian series? If so, which book was your favourite?


Sarah Mallory said...

Thanks for reminding us of this, Nicola.

I remember this battle from War & Peace.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Hooray! Great to come across another Dinah Dean fan. Her 'Tatya's Story' is one of my favourite comfort reads.

Nicola Cornick said...

That was one of my favourites too, Elizabeth. I was very sorry when I lost it im the move. Gorgeous hero!

Alison said...

I'd completely forgotten about those books - I loved them years ago, will have to buy them again.

Stephen said...

If the French truly believed that they had won at Borodino, they'd have named a Metro station after it (as they did with Austerlitz, IĆ©na and Bir Hakeim to name but three).

Michelle Wood said...

I've come to this item far too late, alas. I too love Dinah Dean. Many years ago I discovered her Jane Hunt book, The Green Gallant that loosely fitted into the Russian series.
Her later books were English set in much earlier periods, but just as charming and warm-hearted.
A real shame that her last book, Iron and Amber only was published in Germany. No translation!
I was very saddened when she died in June, 2009.