Photo credit: Moscow Kremlin Museums
The exhibition The Kremlin in 1812: War and Peace that has been staged in the Moscow Kremlin’s Armoury – the treasure-house of Russian tsars – will run from October 4 through January 10.
This exhibition provides information about the efforts that were made to save the priceless exhibits during Napoleon’s invasion, when Moscow was surrendered to Napoleon’ troops.
The Armoury is the first public museum of Moscow. In 1806 Emperor Alexander I of Russia signed a decree to set up the Armoury to keep national treasures, including tsars’ regalia, historical relics, and sacred things there. The construction of the building on the Kremlin’s territory for this purpose was completed in 1812. Parallel with this, work was done to select the exhibits for the Armoury, Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums Yelena Gagarina says.
"It required 6 years to create the inventories and to classify the monuments. When the came to move to the new building this was impossible to realize because information appeared that Napoleon was on his way to Moscow. It was necessary to immediately evacuate the treasures from the Kremlin’s territory."
It was exactly that dramatic page that marked the beginning of the history of the Russian Armoury. Packaging work started after it became known that the French troops had entered Smolensk, the key town on Russia’s western border. More than 150 carts and wagons were needed to take away both the exhibits and documents. When all of them reached Kolomna near Moscow, they were loaded on ships to be transported to Nizhny Novgorod in the Volga Region.
Meanwhile, fires started in Moscow that was surrendered to the French troops. Historians are still involved in the heated debates about who was to blame for the then fires: the Russians or the French. The exhibition in Moscow offers proof in favour of none of these versions… And still, among the items on display is the English watch that belonged to the adjutant of the Moscow governor – Lieutenant Obreskov. According to family legend, it gave a signal to numerous acts of arson in Moscow. The city was burned down to ashes but the Kremlin survived. However, serious damage was done to it because the French turned its palaces and churches into storehouses and stables. Napoleon received no response from Russia to his proposal for peace, but leaving Moscow he ordered the destruction of the Kremlin. Fortunately, his order was not carried out. Nearly one year passed before the collections of the Russian Armoury returned to Moscow, the exhibition’s curator Viktoriya Pavlenko says.
"After the French troops left Moscow, the Armoury’s new building that was built shortly before the war – by 1813 was restored, and the Armoury’s valuables returned to the Kremlin."
The conduct of the Russian troops that defeated Napoleon’s army and entered Paris was different compared with the conduct of the French troops in Moscow. On display at the exhibition is a weapon set that the Paris residents gave General von der Osten-Sacken as a present, who in 1814 was appointed the governor of Paris, as a sign of gratitude for nobility and quietness displayed by the Russian troops.
© The Voice of Russia. 06 October, 2012