Way back in 1812 there was a fire in the city of Moscow which almost destroyed it entirely. The fire broke out and raged so hard that it wiped out at least 3 quarters of this incredible city, and evidence of that fire can still be seen today. This was however a defensive tactic carried out by the Russians, which was a bold move indeed. As to whether or not the move was wise remains to be seen, but it was very much a last ditch attempt to win the Battle of Borodino.
Causes of the Blaze
The fire took place on the day when Russian troops and most of the city’s residents abandoned Moscow and Napoleon’s vanguard troops entered the city following the Battle of Borodino. It was Count Rostopchin who gave the orders for the city and its most iconic buildings such as the Kremlin and other major buildings to be set on fire. This order included churches and monasteries.
Interestingly enough this was not the major cause of the damage from the fire. It was in fact the French army who would appeared to have caused most of the smaller, separate fires which did in fact cause the majority of the damage.
References and Damage
Tolstoy, in the novel War and Peace, mentions that the fire was not deliberately set, by either side, but rather that it was the natural result of placing a deserted and mostly wooden city in the hands of invading troops.
The damage to the city was massive and there were almost 10,000 homes lost, over 8,000 businesses which burned to the ground, over 120 churches lost and closest estimations are that 12,000 lives were lost, although that is solely based on the number of bodies retrieved.
The city would take over a decade to repair and even moving into the 20th Century there was clear evidence of areas which were in desperate need of repair, caused by the initial fires back in the start of the 19th Century.
Much like London, Moscow’s fire was certainly one to remember.