The horrors of war: representations of violence in European, oriental, and "patriotic" wars.
Sensitivity to the horrors of war is a variable defined, on the one hand, by the historically changing character of warfare and, on the other, by the individual's idea of the acceptable forms of violence in war. Although war suspends the existing political and social order, it is often conducted in accordance with certain "rules"--for example, feudal warfare based on notions of aristocratic honor or 20th-century international conventions prohibiting the use of poison gas and explosive bullets. The boundary between acceptable and unacceptable forms of violence is defined in different ways by different social groups and societies, often as a function of the timing of their encounters with modernity. The modern mind has an ambiguous attitude toward war. It exhibits a mounting uneasiness about the inhumanity of war, yet may succumb to the temptation of the idea of total war as a means to end all such warfare. (1) As narrating subjects become more sensitive to the "horrors of war," they sometimes employ elaborate discursive strategies to overcome their potentially traumatic influence and to continue fighting. Whereas accounts of "horrors" reveal the increasingly unsettling character of warfare, the discursive treatment of these horrors can make the continuation of war possible.
Over the course of 18th- and early 19th-century European campaigns, tsarist officers adopted elements of the code of conduct characteristic of the ancien regime--a set of unwritten principles that channeled violence and minimized the destructive impact of war on civilian populations. (2) At the same time, a series of campaigns against Ottoman Turkey confronted the tsarist officers with the "barbarities" of oriental warfare, which further strengthened their commitment to the "rules" of "regular" war. The European and Turkish campaigns constituted two alternative varieties of Russian war experience that were taking shape by the time of what became known as the Patriotic War of 1812. Napoleon's invasion was the first war in centuries to affect the Russian interior; it accordingly led to an unprecedented mobilization of society beyond the military class. It forced the rationalistic sensibilities of the educated Russians to confront the horrors of the "first total war," which called into question the wisdom of ancien regime warfare and challenged the earlier perception of the civilian population as neutral and uninvolved.
Based on Russian memoirs and diaries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the present article discusses three major aspects of contemporary war experience and analyzes discursive techniques that helped the tsarist officers deal with the horrors of war. First, I highlight the role of the European campaigns of the Russian army in the emergence of the military intelligentsia, who became committed to the "rules" of "regular" warfare and condemned transgressions of these rules by their own soldiers. Next, I analyze the construction of the Ottomans as an oriental "Other," whose way of fighting Russian officers found both spectacular and barbarous. Finally, it explores Russian memoirs and diaries of the War of 1812, in which portrayals of unacceptable forms of violence both sustained and suspended the discourse of patriotic struggle against unprecedented foreign invasion. The article argues that the reaction of Russian officers to the horrors of European, oriental, and patriotic war was twofold. On the one hand, they denounced the ignoble forms of violence associated with lack of restraint in combat. On the other hand, they sought to render the horrors of combat picturesque to numb their traumatic impact. I conclude with some general observations on moral disavowal and aestheticization as two basic approaches to the horrors of war.
"Horrors" of European Warfare
By 1812, Russians had acquired substantial experience in European warfare. The military modernization of Russia that accelerated toward the end of the 17th century aimed at making the country capable of meeting the challenge of technologically more advanced Western powers. Although certain characteristics of the post-Petrine army separated it from its European counterparts, the Russian officer corps, much like the upper classes of Russian society more generally, increasingly adopted a Western frame of reference. (3) According to the French royalist emigre in Russian service A. F. Langeron, in the 15 years that separated the wars of Catherine the Great from those of Alexander I, "education made great progress in Russia." The quality of Russian officers during the reign of Alexander I "has significantly risen," and the great gap that had previously existed between elite units and line regiments was reduced. (4)
Wars in Europe contributed to this educational progress and expanded Russian officers' spheres of interest. The significance of the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 in Russian intellectual life is well known. These, however, were only the last in a series of incidents in which the Russian army ventured beyond the western border of the empire in the 18th and early 19th centuries, all of which advanced Westernization among the Russian officer corps. Thus A. T. Bolotov, a veteran of the Seven Years War (1756-63), rejoiced at the prospect of spending the summer of 1758 in Konigsberg, a "big and glorious foreign German city" filled with "learned people, libraries, and bookshops." On arriving there, he spent hours "satisfying his curiosity" for microscopes, magnifying glasses, prisms, and the camera obscura. (5) With his thirst for books and scientific curiosities, Bolotov undoubtedly appeared something of a maverick to his fellow officers, who devoted their time to Konigsberg's billiard rooms and brothels. (6) Nevertheless, by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, military men with such cultural and scientific interests were already less rare in the Russian army.
The positive development that Langeron attributed to the Russian officer corps in the early 19th century is confirmed by the exponential increase in the number of Russian military diarists and memoirists. Whereas Bolotov's writings constitute one of a precious few firsthand accounts of Russia's 18thcentury wars, memoirs of the Napoleonic Wars number in the hundreds. Although many of them focus on strictly military issues, a growing number of authors followed Bolotov's lead in devoting attention to moral reasoning or observations of foreign societies and cultures, which made their accounts similar to travel narratives. (7) Thus the memoirs of the grenadier officer M. M. Petrov recount his fascination for Germany and include, among other things, an account of his visit to Luther's famous abode in Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, whose steep slopes Petrov braved despite a recent wound. (8) Similarly, parts of F. N. Glinka's Letters of a Russian Officer or A. I. Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii's memoirs acquire the character of a tourist travelogue. In these writings, descriptions of art collections or encounters with the foreign cultural and scientific luminaries occupy as much place as accounts of battles. (9)
Russian diarists and memoirists of the Napoleonic Wars were the first representatives of the military intelligentsia that had its roots in the 18thcentury nobility and came of age by 1812. (10) Strongly patriotic, these individuals at the same time revealed a capacity for independent judgment about the Russian army, their leaders, their fellow officers, and the qualities and behavior of their soldiers. The European campaigns of the Russian army, particularly those of the Napoleonic period, constituted the formative experience of such enlightened military men. Encounters with allied and enemy armies provided them with a frame of reference and furnished behavioral and institutional models for emulation.
These models emerged in Europe toward the end of the early modern period and reflected the ongoing subordination of fighting bodies to the dictates of rationalistic military art. The condemnation of extreme forms of physical violence was the obverse side of the transformation of soldierly bodies into automata obeying the commands of their officers. Increasingly sophisticated maneuvering, fewer battles, and attempts to minimize the destructiveness of war for the civilian population constituted other aspects of the 18th-century sublimation of warfare. (11) The desire of educated Russians to appear European explains their uneasiness with practices of their troops that deviated from contemporary notions of "regular war" and could nourish portrayals of Russia as Asiatic and barbaric. As a result, Russian military memoirs of the age demonstrate a distinct commitment to humane treatment of civilians and prisoners of war (POWs), while condemning transgressions on the part of Cossacks and soldiers both on and off the battlefield.
The Seven Years War led to the first manifestations of Russian officers' commitment to the principles of restrained warfare. (12) Bolotov was scandalized by Cossacks' "acts of destruction, incendiaries, and plunder," their "atrocities and robberies," and the "utter liberties and insults taken with respect to women," which were "contrary to all the rules of war." (13) According to another veteran of the Prussian campaign, P. A. Rumiantsev, Russians "quickly realized how harmful it was for [themselves] to burn and devastate the region that served as the theater of war." (14) Major-General Charles de Warnery, who spent 30 years in Russian service, also argued that the Seven Years War had a civilizing impact on not only Russian officers but the soldiers as well. The troops no longer believed that "food, salvation, and happiness could be found only in Russia and that only [Russians] were human beings." (15) In Warnery's view, this progress took place in just a few years. At the battle of Gross-Jagersdorf in 1757, Russian soldiers did not spare the wounded Prussians, and the officers "could do nothing about it without exposing themselves to the soldiers' brutality." By the end of the war, after several years in Prussia, "their hatred of the enemy gave way to admiration, and they no longer mistreated the prisoners whom they captured." (16)
By the beginning of the 19th century, such sensibilities became even stronger and more widespread in view of the changes in the Russian officer corps mentioned above. A growing number of Russian military diarists and memoirists now revealed a commitment to the rules of civilized warfare. At the same time, they were concerned about how violations of these rules by Russian soldiers and auxiliaries might affect international perceptions of their country. (17) Sharing this sensitivity, Russian Commander-in-Chief M. I. Kutuzov ordered the army not to plunder or mistreat the population as it crossed the western border of the Russian Empire in December 1812. (18) So, too, did the commander of the Russian occupation corps in France in 1815-18, M. S. Vorontsov, whose efforts to maintain discipline contributed to the generally clean record of relations between his soldiers and the local population. (19)
Such efforts were not the only reason for the more or less respectable behavior of Russian line troops, if not Russian auxiliaries, during early 19thcentury European campaigns. Once Russian soldiers crossed the western border of the empire, they were better fed than they were inside Russia. Improved diets obtained from the local population improved the health of the Russian troops and ultimately contributed to their orderliness. Colonel A. K. Karpov wrote that as long as troops remained in their peacetime quarters in Russia, "there were many drunkards, thieves, and brawlers." But "all of that abated abroad without the introduction of even the smallest punishment. The soldier knows that he will obtain good food and a glass of vodka and thus has less incentive to misbehave." (20) In Karpovs testimony, the Russian troops abroad were surprisingly sober and did not steal much, yet these bad habits came back with the army's return to Russia in 1814. At home, facing a poorer diet and more rigid discipline, soldiers would pick fights with peasants and even desert. (21)
The military memoirs of 1813-14 portray interactions between the Russian army and European civilians in rather bright colors, yet both sides clearly remain preoccupied with their relationship. On entering the Duchy of Warsaw, the Russian army, in the words of Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "maintained the greatest possible order." Like his friend F. N. Glinka, Mikhailovskii noted the lukewarm or even hostile attitude of the local Poles, but attributed it exclusively to their "deeply entrenched feelings about us." (22) The image of Cossack atrocities was indeed deeply rooted among foreigners. Fearful of the repetition of such atrocities, the Prussians in 1813 sought to present themselves as Russian allies and separate themselves from the Poles, whom they expected to be targets of Russian vengeance. (23) As a result, at the westernmost extreme of the Duchy of Warsaw, Mikhailovskii encountered a signpost that read in Russian: "This is the Prussian border." Similarly, the inhabitants of Eisenach and other Saxon lands would write on their houses "This is the land of Maria Pavlovna." (24) By evoking the name of the Romanov wife of the duke of Weimar, they apparently sought to prevent the vanguard Cossack detachments of Count M. I. Platov from devastating their properties. Both incidents reveal the power of a stereotype that the famous partisan leader D. V. Davydov clearly enjoyed upsetting when he addressed with "polite albeit somewhat commonplace French phases" the deputies of the city of Dresden who had been frightened by his Cossack clothes and thick beard. (25)
Russian commanders and officers soon realized the importance of managing public relations during the war. At the beginning of the Seven Years War, Bolotov could only regret the exploitation of Cossack atrocities in Prussian propaganda, as a result of which "all the European peoples, having heard about such barbarities, started thinking that this was the habit of our entire army." (26) He was also much exasperated by the skill with which the Prussian press turned the Prussian army's defeat at Gross-Jagersdorf into a paper victory, although he could do little about it. Half a century later, Russian commanders recognized that controlling representations of battles was as important as winning them. (27) In 1813, Alexander I awarded to P. Kh. Wittgenstein the Order of St. Andrew for the lost battle of Lutzen, whereupon the Russian headquarters reported a victory. In fact, the Russians engaged Napoleon in a war of bulletins as early as October 1812 and continued it after their army crossed the western border of the empire. (28) To that end, Kutuzov employed Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii to write communiques in Russian, German, and French about military activities "to portray them in a true light." (29)
At the same time, even the best management of public relations could not eliminate all the traumatic aspects of war, particularly those related to violence in combat. Here again, the experience of European campaigns was important, as it provided Westernized Russian officers with representational techniques of aestheticization or moralization, which served to lessen the psychological impact of shocking eruptions of violence on the battlefield. The former strategy can be found in Bolotovs account of the battle of Gross-Jagersdorf in 1757. Stationed on a hill that commanded the view of the entire battlefield, Bolotov could observe the "bloody spectacle" of this battle, which he described as curious and striking. (30) From his "blissful" vantage point, the young Russian officer observed the chaos that reigned behind the Prussian and Russian lines, where orderlies galloped hither and thither, fresh soldiers hurried to replace the wounded, and rescue teams dragged dead officers away. A Russian battery located at the foot of Bolotovs hill provided him with a "special kind of military entertainment." The memoirist "could not rejoice enough" as Russian cannonballs and explosives opened "broad thoroughfares" in the Prussian front line and wreaked havoc behind it. Yet none of this was as "entertaining" as a Russian howitzer bomb that dispersed a group of Prussian officers who were watching the battle from the opposite hill. "Was it not sheer pleasure," asked Bolotov, "to amuse ourselves with this picture at a time when others died and perished?" (31)
Bolotov's description falls squarely within the aesthetic category of the sublime, which was at the center of 18th-century literary and philosophical debates. (32) Originally applied to natural landscapes, the notion of the sublime gradually expanded to designate any awe-inspiring yet delightful sight, object, or phenomenon that challenged the representative capacities of language and art by virtue of its incommensurability with the viewer. (33) Maintaining the right distance from the phenomenon in question was key to experiencing the sublime: one had to be sufficiently close to burning lava or a raging waterfall to comprehend the full scale of the danger it represented but far enough not to be physically affected by its destructive power. (34) This combination of manifest peril and security that rendered otherwise fearful natural phenomena enjoyable also stood behind the aestheticization of war's horrors. One finds in military diaries and memoirs the same tension between the deadliness of the battle and the security of the narrator, who either remained physically uninvolved in the ordeal (as did Bolotov for most of the battle of Gross-Jagersdorf) or else reviewed it from a distance of several days or years (as all military diarists and memoirists did). This spatial or temporal distance from horrors made possible the "delight of seeing that J. Glenn Gray identifies as an aspect of the "enduring appeal of the battle" alongside the delights of comradeship and destruction. The very act of (re)viewing war's horrors served as proof of one's exemption from the fate of those who suffered and died. (35)
Descriptions of the battlefields after the fighting constituted the paradigmatic case of engaging with war's horrors. The very existence of such descriptions illustrates how the act of (re)viewing helped reduce the traumatic impact of the war on the individual. At first, the sight of the mauled corpses of the Prussian infantrymen at Gross-Jagersdorf made Bolotov shudder: "One was lying with his head or part of it blown off, the second lacked an arm or a leg, the third had his side open or was cut in two." (36) Yet however terrible this sight was, each dead man lying on the ground offered a picture of some kind." (37) Similarly, in his account of the aftermath of the battle of Krems in 1805, F. N. Glinka proceeds from the shocking sight of piles of corpses to the description of poses adopted by particular fallen soldiers: "One holds his crushed head with his hand, another has pressed his hand against his chest, from which the life has drained together with his blood. (38) This individualization seems to have been a generic device employed by the diarists and memoirists to represent the shocking mass of dead bodies crushed by cavalry and cannonballs. Each time, this technique helped turn sheer horror into spectacle--one whose viewer was exempt from the pain that others had manifestly experienced.
Aestheticization lessend the unsettling aspect of the violence by putting distance between the violent action and the narrating subject. Mauled bodies, however horrible and repulsive in their appearance, were ultimately the passive absorbers of violence, not its perpetrators. By contrast, moral restraint rather than aesthetic distancing was required to tame the active violence contained within the fighting soldier himself. An example of moral restraint at work can be found in M. M. Petrov's account of the battle of Preussisch-Eylau of 1807. As Bolotov before him, Petrov also wrote about the "terrible bonfires of the enemy bodies piling up in the valley before the city." Yet unlike Bolotov, who was mostly an observer of his battle, Petrov fought in the very midst of one of the most intense encounters of the entire Napoleonic period, which definitely helped build the experience of the "first total war." Amid the carnage at Preussisch-Eylau, Petrov "carried out the vengeance" of his "hardened heart" together with the soldiers of his company, "waging an unheard-of war in the snows of a northern country." The author then hurries to reduce the impression of personal ferocity by evoking sentimental compassion for the unfortunate enemy: "[My] battle rage soon came to an end and gave way to heartfelt sorrow when the enraged soldiers started ripping apart the bonfires of the corpses with their bayonets in the hope of finding living Frenchmen below." (39) Like some other Russian officers of the time, Petrov contrasted his compassion toward suffering enemies with the soldiers' unbridled cruelty toward them to assure himself and his readers of his own capacity for self-restraint.
The European campaigns of the Russian army were thus an exercise in "war with restraint," at least as far as the Russian military intelligentsia was concerned. Despite revolutionary changes in the nature of warfare in the post-1789 period, several factors explain why this essentially 18th-century phenomenon lasted into the first decades of the 19th century. As mentioned above, educated Russians sought to avoid types of warfare that could make Russia appear Asiatic and barbaric. Even more important was Russia's delayed military and cultural Westernization. The best Russian officers were still mastering the principles of "war with restraint" at a time when the French were consciously pushing warfare to its political and existential limits to "end all wars." It would take the experience of the Patriotic War for Russia to catch up, as we shall see after first considering another important facet of Russia's war experience: its campaigns against the Ottoman Empire.
The adoption of European army organization and tactics constituted the most basic element of Russia's 18th-century military Westernization. The practical consequences of this process were nowhere more visible than in Russia's numerous confrontations with the Ottoman Empire. The difference of timing between the Russian and the Ottoman military revolutions explains the dramatic change in the balance of power between these peripheral polities. (40) The Ottomans themselves recognized the role of European military art in Russia's success. Whereas at the beginning of the 18th century, they still believed that the Muscovites "lacked skill in the military art," by the mid-1700s, Ibrahim Muteferrika pointed to Petrine Russia as an example of successful imitation of European tactics and a model to follow. (41)
For their part, Russian commanders recognized the peculiarities of war with the Ottomans. Field Marshal Burkhard Christoph von Munnich argued that "although war has its rules, these rules are as different as the conditions in which war takes place." Thus, he continued, military actions against the Swedes cannot be exactly the same as those against the Turks and the Persians." (42) M. I. Kutozov advised against confronting the Turks "with the mass of the entire army as [one would] against European troops, since, by their nature, "the Turks are not enterprising enough to defeat our separate detachments by rapid movement of their combined forces." (43) Both Munnich and Kutuzov would agree with the artillery officer A. N. Pushkin, who suggested that in the wars against the Ottomans it was necessary "to act so that it could be possible to say that the ignorance and ferocity of Asians shatter against the art and steadfastness of Europeans." (44)
Reflection on tactics and strategy in the campaigns against the Ottoman Empire was not the only aspect of orientalization that helped substantiate Russia's European military identity. No less significant were accounts that focused on the way Ottoman forces looked and acted. The forces that encircled the Russian troops at Stalinesti during the Pruth campaign of Peter the Great fascinated one of the Russian commanders, the French soldier of fortune Jean Nicholas Moreau-de-Braze, by their "sunlit jazzy vestments, the glitter of weapons shining like diamonds, majestic headwear, and light enviable horses." Forming a semicircle around the Russian army, the Ottoman and Tatar troops offered an "ineffable picture," causing Moreau de Braze to conclude that "no army is more beautiful, majestic, and splendid than the Turkish one." (45) Even in the heat of battle, some Russians could not fail to appreciate the picturesque aspect of the Ottoman troops as they attacked in disordered ranks: "Their cries, the unfurled banners, and the brightness of their clothes offered a beautiful sight for the eyes and an unpleasant and frightening music for the ears," wrote the Russian military engineer Aleksei Martos of the Ottoman attack on Rushchuk in 1811. (46)
However flamboyant and erratic, the Ottomans were a challenging enemy. Long after Russians had proved their military superiority, some veterans of the Turkish campaigns still recognized in the Ottomans serious and formidable foes. Martos ridiculed those amateurs of the military art who, unlike himself, had never participated in Turkish campaigns yet thought that fighting Turks was easy because of their ignorance of military tactics and lack of good commanders. Pointing to bitter lessons that the Turks had given to various European powers, Martos spoke highly of their "ardent courage and spirit of unparalleled valor" and confessed, "from the very first time, one could not help feeling horror and shudder as one look[ed] at the ferocious enemy rushing on you with their banners and ensigns, which no Muslim ever abandons." (47)
The ferocity of the Ottoman attack did not exhaust the "horror and shudder" that the Russian military men experienced in their encounter with the oriental enemy. From the viewpoint of Westernized tsarist officers, a most important marker of the Ottomans was undoubtedly their (mis)treatment of the prisoners and the dead. A witness of the siege of Ochakov, R. M. Tsebrikov, attributed the difference between Russians and Ottomans in this respect to the benevolent influence of the Enlightenment or lack thereof: "Having been enlightened by philosophical reason, European nations ... are convinced that wretched victims who have escaped fire and sword should not feel their sad lot in captivity and therefore do not deprive them of subsistence. By contrast, the rude and ignorant Turk takes revenge on captured valiant soldiers by starving and abusing them." (48)
The opposition between "barbarous" Ottomans and "civilized Russians that emerges from this and similar passages was nonetheless compromised by the behavior of irregular forces on both sides. A participant in the war of 1768-74, the Livonian nobleman Georg Ernst von Strandman, tells of a Russian cavalry detachment which cut up 1,500 Budzhak Tatars and devastated their villages and tilt carts (kibitki), even though the Tatars had already sent deputies to negotiate their transfer to the sovereignty of the Russian empress. The Cossacks "committed the most repulsive cruelties and killed everyone they saw, including women and children," but were soon severely punished for the atrocities they had committed by a superior force of Tatars. (49)
From the late 18th century on, Russian memoirs contain concrete descriptions of the "barbarous" practices of Oriental warfare. One of the earliest illustrations can be found in Petr Levashev's account of his captivity. A secretary in the Russian embassy in Constantinople, Levashev was imprisoned in Yedikule in 1768 and soon found himself in the train of the grand vizier's army fighting the Russians in Moldavia. The diplomat reports 13 cut-off heads that the vizier's cavalry brought on pikes to the camp after a battle with the Russians. According to Levashev, a "great multitude of people were attracted by the spectacle of these heads from the camp and from the Bender fortress. Some would spit on them, others would curse the heads as if they could hear, still others would imitate the cries of the people whose heads are being severed, and from this everyone can see how blind and mean this people is" (koliko slepotstvuiushch i podl sei narod). (50)
Two decades later, in 1788, Tsebrikov reported the same practice from under the walls of Ochakov: "The ferocity of the Turks is not satisfied by killing with as much torture as possible. They outrage humanity by cutting off heads ... and impaling them on stakes along the city walls in order to take their beastly revenge on ... the most wonderful member of human body." (51)
Once again, though, the division between "barbarity" and "civilization" was not watertight. As Tsebrikov's account indicates, the former could contaminate the latter. When a successful Ottoman sortie from Ochakov carried away the head of a Russian general, the furious Russian commander-in-chief, G. A. Potemkin, ordered his subordinates to behead the Ottoman corpses that filled the moat and bring them to the Russian camp for display "These severed heads were carried around the camp and people would run up from all directions to see them and feel an aching abhorrence. The soldier would shout 'Storm!' The peasant would cry 'Infidels!' The civil official would say 'how disgusting,' and all would shudder and turn away quickly." (52)
Although the cut-off heads were not always Russian, the practice itself offended Westernized officers, whose writings constitute the vast majority of the accounts. Symbolizing the barbarity of oriental warfare, severed heads separated European and Europeanized military men not only from their "Asian" enemies but also from their own occasional "Asian" allies. In his memoirs of the war of 1806-12, A. F. Langeron tells about the ovation that the Wallachian auxiliaries (arnauts) offered the Russian general M. A. Miloradovich at the moment of his entry into Bucharest in 1807 after a bold operation that saved the Wallachian capital from devastation by the Ottoman forces. Having learned that the general was going to reside at the house of Prince Grigore Ghica, the Wallachians collected the heads of all the Turks that they had previously decapitated and arranged them along the main stairway, at the doors, and along the gallery and fixed a torch near each of them. (53) Accompanied by the arnauts on a triumphal evening procession down the streets of Bucharest, Miloradovich became elated when he saw the illumination in the distance. After entering the courtyard and realizing the true nature of the display, however, the valiant general momentarily fainted and, on recovering his senses, ordered that "this blood-stained palace" be thoroughly washed. (54)
The unsettling sight of a dismembered human body could be encountered in any modern war, but Westernized Russian officers were shocked by the fact their enemies would do with their own hands what otherwise was only the result of cannonballs hitting a military formation. The graphic descriptions of Ottomans severing the heads of their vanquished enemies in the midst of battle constituted the most horrible and, at the same time, the most spectacular element of oriental war accounts. F. F. Tornau, a veteran of the Russian--Ottoman war of 1828-29, tells of an unfortunate quartermaster who ventured to join a Russian sortie against an Ottoman fortress, was slightly wounded, and fell behind. Engaged in street combat, Tornau suddenly heard a desperate cry and, turning around, saw the quartermaster kneeling between two Turks who were hurriedly severing his head. Even though the Russian infantrymen leaped at them in fury and soon turned them into a sieve," it was too late: the head of the quartermaster was already "rolling in the dust, with its teeth clasped and its open eyes reflecting all the force of mortal suffering." (55)
Russian authors found the custom of cutting off noses and ears no less appalling than severed heads. Captured by the Ottomans after a military engagement near Silistria in 1828, a Russian cavalry officer, A. G. Rosalion-Soshal'skii, reported being placed with other Russian officers in a tent where they found several caskets of salted ears. (56) In the words of K. K. Zeidlits, "the faithful Turks still thought that it was easier to enter Paradise with such trophies." (57) According to Zeidlits, during the battle of Kulevcha in 1829, the Ottomans, enjoying a temporary advantage, "found the time to give vent to their beastly bloodthirstiness [by] disfiguring the dead and torturing in the most horrible way those whom they captured alive." (58) Similar things were reported from Shumla by Felix Fonton, whose pen "refused to describe the horrible, frightening sight" that the Turks left in the Russian redoubt that they had briefly captured. According to Fonton, they "were not ashamed to perform their atrocities even on dead bodies." (59)
Remarkably, references to Ottoman barbarities constituted virtually the only disquieting aspects of the associated wars in participants' accounts. The general condemnation of warfare that one can find in Russian accounts from the late 18th century on had an abstract, moralistic tone little connected to the actual violence of combat that would eventually become central to the naturalistic representations of war. One is therefore tempted to interpret references to "barbarous" Ottoman practices as attempts to "normalize" war as such. European military art, with its calculation of actions in battle, contrasted with the violent spontaneity of the Ottomans as civilized warfare and its oriental opposite. The severed heads and noses made the combat itself appear less brutal, and even they did not provoke all the horror that they might have done. Langeron's story of Miloradovich fainting at the sight of severed heads reads almost like an amusing episode, while Rosalion-Soshal'skii's account of his captivity in 1828-29 is clearly modeled on an adventurous travelogue despite--or perhaps because of--the salted ears. Just like the spectacular appearance of Ottoman armies in the field, their savage excesses constituted titillating aspects of a warfare that was still essentially viewed as adventure.
The Russo-Ottoman wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries constituted a special kind of experience, distinct from the European campaigns of the Russian army. When they fought in various European lands, enlightened Russian officers were concerned lest their army's treatment of the local population fuel representations of Russia as a barbarous and Asiatic country. By contrast, in their wars against the Ottoman Empire, officers unambiguously represented Europe--at least in their own eyes. Barbarity was the definitive characteristic of the enemy, while the rhetoric of shared Orthodox religion frequently occluded tensions between the Russian army and the local population. Both the aestheticization and the moral denunciation of the horrors of war became focused on the figure of the oriental Other, who engaged in supposedly ignoble but highly spectacular forms of violence. One finds no counterpart for such a figure in Russian accounts of the European wars, where the macabre spectacle is the product of regular warfare and where the moral condemnation of excesses could fall on Russia's own auxiliaries and rank-and-file. Nevertheless, in one fundamental respect, the Russo-Ottoman wars were similar to the European campaigns of the Russian army addressed above: both were taking place beyond the borders of the Russian Empire and were thus a peripheral phenomenon that hardly involved Russian society. The same was decidedly not true of the War of 1812, to which we now turn.
The War of 1812 proved to be different from both the European and Turkish campaigns that either preceded or closely followed it. In fact, it stands apart from all previous war experience in post-Petrine Russia. The wars that the Russian Empire conducted for a century prior to 1812 all took place either on the peripheries of the empire (as in the Russo-Swedish wars of 1741-43 and 1788-90) or beyond its borders altogether (as in the multiple engagements in Poland and the Italian campaigns of Suvorov in 1799-1800). In this respect, the Russo-Ottoman wars of the 18th and 19th centuries are similar to the European campaigns, since none of them took place on territory formally incorporated into the Russian Empire--apart from some Crimean Tatar raids, the last of which occurred in 1769. In short, the Russian army entirely lacked the experience of fighting either European or Asian foes on Russian territory.
Against this backdrop of previous experiences, the first novelty of 1812 was the transposition of war from the periphery of the empire into its interior. "We have learned of the possibility of an enemy invasion into our realm. No one, of course, expected this for Russia, which for two centuries has constantly become more prosperous hour by hour," wrote P. A. Kikin from the Russian camp at Tarutino in early October of that year. (60) Although it greatly exaggerated the degree of Russian prosperity, Kikin's statement correctly captured the lack of Russian society's direct encounter with war. In 1812, such an encounter was the necessary consequence of the rapid retreat of the Russian army, which the imperial manifesto of 6 July 1812 justified by the need "to gather new internal forces for the sake of proper defense." (61) This strategy went much against the traditional notions of aristocratic honor characteristic of the Russian officer corps, which pressed the commanders to engage in a decisive battle. (62)
The fall of Smolensk profoundly dismayed the Russian people, who, like the old Prince Bolkonskii in Tolstoi's War and Peace, were convinced that "the theater of war is Poland and the enemy will never get beyond the Neman." In A. P. Ermolov's words, this situation engendered a "new feeling that wars beyond the confines of the fatherland do not create. I have not yet seen the devastation of my country or the destruction of the cities of my fatherland. For the first time in my life, I have heard the cry of my compatriots, and for the first time I saw the horror of their desperate situation." (63) In a similar vein, A. A. Zakrevskii wrote "with anger and tears as a Russian" that Smolensk was "needlessly abandoned," and that the army "was going God knows where, without a purpose, to the devastation of Russia. When did it occur [in the past] that we abandoned our ancient cities?" Like so many other Russian officers at the time, Zakrevskii denounced what looked like indecision or even treason on the part of Barclay de Tolly and found it difficult "to watch without tears the local inhabitants, who with cries abandon their native land and property and follow the army with their small children." (64)
Smolensk thus provided a symbolic watershed between peripheral and national war. (65) Prior to its loss, retreat meant giving up the so-called "lands returned from Poland," the relatively recent acquisitions from the partitions of 1772-95. (66) After that loss, the war unfolded within the lands of historical Muscovy, where, to paraphrase F. I. Paskevich, every birch tree reminded one of old Russia. (67) Napoleon's advance had implications for the status of the two capitals in the symbolic geography of the Russian Empire. The imperial manifesto cited above addressed the "capital of our ancestors, Moscow," which "has always led the other Russian cities" and "has always poured out of its depth a deadly force upon the enemy." Following Moscow's example in the defense of the fatherland, its sons were supposed to "flow toward [the city] from all the peripheries as blood flows toward the heart." (68)
The special attention that Alexander I accorded to Moscow in 1812 signaled the difference between this war and its predecessors. Until the emperor's arrival in the old capital on 12 July 1812, the war, to quote P. A. Viazemskii, "seemed ordinary and similar to the previous wars that were forced on us by Napoleon's ambition." Public opinion had been "neither greatly shaken nor particularly frightened" by the war, and the discussions and debates of the unfolding events underway in society and at the English Club were "as ordinary as the circumstances in which they were taking place." (69) After Alexander I's visit to the old capital, the war became a national event. In a memoir written long after the fact, Viazemskii asserts that all controversies disappeared and everyone realized the necessity of defending the fatherland. (70)
The transfer of the war from the periphery into the interior of the Russian Empire was thus a precondition for a specifically "patriotic' war. It permitted a degree of mobilization that the Russian Empire could not have achieved if the war had been confined to borderland territories. (71) At the same time, there was a fundamental contradiction in the rhetoric of the imperial manifesto that valorized Moscow and the interior of the empire as both the theater of battle and the source of the country's strength. The price of mobilization was the destruction of that which was supposed to be mobilized. No one expressed this contradiction better than the commander of the reserve army, General A. P. Tormasov: "The plan to entice the enemy deep inside the fatherland is a terrible idea for anyone who loves the latter. Can one in cold blood let a robber inside one's house in the hope that he will wear himself out after killing one's father, mother, wife, or children?" (72)
For a century or more, in short, wars had been fought on the peripheries of Russia or in foreign countries, as a result of which Russian society had not directly encountered wartime violence. (73) Thus in 1812 neither villagers nor town residents had memories of living under foreign occupation or interacting with an army other than their own. As a result, the idea of negotiation, to which the urban population of early modern Europe quite often resorted given frequent foreign invasions, apparently did not occur to their Russian counterparts. Instead, peasant, landlord, and merchant alike saw the advent of the Grande Armee in the apocalyptic terms suggested by official propaganda (which Napoleons troops did little to disprove). Their preference, therefore, was to flee. "As we approached the active army," wrote Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "we encountered noblemen, merchants, and peasants who were abandoning their homes and heading to the interior regions of the empire; entire districts were resettling themselves into neighboring areas; modern history has not seen such a sight." (74) The precipitous and chaotic nature of this flight was inevitably accompanied by violence, which amply revealed itself during the evacuation of Moscow. (75)
The inability to manage violence was a direct consequence of the transfer of war into the interior of the empire. There is abundant evidence of massive pillage conducted by the Grande Armee from almost the beginning of the invasion. In the present context, however, it is more important to stress the increasing mistreatment of civilians by the Russian army itself as it retreated to and beyond Moscow. (76) The restraining influence that Russian commanders and officers sought to impose on their soldiers and auxiliary troops during European campaigns proved to be particularly weak in conditions of patriotic war, when the same soldiers were ordered to burn towns and villages to deprive Napoleons troops of supplies. (77) Many participants reported a growing number of desertions from the Russian army, especially after the battle of Borodino and the surrender of Moscow. Such desertions took place during the European campaigns as well, and more realistically minded writers, like Colonel A. K. Karpov, attributed them to soldiers' refusal to return to Russia, where oppression awaited them. (78) Desertions of the post-Borodino period should be attributed to the deterioration of soldiers' morale, which in the immediate aftermath of the battle was also low among officers and commanders. Armed deserters immediately turned into marauders, thousands of whom flooded the Kaluga, Tula, Riazan, and Vladimir roads. (79) The Cossacks again found it difficult to distinguish between the enemy and (this time, Russian) civilian populations. Mikhailovskii even alleged that the main Cossack commander, M. I. Platov, sent detachments to plunder Russian villages and dispatched booty to the Don. (80)
Mikhailovskii approached the problem of uncontrolled violence from the perspective of a career officer--a viewpoint that he, although originally a civil official, was quick to internalize. By contrast, D. M. Volkonskii, despite having once been an officer, was first and foremost a landlord for whom the devastation of the peasantry meant the potential loss of income. As he was leaving Moscow, Volkonskii encountered wounded people and marauders: "One could see in everything the disorder of our army, which resorts to foraging and under this pretext plunders villages." He especially singled out the Cossacks. (81) In the course of his travels in the central provinces in September, Volkonskii saw a picture of general devastation that he attributed not so much to the French invaders as to war in general: "people are being ruined by the war, ruined even by our own troops, so that the peasant does not know what he is going to eat this winter." (82)
Eruptions of violence that Russian military diarists and memoirists saw as illegitimate continued throughout the Patriotic War, but their forms changed over time. As the war became total during the 1812 campaign, it unleashed violence among foreign and Russian soldiers, as well as the civilian population, that swept aside all notions of restraint previously cultivated by enlightened Russian officers. It would be meaningless to argue which side more often resorted to violence--at a certain point, even the division into two sides became blurred. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of the Russian diarists and memoirists discussed here, atrocities committed by Russian soldiers and civilians against an enemy who was no longer capable of fighting or plundering represented the bigger moral problem. Not unlike Bolotov half a century earlier, the diarists and memoirists of 1812 found such atrocities incompatible with the rules of war, even as some tried to justify them with reference to the "barbarities" of the French invaders. In parallel, descriptions of the Patriotic War followed the example of accounts of the European and oriental campaigns in rendering war acceptable and perhaps even enjoyable by aestheticizing the horrors of war.
Most of the atrocities in question took place during the later stages of the Grande Armee's retreat from Moscow and the Russian Empire. The progressive disintegration of Napoleon's army transformed a growing number of its soldiers into demoralized and suffering wretches who were no longer capable of fighting or even pillaging and instead became merely passive objects of vengeance perpetrated by Russian soldiers and civilians. Langeron describes how Russian soldiers killed their defeated enemies with the butts of their muskets, convinced that Moscow had been burned by the French and having heard about French killings of Russian POWs, whom Napoleon could not take with him after he decided to abandon the old Russian capital. The officers tried to prevent "this terrible vengeance," even though, as Langeron affirmed, "it did these wretched ones a favor by cutting short their suffering." (83) In other incidents, vengeful Russian soldiers and civilians exposed captive enemies to the cold by stripping off their clothes. D. M. Volkonskii "could not see without shuddering" French POWs "left in bivouacs without clothes and almost without food," so that many of them died on the road while others ate the "dying ones." (84) In his famous diary of 1812, A. V. Chicherin, a young lieutenant of the Izmailovskii guards regiment, described a particularly heartbreaking scene in which two Russian soldiers were stripping a vest from a half-frozen enemy found alive amid 50 naked corpses grouped around a spent fire. (85)
The "people's war" offered no less disconcerting images. According to A. N. Murav'ev, peasants "tied captured Frenchmen to trees and shot them point-blank, threw them into wells, and buried them alive." These actions were in response to the torture and rapes that French foraging parties had inflicted on peasants and their wives and daughters at an earlier stage. Nevertheless, the violent treatment that civilians gave to the unfortunate French captives was as disconcerting as the atrocities perpetuated by the soldiers of the Grande Armee. For Murav'ev, as for many other Russian officers, the "peoples war" was above all a vicious cycle of violence "unheard of in our age," one in which "people became worse than wild beasts and annihilated one another with unprecedented cruelty." (86)
Although stray enemy soldiers and POWs were the usual objects of "illegitimate" violence on the part of Russian soldiers, Cossacks, and peasants, they were not the only victims. The Grande Armee that retreated from Moscow was more (and less) than an army. Its diminishing number of effective troops traveled with a growing crowd of abject people, including civilian men and women who had accompanied Napoleon's troops or joined them during the retreat. Since these people tended to lag behind, they often found themselves between the French and Russian troops and fell victim to shots aimed at the French soldiers. This very scenario took place when P. Kh. Wittgenstein's artillery started pounding the pontoon bridges while the Grande Armee was crossing the Berezina River. A. F. Langeron left it to the reader to "imagine the terrible destruction that ensued, the cries of unfortunate servants, sutlers, the sick and wounded, women and children, Frenchmen and foreigners that had retreated from Moscow with the army and were now crushed under the wheels [of carts], disfigured by the explosions of bombs, or dying on Cossack pikes, running to the burning bridge only to be consumed by the flames or devoured by the waves of the river." (87)
The sight of such atrocities was not really compatible with the idea of war espoused by morally aware Russian officers. To continue fighting, they had to employ special representational techniques that would allow them to lessen the traumatic impact of such scenes. Evocations of the barbarities committed by the enemy constituted perhaps the simplest and the most widely used of such techniques. "The rage of the French general and army is unbelievable," wrote Major General A. V. Voeikov to G. R. Derzhavin. He added, "history will describe with bloody colors the savagery and godlessness of peoples that prize themselves on being enlightened." (88) Godlessness was the characteristic that the Russians invoked most frequently to explain the barbarity of Napoleon's soldiers as they encountered desecrated churches. M. M. Petrovs memoirs allow us to imagine what a sincere Orthodox believer might have felt at the sight of icons being thrown into "shameless dirt and walls covered by ugly caricatures. And here--o horror!--is the image of the Mother of God with her eyes plucked out and the image of the all-blessed Savior himself stabbed by the weapons of the furious heroes of Jacobinism." (89)
References to the "barbarity" and "godlessness" of Napoleon's warriors obviously occluded, if it did not altogether justify, the cruel treatment that they received at the hands of Russian soldiers and peasants during their retreat. Alternatively, diarists and memoirists spoke of the sympathy and compassion that the abject suffering of the defeated enemy provoked in Russian soldiers. In the somewhat grandiloquent words of M. M. Petrov, "[however] great the crimes of the Frenchmen in the heart of our fatherland and everywhere else, the cruelty of their suffering surpassed and overbore the just hatred toward them and the sacred right of revenge of our soldiers, who at the sight of their cruel torment sought to respond not with the harm of their white-hot weapons but with the warm hand of rescue and compassion of their Christian souls." (90) The testimonies of Russian soldiers sharing their food with POWs are confirmed by Langeron, who nevertheless found such philanthropy to be "useless and even cruel ..., for it prolonged the agony of these wretches." (91)
Mistreatment of retreating enemies by Russian soldiers and peasants constituted only one of the unsettling dimensions of the Patriotic War in Russian officers' accounts. Actual scenes of Napoleonic soldiers dying and dead in frozen Belorussia were another. Here the focus changed from the Russian soldier or peasant to the invader. The horror consisted in the physical state of the enemy (or what was left of him), rather than the way in which the belligerents treated one another. It is remarkable that, just as Russian officers sought to vindicate their soldiers' disturbing cruelty by invoking their right to avenge the fatherland, they hurried to envelope the stark scenes of dehumanized, dead, and decomposing French corpses into a moralizing, aestheticizing, or ridiculing discourse. That discourse functioned as a screen that reduced the traumatizing impact of war's horrors.
The memoirs and diaries of 1812 are full of descriptions of terrible suffering and abject death by starvation and cold. The advancing Russians could see "exhausted Frenchmen lying near the fires [who] would burn their arms and legs; in some places, the fallen ones parted with life amid frightful grimaces, their moanless mouths bubbling with freezing foam." (92) At some point, such travails deprived the unfortunate enemy soldiers of both physical sensations and human sensitivities. N. B. Golitsyn, a dragoon officer and musician, captured this gradual dehumanization: "Now and again we encountered wretched ones frozen by the cold; they staggered around as if drunk before falling dead. Others sat in front of the fire in a terrible torpor, not noticing that the legs they sought to warm were turning into char. Many avidly ate carrion. I saw--o horror!--some crawl to a dead body and tear it with their teeth, seeking to quench the hunger that tormented them with this repulsive food." (93) Although reports of the enemy soldiers eating the corpses of their fallen fellows are numerous, Major General K. A. Kreits claimed he had seen even a case of homicidal cannibalism. In a forest near Smolensk, Kreits's detachment encountered a terrible sight: two enemy soldiers, of whom one "was still alive and suffering, in agony; his bare, burned stomach muscles lay before the fire, and another, also in agony, crawled up to the first and tore the latter's stomach with his teeth." (94)
One did not have to witness cannibalism to be traumatized. Lieutenant Aleksandr Chicherin of the Izmailovskii Guards expressed the sense of trauma well: "I was born to die in the service of the fatherland ... but I cannot reconcile myself with the horrors and excruciating sights that one encounters along this road." A person who had no fear of cannonballs and other dangers of war could be overwhelmed by the haunting scenes of dying and death that Russians saw as they pursued Napoleon's army: "How can one render the horror that captures you at the sight of piles of corpses in frozen poses that express their torment. One turns away from one corpse that embodies heartbreaking suffering in all its limbs and sees another even more horrible." (95)
The strain on the capacity for emotional response in some cases produced insensitivity. "The sight of these people hardened one's heart so much that one was no longer able to feel anything," Chicherin wrote. (96) N. D. Durnovo, the aide-de-camp of Alexander Is chief of staff, M. P. Volkonskii, confessed in his diary that seeing suffering Frenchmen in great numbers generated in him and his fellow officers "not the least sympathy toward them." Instead, he and his associates "watched these horrible scenes with great indifference." (97) In other circumstances, compassion gave way to ridicule. Langeron took up the theme of Russian lubok paintings when, no longer able to feel sympathy for the defeated enemy, he began poking fun at the physical appearance of the retreating victims of Napoleon's ambition. "This was a complete masquerade," he wrote, as "grenadiers with long mustaches wore nightgowns and pelisses; others dressed in the vestments of Russian priests; still others donned the embroidered uniforms of gentlemen-in-waiting." (98) Napoleon himself apparently looked no less funny at this time, as he was reported to be wearing a big fur coat and a fur nightgown stolen in Moscow.
Taken together, insensitivity and ridicule created the necessary distance between the dead and the dying, on the one hand, and the narrating subject, on the other. This distance opened a path for the aestheticization of death as yet another discursive device that helped attenuate the traumatic impact of the horrors of the Patriotic War. In an exercise in macabre aesthetics, Langeron described the frozen corpses that still bore the imprint of the person's character or expressed the emotions that had visited him or her at the moment of death: "One died raising his arms to the sky, which he undoubtedly implored; another was holding his hands as does a man who prays; still another raised his fist with an expression of despair, threat, and fury--undoubtedly directed against Napoleon." (99) Distance between the victims of war and the narrating subject is not, however, the only effect produced by these descriptions, which also effectively dissociate those who are killed from those who kill. In the context of 1812, they bracketed human agency and refocused the reader's attention on the rigors of climate as the real cause of enemy suffering and death. As a result, contrary to received opinion, the real impact of the rhetorical figure of General Winter consisted not in undermining the patriotic Russian claim to victory over Napoleon but in effectively occluding the active violence of the Patriotic War.
In addition to screening out the human sources of violence, the attribution of some of war's horrors to the weather brings one back to the connection between the war experience and the experience of the natural sublime. It has been noted that war's attractiveness to human beings is rooted in the same kind of enjoyment that one derives from remaining physically unaffected by manifestly dangerous and destructive natural phenomena. The appeal of the bloody spectacle of battle, like the enjoyment of a raging storm, depends on the subject's exemption from the fate of those who have fallen victim to these calamities. One can therefore argue that representations of frozen enemy soldiers served both the memoirists of 1812 and their readers as confirmation of their exemption from the dangers of war and of nature. This fusion of the sublime aspects of war and nature enhanced authors' and readers' enjoyment and may explain the enduring fascination with the Patriotic War in 19th- and 20th-century Russia.
Through their participation in European campaigns, Westernized Russian officers came to share the assumption, dominant in the 18th-century European military establishment, that violence should be confined to the battlefield. This assumption reflected the effort to minimize the destructive impact of war on the civilian population, which became necessary after the devastating conflicts experienced by 17th-century Europeans. Although this assumption was challenged during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Russian military writers of this period demonstrated a continued commitment to the principle of war with restraint whenever the Russian army operated in Europe. Eager to disprove the stereotype of their country as Asiatic and barbaric, enlightened Russian military men were sensitive to violations of the unwritten rules of "civilized" war by soldiers or Cossacks.
This attachment to the notion of war "according to the rules" was further strengthened by Russians' experience with the Turkish campaigns of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Confrontations with an enemy whose style of warfare was objectively different from that of the European powers led Russian officers to orientalize the Ottomans and to construct their own European identity. The most salient aspects of this orientalization included a stress on Ottoman ignorance of European military science, the spectacular appearance of the Turkish troops, and, above all, the Turks' savage treatment of defeated enemies and prisoners. The atrocious Ottoman assaults on the bodily integrity of Russian soldiers and officers constituted the greatest "horror" of oriental war, portrayals of which contrasted with representations of "normal" combat.
The year 1812 stood out in Russian military experiences of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Whereas Russia's European and oriental campaigns took place on the peripheries of the empire or beyond its borders, Napoleon's invasion brought the war into the historical center of Russia for the first time in two centuries. In contrast to 18th-century European warfare, violence in 1812 was not limited to the battlefield; instead, it spread along the entire route of the French army's advance and retreat. As a result, educated Russians were forced to face the horrors of war in a much more direct way than either before or since. This situation strained their ability to represent violence in ways that would permit them to continue fighting. Like the Turkish campaigns, the Patriotic War deviated from the model of warfare that Russian armies pursued in Central or Western Europe before or immediately after 1812. The 1812 campaign, like the wars with the Ottomans, was characterized by atrocities that were unacceptable or ignoble from the standpoint of "civilized" combat. The Grande Armee's unswerving pursuit of total war coupled with the population's inexperience with life under foreign occupation triggered a vicious cycle of violence that explains the particularly high number of "horrors" reported by diarists and memoirists. The techniques of orientalization that informed Russian representations of the Ottoman army during the Turkish campaigns could not help people deal with the horrors of 1812, which were not confined to the enemy. To lessen the unsettling impact of such violence, Russian writers sometimes sought moral vindication for the treatment of enemies by Russian soldiers and civilians. Such attempts to justify the forms of violence that Russian officers otherwise denounced as "ignoble" represent a peculiar inflection of the moralizing strategy employed in accounts of the horrors of the Patriotic War.
At the same time, moral denunciation of atrocities, whether committed by the enemy or by one's own side, was not enough to neutralize the traumatic impact of the war on military diarists and memoirists. Whether European, oriental, or patriotic, the war forced on participants and witnesses sights that suspended the cause-and-effect path that underpins the moralizing discourse in its denunciatory and justificatory manifestations. This usually affected the frequent portrayals of disfigured bodies of fallen soldiers, both on and off the battlefield. Such gory sights were highly disturbing, but their appearance in war diaries and memoirs makes one suspect that they played a role in the general economy of enjoyment associated with the act of writing. However unsettling, the impact of these scenes was fundamentally ambiguous: the horrors of war terrified the viewer, and at the same time, the act of (re)viewing them served as the proof that diarists, memoirists, and readers were just viewers, lucky enough to have escaped the fate of the fallen and the suffering. As long as it remained a spectacle--bloody and sublime--the war retained its irresistible appeal, which became its most effective legitimization.
One can therefore speak of moralization and aesthetization as two alternative tactics that Russian military writers used to reduce the traumatic impact of horrors peculiar to each of the three types of war. The first tactic led Westernized tsarist officers to denounce what they considered to be illegitimate forms of violence. It entailed either a disavowal of excesses committed by their own soldiers and auxiliaries or a justification of such excesses by citing the barbarity of the enemy. By contrast, the second tactic--aestheticization--established distance from the objects of violence and recast the inherently chaotic horrors of war as pictures or scenes of sorts. However macabre the resulting portrayals, the act of rendering war's horrors "viewable" helped reduce their ability to shock. Whereas moralization justified war conducted "according to the rules," aestheticization served to numb the psychological trauma caused by physical violence.
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(1) Daniel A. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
(3) Christopher Dully, Russia's Military Way to the West: The Origins and Nature of Russia's Military Power, 1700-1800 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).
(4) A. F. Lanzheron [Langeron], "Zapiski grafa Lanzherona: Voina s Turtsiei 1806-1812 gg.," Russkaia starina 130, 7 (1907): 91. Unlike most other French royalists who entered Russian service during the 1790s, Langeron chose not to return to France. Having attained high military and administrative posts, Langeron died in 1831 from cholera, by which time his Catholic name Louis Alexandre Andrault had long been Russianized as Aleksandr Fedorovich. On Langeron, see George F. Jewsbury, "Chaos and Corruption: The Comte de Langeron's Critique of the 1787-1792 Russo-Turkish War, "Studies in History and Politics 3 (1983-84): 73-83.
(5) A. T. Bolotov, Zhizn ' i prikliucheniia A. T. Bolotova, opisannye samim im dlia svoikh potomkov, 4 vols. (St. Petersburg: Golovin, 1870-73), 1:663-64. On Bolotovs learned pursuits in Konigsberg, see Alexander Etkind, Internal Colonization: Russia's Imperial Experience (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), 181-88.
(6) Like his Muscovite ancestors, who felt seduced by Latin "treacherousness" and German "cunning," Bolotov was concerned about the attraction that Europe exercised over himself and his compatriots. Half a century later, Paris took the place of Konigsberg as a model of civilization, but the problem of its influence on the Russians was still cast in essentially moral terms. In his panorama of the French capital in 1814, A. G. Krasnokutskii "could not help admire the striking finesse of human talents" and at the same time "could not help shudder at this ever-growing concentration of vices" (Vzgliad russkogo ofitsera na Parizh [St. Petersburg: Morskaia tipografiia, 1819], preface).
(7) This is especially true of F. N. Glinka, Pis'ma russkogo ofitsera o Pol'she, avstriiskikh vladeniiakh, Prussii i Frantsii, 8 vols. (Moscow: Selivanovskii, 1815-16).
(8) M. M. Petrov, "Rasskazy sluzhivshego v pervom egerskom polku polkovnika M. M. Petrova," in 1812 god: Vospominaniia voinov russkoi armii, ed. F. A. Petrov (Moscow: Mysl', 1991), 239-43. On this subject, see E. N. Druzhinina, "Russko-nemetskie kul'turnye sviazi i Osvoboditel'naia voina 1813 g.," in Osvoboditel'naia voina 1813 g. protiv napoleonovskogo gospodstva, ed. L. G. Beskrovnyi (Moscow: Nauka, 1965), 133-35.
(9) The title of Glinka's book contains a reference to the most important piece of Russian travel literature, Karamzin's Letters of a Russian Traveler. At the beginning of his Letters, Glinka mentions Laurence Sterne's typology of travelers, although he admits that, as a serviceman, he belongs to none of the varieties discussed by the British writer. See Glinka, Pis'ma russkogo ofitsera, 1:1-2; and A. I. Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "Zhurnal 1813 goda," in 1812god: Voennye dnevniki, ed. A. G. Tartakovskii (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1990), 338-40. A recent student at Gottingen University, Mikhailovskii was elated to return in 1813 to the land where he "had begun to feel and think" (326). Other important Russian graduates of Gottingen University who later participated in the Napoleonic wars included A. I. Turgenev and A. S. Kaisarov.
(10) On the Russian military intelligentsia, see John L. H. Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462-1874 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), 231-49.
(11) For a discussion of these tendencies, see Bell, The First Total War, 44-51.
(12) Hugo Grotius was one of the first authors to lament "the lack of restraint with respect to war" (quoted in ibid., 46-47).
(13) Bolotov, Zhizn'i prikliucheniia, 1:476-77. See also John L. H. Keep, "The Russian Army in the Seven Years War," in The Military and Society in Russia, 1450-1917, ed. Eric Lohr and Marshall Poe (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 197-220; Duffy, Russia's Military Way to the West, 71-120.
(14) P. A. Rumiantsev to Catherine II, 18 March 1770, Chteniia v Imperatorskom obshchestve istorii i drevnostei rossiiskikh pri Moskovskom universitete, no. 2 (1865): 34.
(15) [Charles de Warnery,] Remarques sur les militaires des Turn et des Russes: Sur lafa$on la plus convenable de combattre lespremiers ... (Breslau: Guilliaume Thorphile Korn, 1771), 124.
(16) Ibid., 125.
(17) A. P. Ermolov reported that breakdown in the supply system during the campaign of 1805 became a pretext for "plunder," "debauchery," and "indiscipline" as well as the growing number of deserters that gathered in groups of marauders. The latter, in his words, was our first borrowing from the French" (Zapiski A. P. Ermolova, 1798-1826 [Moscow: Vysshaia shkola, 1991], 38). Ermolov's testimony indicates that the relations between the Russian soldiers and civilians during the Napoleonic Wars were far from ideal. At the same time, one can also see a clear disapproval of the Napoleon's system of living off the land.
(18) "Prikaz M. I. Kutuzova ob okonchanii Otechestvennoi voiny, 21 dekabria 1812," in Listovki otechestvennoi voiny: Sbornik dokumentov, ed. R. E. Altshuller and A. G. Tartakovskii (Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1962), 76-77; N. D. Durnovo, Dnevnik 1812 goda, in 1812 god: Voennye dnevniki, 110. See also "Prikaz nachal'nika shtaba I-go otdeleniia korpusa F. F. Dovre, 3 December 1812," in Vneshniaia politika Rossii XIX i nachala XX veka: Dokumenty Rossiiskogo ministerstva inostrannykh del, ed. A. L. Narochnitskii, 15 vols. (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1960-), 6:617.
(19) See Anthony L. Rhinelander, Prince Michael Vorontsov: Viceroy to the Tsar (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1990), 26-44. Although there were conflicts, the Russians fared well in comparison to the Prussian and Austrian occupation forces. See Maya Goubina, "La perception reciproque des franptis et des russes d'apres la litterature, la presse et les archives, 1812-1827" (www.theses.paris-sorbonne.fr/these_goubinayparis4/2007/these_goubina/html/ index-frames.html, accessed 16 April 2012).
(20) A. K. Karpov, Iz zapisok polk: A. K. Karpova," in Dvenadtsatyi god v vospominaniiakh i perepiske sovremennikov, ed. V. V. Kallash (St. Petersburg: Sytin, 1912), 222.
(21) Ibid., 224.
(22) Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "Zhurnal 1813 goda," 317-18.
(23) Many accounts mention triumphal arcs and wreaths with which the Prussians and Saxons met the Russian army in various towns and villages. See P. S. Pushchin, Dnevnik Pavla Pushchina, 1812-1814, ed. V. G. Bortnevskii (Leningrad: IzdateLstvo Leningradskogo universiteta, 1987), 83, 92, 97, 99; and A. V. Chicherin, Dnevnik Aleksandra Chicherina, 1812-1813, ed. L. G. Beskrovnyi (Moscow: Nauka, 1966), 116.
(24) Petrov, "Rasskazy," 239.
(25) D. V. Davydov, "Zaniatie Drezdena 1815 goda 10 marta," Sochineniia Davydova (St. Petersburg: P. Krasheninnikov, 1848), 439.
(26) Bolotov, Zhizn'i iprikliucheniia, 1:476-77.
(27) According to Jan Mieszkowski, the clash among representations of war becomes a crucial element from the Napoleonic period onward (Watching War [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012], 33).
(28) Already in February 1807, Alexander I authorized the publication of Journal du Nord in St. Petersburg, an unofficial newspaper that aimed to counter Napoleons propaganda in Europe by publishing news and documents provided by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. See A. Ia. Budberg to Russian diplomatic representatives abroad, 11 February 1807, in Vneshniaia politika Rossii, 3:505.
(29) Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "Zhurnal 1813 goda," 320.
(30) Bolotov, Zhizn ' iprikliucbeniia, 1:527.
(31) Ibid., 528-29. Glinka provided another picturesque rendering of the battle of Ens in 1805 CPis 'ma russkogo ofitsera, 1:72-74).
(32) See Philip Shaw, The Sublime (London: Routledge, 2006), 27-89; and Peter de Bolla, The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics, and the Subject (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989).
(33) On the combination of horror and delight in the sublime, see Shaw, The Sublime, 34. On the tendency of the war in general to "resist description," see Catherine Mary McLoughlin, Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the Iliad to Iraq (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 6-7.
(34) The association of the sublime with the delight of remaining unaffected by possible pain is spelled out most clearly in Edmund Burke, "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1759," in The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory, ed. Andrew Ashfield and Peter de Bolla (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 131-32. See also Shaw, The Sublime, 53-54.
(35) J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle, intro. Hannah Arendt (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 25-58, esp. 33-36.
(36) Bolotov, Zhizn'i prikliucheniia, 1:543-44.
(37) Immediately stripped naked by the Russian soldiers, the fallen enemies revealed "strong, healthy, white, and fat" physiques, which made the tableau all the more graphic.
(38) Glinka, Pis 'ma russkogo ofitsera, 1:92.
(39) Petrov, "Rasskazy," 146.
(40) On Russia's military revolution in relation to the Russo-Turkish wars, see Brian Davies, Empire and Military Revolution in Eastern Europe: Russia's Turkish Wars in the Eighteenth Century (London: Continuum, 2011). On the Ottoman military reforms, see Virginia H. Aksan, Ottoman Wars, 1700-1870: An Empire Besieged (Harlow, UK: Longman/Pearson, 2007).
(41) P. A. Tolstoi, Russkii posol v Stambule: Petr Andreevich Tolstoi i ego opisanie Osmanskoi imperii nachala XVIII v. (Moscow: Nauka, 1985), 50; Izobrazhenie taktiki, ili Iskusnyi obraz voisk ustanovleniia, obnarodovannoe i napechatannoe v Konstantinopole na turetskom iazyke Ibragimom Effendiem Mutteferikom (St. Petersburg: Kleen i Geike, 1777), after the French edition Traitede tactique, ou, Methode artificielle pour Tordonnance des troupes (Vienna: J. T. Trattenern, 1769).
(42) Quoted in A. K. Baiov, Kurs istorii russkogo voennogo iskusstva, 7 vols. (St. Petersburg: Skachkov, 1909), 3:90.
(43) Cited in A. N. Petrov, Vliianie russko-turetskikh voin s poloviny proshlogo stoletiia na razvitie russkogo voennogo iskusstva, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Voennaia tipografia, 1894), 2:332.
(44) A. N. Pushkin, "Vzgliad na voennoe sostoianie turetskoi imperii," Syn otechestva 107, 10 (1826): 187.
(45) Dzh. N. Moro-de-Braz [Jean Nicholas Moreau de Braze], "Zapiski Moro-de-Braze (kasaiushchiesia do turetskogo pokhoda 1711 g.)," in A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 16 vols (Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR 1938), 10:329.
(46) A. I. Martos, "Zapiski inzhenernogo ofitsera Martosa," Russkii arkhiv, no. 7 (1893): 354.
(47) A. I. Martos, "Otryvok iz pisem russkogo ofitsera," Syn otechestva 33, 44 (1816): 145-56.
(48) [R. M. Tsebrikov], "Vokrug Ochakova, 1788 g. (Dnevnik ochevidtsa), Russkaia starina 84, 9 (1895): 186.
(49) G. E. fon Shtrandman [von Strandman], "Zapiski," Russkaia starina, 34, 5 (1882): 289-318.
(50) P. A. Levashev, Podennye zapiski nekotorykh proisshestvii vo vremia proshedshei voiny s Turkami ot dnia ob "iavleniia onoi do 1773 goda (St. Petersburg, 1790), 80-81.
(51) Tsebrikov, "Vokrug Ochakova," 176. The practice of severing heads is confirmed by Prince de Ligne, who represented Joseph II at the headquarters of Potemkins army during the siege of Ochakov in 1788. See de Ligne to Segur, August 1788, in Vestnik Evropy 48, 21 (1809): 23. Russians were not alone in succumbing on this occasion to a practice in which they saw proof of the barbarity of their enemies. Pamphlets written during the Thirteen Years War between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburgs (1593-1606) report that Christians rejoiced in cutting off Turkish heads and displaying them on pikes (C. D. Rouillard, The Turk in French History, Thought, and Literature, 1520-1660 [Paris: Boivin, 1941], 79).
(52) Tsebrikov, "Vokrug Ochakova," 205.
(53) Future hospodar of Wallachia Grigore IV Ghica (r. 1822-28).
(54) Lanzheron, "Zapiski grafa Lanzherona," Russkaia starina 130, 6 (1907): 588.
(55) F. F. Tornau, Vospominaniia russkogo ofitsera (Moscow: Airo-XX, 2002), 57.
(56) A. G. Rosalion-Soshal'skii, "Zapiski russkogo ofitsera, pobyvavshego v plenu u Turok, Voennyi sbornik 1, 5 (1858): 183. Among the Western authors who participated in the Russian--Ottoman wars, the custom of cutting and collecting enemies noses and ear tips is confirmed by Georg Wilhelm von Valentini, according to whom they served as substitutes for severed heads when there were too many of those (Military Reflections on Turkey [London: C. and J. Rivlington, 1828], 55). Whereas von Valentini's testimony refers to the war of 1806-12, Francis Rawdon Chesney mentions the same practice during the Ottoman sorties from Varna besieged by the Russian troops in 1828 (The Russo-Turkish Campaigns of 1828 and 1829: With a View of the Present State of Affairs in the East [New York: Redfield, 1854], 107-8).
(57) K. K. Zeidlits, "Vospominaniia doktora Zeidlitsa o Turetskom pokhode 1829 g. (v pis' makh druz'iam)," Russkii arkhiv, no. 1 (1878): 424.
(59) Feliks Fonton, Vospominaniia F. P. Fontona: Iumoristicheskie, politicheskie i voennye pis'ma iz Glavnoi kvartiry Dunaiskoi armii v 1828 i 1829 gg., 2 vols. (Leipzig: Frantz Wagner, 1862), 1:139.
(60) P. A. Kikin to his brother, 7 October 1812, in Bumagi, otnosiashchiesia do Otechestvennoi voiny 1812goda, ed. P. I. Shchukin, 10 vols. (Moscow: A. I. Mamontov, 1897-1908), 5:3-6.
(61) "Vozzvanie Aleksandra I k zhiteliam Moskvy s prizyvom organizovat' opolchenie," 6 July 1812, in Narodnoe opokhenie v Otechestvennoi voine 1812 goda: Dokumenty, ed. L. G. Beskrovnyi (Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1962), 46.
(62) Dominic Lieven, Russia against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of "War and Peace" (London: Viking, 2010); Lidiia Ivchenko, Povsednevnaia zhizn ' russkogo ofitsera epokhi 1812 goda (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2008), 322.
(63) Ermolov, Zapiski A. P. Ermolova, 168. On the same occasion, P. S. Pushchin wrote in his diary: "This is the center of Russia and we have brought our troops into it" (Dnevnik Pavla Pushchina, 53).
(64) A. A. Zakrevskii to M. S. Vorontsov, 6 August 1812, in Arkhiv kniazia Vorontsova, ed. P. I. Bartenev, 40 vols. (St. Petersburg: A. I. Mamontov, 1870-95), 37:231.
(65) On the symbolic geography of the Russian center, see Leonid Gorizontov, "The 'Great Circle' of Interior Russia: Representations of the Imperial Center in Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century Russia," in Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700-1917, ed. Jane Burbank, Mark von Hagen, and Anatolii Remnev (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 67-93.
(66) A. P. Ermolov and other Russian diarists and memoirists mention the sympathy felt by the Polish nobility in the Lithuanian provinces for Napoleon. See Ermolov, Zapiski A. P. Ermolova, 147.
(67) Cited in Ivchenko, Povsednevnaia zhizn ' russkogo ofitsera, 321.
(68) "Vozzvanie Aleksandra I k zhiteliam Moskvy," 46. For those who had not yet made war their profession, the manifestos of 6 July announced the actual beginning of the war. A. I. Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, who at the beginning of the war was an official at the Ministry of Finance in St. Petersburg, did not even mention Napoleon's invasion in his memoirs until that date ("Zapiski A. I. Mikhailovskogo-Danilevskogo, 1812 god," Istoricheskii vestnik 42, 10 : 138).
(69) P. A. Viazemskii, "Vospominaniia o 1812 gode," in Dvenadtsatyi god v vospominaniiakh i perepiske, 228-29.
(70) Ibid., 229.
(71) In the most general sense, this thesis is proved by Russia's defeat in World War I and its victory in World War II. The Second Patriotic War of 1914-17, although total, remained a war fought on the periphery. By contrast, the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, like the War of 1812, involved the Russian interior.
(72) Cited in Ivchenko, Povsednevnaia zhizn ' russkogo ofitsera, 304.
(73) Admittedly, there was the Pugachev uprising of 1773-74, whereupon fear of a peasant jacquerie became deeply engrained in the consciousness of the Russian nobility. At the level of symbolic geography, however, the Volga region affected by the uprising did not become part of Russian national territory until the second half of the 19th century. See Aleksei Miller, "Rossiiskaia imperiia, orientalizm i protsessy formirovaniia natsii v Povolzh'e," Ab Imperio, no. 3 (2003): 393-406. Kazan, at the northwestern extreme of Pugachevs operations (based In Orenburg), was included in interior Russia by some 19th-century authors and excluded by others. The same applied to Penza, located at the westernmost extreme of Pugachev's operations. See Gorizontov, "The 'Great Circle' of Interior Russia," 76-80. On the Bolotnikov, Razin, Bulavin, and Pugachev uprisings as frontier phenomena, see Paul Avrich, Russian Rebels, 1600-1800 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972).
(74) Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "Zapiski A. I. Mikhailovskogo-Danilevskogo, 1812 god," 140.
(75) Alexander M. Martin, "The Response of the Population of Moscow to the Napoleonic Occupation of 1812," in The Military and Society in Russia, 1450-1917, 469-90.
(76) On the army's lack of discipline at the moment when it entered "historical" Russia, see Erlomov, Zapiski A. P. Ermolova, 147. According to P S. Pushchin, the Cossacks started plundering villages after the retreat from Smolensk (Dnevnik Pavla Pushchina, 58).
(77) A. N. Murav'ev, "Chto videl, chuvstvoval i slyshal," in Rossii dvinulis' syny: Zapiski ob Otechestvennoi voine 1812goda ee uchastnikov i ochevidtsev, ed. S. S. Volk and S. B. Mikhailova (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1988), 285.
(78) Karpov, "Iz zapisok," in Dvenadtsatyi god v vospominaniiakh i perepiske, 224.
(79) Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, "Zapiski A. I. Mikhailovskogo-Danilevskogo, 1812 god, 153.
(80) Ibid., 154. In Mikhailovskii's view, the Cossacks "in general tried to separate themselves from the regular army as if they served a different sovereign and had a different fatherland.
(81) D. M. Volkonskii, "Zhurnal 1813 goda," in 1812 god: Voennye dnevniki, 144.
(82) Ibid., 153.
(83) [L. A. A. de Langeron], Memories de Langeron, general d'infanterie dans I'armee russe, campagnes de 1812, 1813, 1814, publies d'apr'es le manuscrit original pour la Societe dhistoire contemporaine par L. G. F. (Paris: Picard, 1902), 89-90.
(84) Volkonskii, Zhurnal 1813 goda," in 1812god: Voennye dnevniki, 153.
(85) Chicherin, Dnevnik Aleksandra Chicherina, 61 n.
(86) Murav'ev, "Chto videl, chuvstvoval i slyshal, " 293-94.
(87) Langeron, Memoires de Langeron, 70.
(88) A. V. Voeikov to G. R. Derzhavin, 30 October 1812, in Otechestvennaia voina v pis 'makh sovremennikov, ed. N. F. Dubrovin (St. Petersburg: Imperatorskaia akademiia nauk, 1882), 301-2.
(89) Petrov, "Rasskazy," 201. Such reports are legion. See, e.g., T. A. Kamenetskii to O. K. Kamenetskii, 31 October 1812, in K cbesti Rossii (Iz chastnoi perepiski 1812 goda), ed. M. Boitsov (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1988), 169; and Murav'ev, "Chto videl, chuvstvoval i slyshal," 288.
(90) Petrov, "Rasskazy" 203.
(91) Langeron, Memoires de Langeron, 89-90. For the compassion of the Russian soldiers toward French POWs, see also Pushchin, Dnevnik Pavla Pushchina, 73.
(92) Petrov, "Rasskazy," 203.
(93) N. B. Golitsyn, Ofitserskie zapiski, ili Vospominaniia o pokhodakh 1812, 1813 i 1814 gg. (Moscow: Avgust Semen, 1838), 30.
(94) K. A. Kreits, "Zapiski," in 1812godvdnevnikakh, zapiskakh i vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, ed. V. I. Kharkevich, 4 vols. (Vilno: Shtab vilenskogo voennogo okruga, 1900-7), 1:81.
(95) Chicherin, Dnevnik Aleksandra Cbicherina, 67.
(97) Durnovo, "Dnevnik 1812 goda," 103-4.
(98) longeron, Memoim de Langeron, 90-91.
(99) Ibid., 93-94.
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|Title Annotation:||Forum: 1812--The War in Words|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2014|
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