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The Image of Napoleon in Russian Folklore of the 19th century

Tchoudinov Alexander

The numerous wars that the Russian state had to wage throughout its centuries-old history left a deep mark on the historical memory of the people and, in particular, in folklore, which, at least until the middle of the 19th century, when folk culture began to experience an increasingly noticeable influence of the book word, was almost the only keeper of collective memories about the collisions of the past centuries. In this oral folk literature, no matter what wars of the past were discussed, the ethnic features of the image of the enemy were always blurred: in different versions of the same composition, Tatars could easily be replaced by Poles, Turks by Frenchmen, and all this without prejudice to the essence of the text. It’s impossible to talk about any personification of such an image, with the only exception, however, which was the image of Napoleon. The ethnographic studies which were fulfilled at the end of the 19th century have shown that of all the foreign historical figures, only Napoleon was known by peasants almost all over Russia, and while approving the defeat of his Grande Armée in 1812, the French emperor himself was treated with a share of sympathy. Having studied the evolution of this image in the popular culture of Russia during the 19th century, the author of the article concluded that such inconsistency was obviously connected with the existence of the legend on Napoleon among the Russian people in some periods of history. According this legend Napoleon could became a possible liberator of Russian serfs from bondage.

Keywords: history, folklore, Russia, the Patriotic War of 1812, Napoleon
Link: Tchoudinov A. The Image of Napoleon in Russian Folklore of the 19th century // Annual of French Studies 2022: The French outside of France.М. P. 286-296.

The study is realized in the State Academic University for the Humanities within the framework of the state task of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (project No. FZNF-2022-0002 “Popular movements in defense of traditional values from the French revolutionary expansion in Western Europe and Russia of the late 18th – early 19th centuries”), implemented on the results of the selection of scientific projects done by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the EISI. 


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