Orthodox Russia against ‘Godless’ France: The Russian Church and the ‘Holy War’ of 1812
The so-called Patriotic War of 1812 was not only a military and political clash between states, but also a conflict between two civilizations. Many contemporaries saw the events as a struggle to defend Orthodox, monarchist, and aristocratic Russia from the onslaught of a ‘godless’ and ‘de-Christianized’ post-Revolutionary France. The impression of a spiritual and religious attack by Napoleon on Christianity was created: the persecution of the Church and the clergy during the French Revolution, the introduction of the new Republican calendar and the ascendancy of the new cult of Reason; Napoleon’s overly pragmatic and unscrupulous stance on religion; and, despite the 1801 Concordat with Rome, the frequent clashes with Pope Pius VII that ended in 1809 with the excommunication of the French emperor and the imprisonment of the Roman Pontiff.1 Perceived as having soaked half of Europe in blood, and having plundered and desecrated the Orthodox churches, the Grande Armée was seen by many in Russia as an evil force with the Antichrist at its head — Satan’s henchman who was prophesied to appear on earth shortly before the Second Coming of Christ to unite all the forces of evil in war against the Christian Church.
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