Britons in Moscow in 1812

A.A. Orlov looks at the Britons who stayed in Moscow when Napoleon invaded, and those who visited after the destruction.

One of the key episodes of the Great Patriotic War of 1812 is the capture by the French of Moscow and the destruction of the city by fire. It would appear that all the details of this event are well known. But one of the least researched elements is the question of the size and composition of the Moscow population at the time. There had always been a large number of foreigners living in the city. One of the most influential groups, although comparatively small, was the British.

Police records for the year 1811 show that 188 British people were in residence (111 men and 77 women). These were mostly merchants, entrepreneurs, engineers, master craftsmen, governesses and school teachers, doctors and agricultural specialists. In the village of Voronovo on the outskirts of Moscow, for example, a whole farm was built on the estate of Count F.V. Rostopchin, with the help of Scottish specialists who were living in Moscow. Elsewhere, General A.A. Chesmenskiy set up a factory in his village ‘in the English manner’ where several British experts worked. John Richardson, a groom, lived in the Moscow house of Prince A.M. Golitsyn.

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