Millions of two-legged creatures
For us are the instrument of one.”
--Eugene Onegin, by Pushkin
Napoleon in Russian Thought
Despite Russia’s own history with Napoleon Bonaparte in the Russian invasion of 1812, Russians came to view Napoleon with a strange sort of admiration and reverence. In much the same way as Western Europe at the time, Russians saw Napoleon as a symbol: an extraordinary modern man who overstepped boundaries and moral law to change history on his own terms. As a historical example or type, Napoleon surfaces in the writing of Gogol, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Tutchev and Pushkin. In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (1825-1832), Pushkin cites the influence of Napoleon in Russian thought: “We all now pose as Napoleons/ Millions of two-legged creatures/ For us are the instrument of one.”
Napoleon in Russian Poetry of the 19th Century
During his exile at Se. Helena, Napoleon often exclaimed "What a novel my life has been". These words expressed a genuine appraisal of his life, however at the same time they are filled with the bitterness born of the incompatibility of life as British prisoner at St. Helena with the sudden meteoric brilliance and glory of the past. Napoleon was observed by millions of contemporaries. He has a million books dedicated to his life and military campaigns, with many more to be added in the future. The most fascinating aspect of this personality is its powerful aura of the romantic charm. This image has been a constant companion to the Napoleonic epoch, transforming it into a mythical era. Maybe it wasn't even the greatness of his soul that caused it, but its undoubted magniture which drawrfed the souls of all his fellow men. Goethe said that Napoleon's "destiny was more brilliant than any the world had seen before him or would see after him. The story of Napoleon produces on me an impression like that of the Revelations of St. John the Divine. We all feel there must be something more in... [continues]
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