Christ vs. anti-Christ, 1812
An interesting passage from pages 753-4 of Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy's War and Peace, in which an emissary from the Tsar meets with the French "Emperor" in a failed attempt to make peace:
- At dinner, having placed Balashev beside him, Napoleon not only treated him amiably but behaved as if Balashev were one of his own courtiers, one of those who sympathized with his plans and ought to rejoice at his success. In the course of conversation he mentioned Moscow and questioned Balashev about the Russian capital, not merely as an interested traveler asks about a new city he intends to visit, but as if convinced that Balashev, as a Russian, must be flattered by his curiosity.
"How many inhabitants are there in Moscow? How many houses? Is it true that Moscow is called 'Holy Moscow'? How many churches are there in Moscow?" he asked.
And receiving the reply that there were more than two hundred churches, he remarked:
"Why such a quantity of churches?"
"The Russians are very devout," replied Balashev.
"But a large number of monasteries and churches is always a sign of the backwardness of a people," said Napoleon, turning to Caulaincourt for appreciation of this remark.
Balashev respectfully ventured to disagree with the French Emperor.
"Every country has its own character," said he.
"But nowhere in Europe is there anything like that," said Napoleon.
"I beg your Majesty's pardon," returned Balashev, "besides Russia there is Spain, where there are also many churches and monasteries."
This reply of Balashev's, which hinted at the recent defeats of the French in Spain, was much appreciated when he related it at Alexander's court, but it was not much appreciated at Napoleon's dinner, where it passed unnoticed.