Not to be confused with his much more talented and famous nephew Alexander Pushkin, author of Eugene Onegin, Vasily Lvovich Pushkin (1766-1830) was a minor poet who wrote light verse in the manner of Horace. His best known and most accomplished work was the comic A Dangerous Neighbour (1811) whose protagonist Buyanov became a household name in nineteenth century Russia. Buyanov is mentioned in Eugene Onegin.
In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman of the dead, who transports people across the river Acheron to the underworld.
Franz Leppich (1776-1818) was a German inventor and musician. In 1811 he offered an idea of a hot air balloon to Napoleon, who turned it down, so Leppich went to Russia, where his offer was met with more success. Rastopchin hired him to build a military hot air balloon for the defence of Moscow. At this time ballooning was in its infancy. Leppich began work in a secret shipyard near Moscow, heavily defending the site against spies from France. But, during trials, the balloon failed to inflate, and Leppich left Russia in disgrace.
A witness at the Battle of Borodino (French: Bataille de la Moskova) said afterwards that "You who saw this battle have a fair idea of what hell must be like." An estimated 75,000 casualties fell, a number not exceeded until the First World War; the casualties included General Bagration, who was mortally wounded during the battle, and is buried at the site. The French force of 133,000 men met the 120,000-strong Russian army in a badly planned, full-frontal assault that was both extremely bloody and ultimately inconclusive. Napoleon described it as the most terrible battle he ever fought. The fighting around the Raevsky Redoubt was particularly intense: it also became known as the 'Death Redoubt'. After the battle an officer from the Vistula Legion wrote that "the Raevsky Redoubt presented a gruesome sight. The redoubt and the area around it offered an aspect which exceeded the worst horrors one could ever dream of." The French eventually captured the redoubt at the cost of a great many lives on both sides.
It was the first major battle fought after Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian army, so for him personally it was vital that Russia was not defeated; he claimed it as a victory, yet the night after the battle saw the Russian army retreating towards Moscow.
Tolstoy visited the battlefield of Borodino in 1876, while he was researching War and Peace. He stayed at the Saviour Borodino Monastery, which now houses an exhibition of artefacts related to his visit.
The icon of the Smolensk Mother of God is an example of a hodegetria: an icon depicting the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ. Tradition has it that the icon was painted by St Luke himself. It passed from Antioch to Jerusalem to Constantinople, and then on to Russia, where it eventually ended up in Smolensk in the eleventh century. Various miraculous events were attributed to the icon over the years, and copies of the icon also took on its powers. Kutuzov, here, is wielding one such copy.
The original icon is believed to have been destroyed by fire during the German occupation of Smolensk in 1941.
Examples of Russian icons can be found illustrating many of War and Peace's bookmarks. In the Russian Church, icons were far more than decorative images meant to illustrate moments from the Bible: they were a direct link to the world of the divine. Strict rules of composition and style of icon painting was handed down from the church in Byzantium; they are seen as the Holy Gospel in paint, and are venerated as such. See here (about three quarters of the way down the page) for more on the significance of icons in Russian Orthodoxy.