Fyodor Rostopchin

Count Fyodor Rostopchin.
Portrait by Salvatore Tonci.

Count Fyodor Vasilyevich Rostopchin (Russian: Фёдор Васи́льевич Ростопчи́н) (23 March 1763 [O.S. 12 March] 30 January 1826 [O.S. 18 January]) was a Russian statesman, who served as governor of Moscow during the French invasion of Russia.


Rostopchin was born in Orel, the son of Vasily Fyodorovich Rostopchin (22 March 1765 - 1810), a junior officer in the Russian army, Lord of Livny and son of one Rastapcha, and wife Nadezhda ...vna Kryukova.

Feodor Rostopchin had great influence over the Tsar Paul I, who in 1796 made him adjutant general, grand-marshal of the court, and then Foreign Minister. In 1799 he was given the title of count. His opposition to the French alliance in 1801 resulted in his falling out of favor, but he was restored to favor in 1810 as conditions between France and Russia began to deteriorate. Shortly thereafter he was appointed military governor of Moscow.

During the French invasion of Russia he was responsible for the defence of the city against Napoleon, and he took every means available to rouse the population of the town and district to arm and join the army to defend the city against the invaders. After the Battle of Borodino it was clear that the French could not be denied the city. Rostopchin had the city evacuated, including all the city administrators and officials, leaving behind only a few French tutors, foreign shop keepers and those that were the lowest class of society.[1] In addition, the prisons were opened and the prisoners set free by his order. No one met the Emperor Napoleon when he arrived at the city gates on 14 September. On the first night of French occupation a fire broke out in the bazaar and a number of small fires erupted in other quarters, but these were thought to be due to accident.[2] The following day as Napoleon rode through the streets to the Kremlin he found the streets deserted.[3] That night the city began to burn in earnest. Rostopchin had left a small detachment of police, whom he charged with burning the city to the ground. Houses were prepared with flammable materials. The city's fire-engines were disassembled. Fuses were left throughout the city to ignite the fires.[4]

Years later he claimed innocence against the charge of arson, and had a pamphlet printed and distributed in Paris proclaiming so in 1823, but subsequently admitted to his role in ordering the city's destruction. He was disgraced shortly after the Congress of Vienna, to which he had accompanied Tsar Alexander I. He returned to Russia in 1825 and died in Moscow in February of the next year.

He married Ekaterina Petrovna Protassova (1775–1869), and had five children:

He appears as a character in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, in which he is presented very unfavorably.


  1. Caulaincourt p. 112
  2. Caulaincourt p. 114
  3. Caulaincourt p. 115
  4. Caulaincourt p. 119
  • Caulaincourt, Armand-Augustin-Louis With Napoleon in Russia translated by Jean Hanoteau New York, Morrow 1935.
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