STERKHOV D.V. The interpretation of the Battle of Leipzig (October 16–19, 1813) in the German patriotic sermon

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2013.2.8

Sterkhov Dmitry Vladimirovich

Candidate of Sciences (History)

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Moscow, Russian Federation


Abstract. The article touches upon the impact of the religion on the national consciousness of European nations in the 19th century. As an example of this impact can serve the sermons of the German protestant clergy dedicated to the victory of the German and Allied troops over Napoleon armies in the Battle of Leipzig on 16–19 October, 1813. On the battlefield of Leipzig there emerged a very powerful national myth, partly created by means of the patriotic preaching of German pastors. This myth of Leipzig, propagandized by the protestant clergy, consisted of several components; one of them was the popular idea of “God’s Judgment” which was imposed by God on Napoleon and the French nation. The salvation of Germany was thus explained by God’s direct intervention in the Liberation Wars against France. The pastors create a dark and unattractive image of Napoleon who is exposed as tyrant, theomachist and even Antichrist. Not less negative is the image of the French who are described in the sermons as unreligious and immoral. Their direct opposites are the Germans whom the protestant preachers endow with such qualities as piety and morality. In the eyes of the pastors the Germans constitute a single nation united by common features, such as the German language, the German traditions and the German religiousness. As considerable national symbols in the sermons appear the German national heroes such as Martin Luther, the Swedish King Gustav Adolph and the most notable hero Hermann, the leader of one of the ancient German tribes. Consequently the French are compared with ancient Romans who overindulged in sins and immorality and were defeated by the brave Germans with the help of God. As a result the German protestant clergy contribute to the creating of the myth of Leipzig which became a considerable symbol of the German national history.

Key words: Battle of Leipzig, Napoleonic Wars, patriotic sermons, religious patriotism, German nationalism.

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