Bronnitsy - History - Growth and The French Invasion

Growth and The French Invasion

In 1781, Bronnitsy, then having a population of five hundred, became the administrative center of an uyezd of Moscow Governorate. Catherine the Great granted the former village a town charter and a coat of arms featuring golden horse on a green field, a nod to Bronnitsy stud farms. Influx of petty bureaucrats resulted in a significant growth in population and construction of the first public buildings; the new grid plan was approved in 1784 and by 1787 population tripled. It leveled at around 1,500 until the middle of the 19th century.

In September 1812, Bronnitsy and Bogorodsk became the farthest points reached by the French troops in Napoleon's invasion of Russia. After the surrender of Moscow on September 14, the main Russian Army retreated south-east along the Ryazan road, "cautiously" shadowed by Murat's cavalry. On September 17 Kutuzov made a sharp westward turn to Podolsk; a small task force continued movement to Ryazan, impersonating the whole army. Murat missed Kutuzov's turn and did not discover the deception until he reached Bronnitsy. Although by September 21 Napoleon suspected the Russian maneuver, the French lost the track of the Russian Army for two days and waged a wide pursuit that culminated in the Battle of Tarutino. Murat's raid, accompanied with inevitable plunder and fires, was the last foreign incursion into Bronnitsy ever (World War II spared the town).

After the war of 1812, Bronnitsy slowly evolved as a typical small trading town and served as a base of a cavalry regiment; the former cavalry barracks, built in Empire style, are attributed either to Vasily Stasov or to Alexander Kutepov. Rotunda of Jerusalem church, standing near the Cathedral of Archangel Michael, was built in the 1840s by Alexander Shestakov in late neoclassical style. Its pseudo-Russian red brick belltower was erected in 1850s in apparent mismatch to historical churches. These landmarks survived despite a number of sweeping fires; the worst recorded fire of 1861 destroyed 115 houses. Another major fire struck in 1863, yet despite the damages Bronnitsy still had one inn, two pubs, and 118 trading outlets; two hundred families held trading patents but the town's finances were poor and could not even pay for paving the unbearably impassable main square.

In the 1850s and 1860s, Bronnitsy became home to notable members of the declining Russian nobility. Decembrist Mikhail Fonvizin (1787–1854) and his wife Natalya, a local landowner, retired to Bronnitsy after exile to Siberia. Fonvizin died soon upon return; the widow married another decembrist, Ivan Pushchin (1798–1859). Both Fonvizin and Pushchin were buried near the Cathedral of Archangel. Retired Army colonel Alexander Pushkin (1833–1914), son of poet Alexander Pushkin, served as the justice of the peace in Bronnitsy in 1862–1866, administering the Emancipation reform of 1861. His son, also Alexander Pushkin (1863–1916), born in Bronnitsy, became judge of Bronnitsy uezd (Russian: Земский начальник) in 1890 and since 1897 later managed the whole zemstvo of the town and country.

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