Denis Davydov

Denis Davydov
Portrait by George Dawe
Born 27 July 1784
Moscow, Russia
Died 4 May 1839 (aged 54)
Known for Hussar poetry
Guerrilla Warfare
Денис Давыдов автограф.svg

Denis Vasilyevich Davydov (Russian: Дени́с Васи́льевич Давы́дов, IPA: [dʲɪˈnʲis vɐˈsʲilʲjɪvʲɪtɕ dɐˈvɨdəf] (About this soundlisten); 27 July [O.S. 16 July] 1784 – 4 May [O.S. 22 April] 1839) was a Russian soldier-poet of the Napoleonic Wars who invented the genre of hussar poetry, characterised by hedonism and bravado. He used events from his own life to illustrate such poetry. He suggested and pioneered successfully guerrilla warfare in the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon.[1][2]


Davydov stemmed from a family of Russian nobility with Tatar roots.[3] After gaining celebrity as a guerrilla leader in the Russian Patriotic War, see his memoirs,[4] he became one of the most popular men in the country. Young men of Pushkin's circle viewed him as a model romantic hero and the Decembrists prized his company as well.

He was high-spirited, healthy, virile, unromantic, and shallowish. He was great wits and fond of fun, in life as well as in literature. His early and most popular verses are in a style of his own making, known as the “hussar style.” In them he sings the praise of reckless valor, on the field of battle as well as before the bottle. The diction in some is rather unconventional, and occasionally his words have to be replaced by dots, but it is always full of spirit and great rhythmical go. His later poems are inspired by a late love for a very young girl. They are passionately sentimental and as vivid and alive in diction and rhythmical. Alexander Pushkin had a high opinion of his poetry and said that Davydov had showed him the way to be original[5]

His poems were admired by Vissarion Belinsky for their organic quality and "Russianness".

Davydov fought in the Russo-Iranian War of 1826-1828.[6]

His grave, with his statue above it, is situated next to the exit door of the katholikon of the Novodevichy Convent.

Guerrilla Warfare

In the Patriotic War of 1812 as a lieutenant-colonel he suggested to his general, Pyotr Bagration, to attack the supply trains of Napoleon with a small force of at least 3,000 horsemen. Commander-in-chief Mikhail Kutuzov agreed and gave an order for 200 to increase his attrition warfare against Napoleon. Davydov started with 135 horsemen as a separate command in the rear of the Grande Armee. They wore peasant clothes and beards to get the immediate support of the Russian people. They gave captured food and French weapons to the peasants and taught them how to fight a people's war. They captured French forage expeditions, supply trains with food, horses, weapons and ammunition, freed Russian prisoners and integrated them as volunteers with French horses, uniforms and weapons into their raiding party. These actions set off an avalanche called guerrilla warfare that became an important part of Kutuzov's attrition warfare.[2]

In popular culture

"D. Davydov" is printed on the aircraft's nose art
Aeroflot Boeing 777-300ER D. Davydov at John F. Kennedy Intl Airport in NYC bound for departure to Moscow's Sheremetyevo Intl Airport

A Boeing 777-300ER operated by Russia's national airline Aeroflot is named "D. Davydov" as part of a tradition in naming their fleet after historical Russian figures. The name is printed as part of the aircraft's nose art.

In the 20th and 21st century, at least 4 ships associated with the name of D. Davydov as an object of intangible heritage.[7]