Old Battle A Current Diversion

The economy is on the minds of most Russians these days, as the nation's financial crisis keeps getting worse. But last weekend, a 180-year-old war provided a much-needed diversion for some, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Gasperini.

American Civil War buffs would feel right at home in Russia on the battleground of Boradino. In this case, Russians are playing themselves, as well as soldiers of the French army. Every year, they come to Boradino, about a two-hour drive west of Moscow, to recreate a turning point in Russian history. It was 1812, the same year the Americans declared war on the British. The Calvary charges, the cannons roar, and everyone relives the heroic moment one more time.

This year was no exception, despite economic hardship and political turmoil. On his recent visit to Moscow, President Clinton alluded to the battle when he encouraged Russians to rise once again to overcome their difficulties.

In a country where a faltering economy and political turmoil have everyone on edge, Boradino is a way to escape the current crisis.

"I'm in a different world," says one re-enactor. "I forget what is going on, what is happening in the real world."

Most of those playing the role of soldiers say it's a great way to keep in touch with the past. One person says, "[We] don't need politics. We're busy with our history."

The original battle was technically a defeat for the Russians, but the fighting so weakened the French that within a short time Napoleon was out of Russia, and Russians showed what it takes to overcome the odds.