A new view of Napoléon’s Russian campaign
Napoléon’s military campaign of 1812 ranks among the worst man-made catastrophes in history. Of his Grande Armée of 600,000 men, only 40,000 returned to France. Not all of those missing died, though: one must take into account prisoners and deserters.
On the Russian side, casualties are extremely difficult to estimate, in the range of 300,000 dead, possibly far more if one counts civilians.
In his new book, Russia Against Napoléon, the True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, Dominic Lieven proposes new interpretations of the events. Napoléon wanted, and needed, a quick victory in a blitzkrieg. The genius of the Russians was to deny him that.
Apparently Dominic Lieven dares dispute the theories that underlie Tolstoy’s vision of the campaign War and Peace. True, the latter is a work of fiction, one of the most successful historical novels ever. Because of its literary quality, it has been immensely influential in shaping popular perception of the Russian campaign, in Russia and abroad. In fact, generals, politicians and Tsar Alexander I himself were instrumental is repelling the invasion.
This should, in any case, be a fascinating read…