A new view of Napoléon’s Russian campaign

Suchodolski Battle of the Berezina

Suchodolski Battle of the Berezina

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…

1812 Prianishnikov

1812 Prianishnikov

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2 Comments to “A new view of Napoléon’s Russian campaign”

  1. Richard says:

    I disgree. While the Ogre did need a quick vistory, he wanted on along the lines that he got after Austerlitz, an accommodation. he was trying to bring the Tsar back into the fold, and reinforce the Continental system.

    A war with Russia, is never a quick proposition. the distance from paris to Moscow is 1544 miles. All done on foot. Troops from all over the Empire, France, Austria, Italy, Naples, Poland, Prussia, and the Rhine Confederation all participated to make the 600,000 men. He really could only count on the French, Polish and Confederation troops.

    The Russians merely traded space for time. By continually withdrawing they sucked Napoleon into Russia. Like the German troops in 1941 many commited suicide on the dusty steppe.

    here is a site on Napoleon froma Russian ppoint of view, from my friend Nick.

  2. Penny says:

    Interesting. I always assumed Napoleon lost because of the ridiculously long
    supply lines and the Russians burning everything in sight that could help the
    invaders. Alas, I have too many books in my TBR pile.

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