Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812

Excerpt

'THE storm of 1812 had not yet broken,' wrote Pushkin. 'Napoleon had yet to put the great people to the test. He was still threatening, still hesitating.' The poet was referring to the years immediately preceding one of the most momentous struggles in the history of western civilization.

The campaign of 1812 was more frankly imperialistic than any other of Napoleon's wars; it was more directly dictated by the interests of the French upper middle class. The war of 1796-7, the conquest of Egypt in 1798-9, the second Italian campaign, and the recent defeat of the Austrians could still be justified as necessary measures of defence against the interventionists. The Napoleonic press called the Austerlitz campaign 'self-defence' against Russia, Austria, and England. The average Frenchman considered even the subjugation of Prussia in 1806-7 no more than a just penalty inflicted on the Prussian court for the arrogant ultimatum sent by Frederick-William III to the 'peace-loving' Napoleon, constantly harried by troublesome neighbours. Napoleon never ceased to speak of the fourth conquest of Austria in 1809 as a 'defensive' war, provoked by . . .

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