Sunday, November 25, 2012

Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia – 200 Years

I’m late to this party, but it just occurred to me that it is 200 years since Russia defeated Napoleon. The Battle of Borodino was the turning point of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

But I haven’t totally missed the anniversary. The last of the Grande Armée straggled out of Russia on December 14, according to Wikipedia. The Battle of Borodino was in September.

The Russian commemorations seem to have been little reported elsewhere. Here’s a selection from Google:

From Ria Novosti, a re-enactment in September of the Battle of Borodino.

More from Ria Novosti. Short from RT. RT documentary on the preparations for the re-enactment.

I’m wondering why we haven’t heard more from Russia. The ill-fated Tsar Nicholas led the centennial celebrations in 1912, and of course it was an earlier Tsar’s army who beat Napoleon in 1812, so perhaps the desire to minimize that governance in Russia’s history might have been part of it. The Russians are also extremely sensitive about land invasions, precisely because of Napoleon for one, and might not have wanted to play it up.

Although Napoleon and the Grande Armée eventually had to retreat ignominiously from Russia, they had something of a victory at Borodino and went on to burn Moscow. But their supply lines were too long, they had taken many casualties at Borodino, and winter set in. Like many military operations, the victories were ambiguous.

Tchaikowsky wrote the 1812 Overture to commemorate the event. Here’s the London Symphony, with appropriate works of art.

For those who like the ending with cannons, just the ending, from where the Russian national anthem overcomes the French.

Cross-posted at The Agonist and Nuclear Diner.

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