Napoleon's Invasion of Russia 1812





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Uploaded on Apr 10, 2009

I made a collage of clips from the movie War and Peace (Voyna i mir, 1967). This shows Napoleon's advance into Russia's heartland culminating in the battle of Borodino and the capture of Moscow in September. Translation of the dialogue (sorry for the lack of subtitles):

0:51 Kutuzov: "Go along, and Christ be with you."
3:59 "Sir, if we throw in one more division, the enemy will be beaten." Napoleon: "Not yet. It's easy to make mistakes in the heat of battle. Confirm and report to me."
4:28 Napoleon: "We should send in some of the reserve. What do you think?" Officer: "Send in Claparède's division." Napoleon: "I can't send that! Send in Friant's division instead."
4:55 "Sir, the enemy's leading elements have been pushed back. Prince Bagration has been wounded."
5:02 Kutuzov: "You, go find out what has happened.
5:12 "Your grace..."

6:45 Napoleon: "There it is, at last, that holy capital. There it is, at my feet, awaiting its destiny. Strange, beautiful, majestic... But why is the city's envoy taking so long?"
7:16 "Sir, the city has been abandoned. Everyone has left."

Some historical background:

"In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia. He aimed to compel Emperor Alexander I to remain in the Continental System and to remove the imminent threat of a Russian invasion of Poland. The French-led Grande Armée, consisting of 650,000 men (270,000 Frenchmen and many soldiers of allies or subject areas), crossed the Niemen River on 23 June 1812. Russia proclaimed a Patriotic War, while Napoleon proclaimed a Second Polish war. The Poles supplied almost 100,000 troops for the invasion-force, but against their expectations, Napoleon avoided any concessions to Poland, having in mind further negotiations with Russia. Russia maintained a scorched-earth policy of retreat, broken only by the Battle of Borodino on 7 September 1812. This required the Grande Armee to adjust its methods of operation, but it refused to do so. This refusal led to most of the losses of the main column of the Grande Armee, which in one case amounted to 95,000 troops in the space of a single week. The bloody confrontation of Borodino ended in a tactical defeat for Russia, thus opening the road to Moscow for Napoleon.

By 14 September 1812, the Grande Armée had captured Moscow. But by then, the Russians had largely abandoned the city, even releasing prisoners from Moscow's prisons to inconvenience the French. Alexander I refused to capitulate, and the governor, Count Fyodor Vasilievich Rostopchin, ordered the city burnt to the ground. With no sign of clear victory in sight, Napoleon began the disastrous Great Retreat from Moscow. The remnants of the Grande Armée crossed the Berezina River in November, and only 27,000 fit soldiers remained. Napoleon then left his army and returned to Paris to prepare to defend Poland against the advancing Russians. Some 380,000 men dead and 100,000 captured, the situation seemed less dire than at first. The Russians had lost around 210,000 men, leaving their army depleted. But thanks to their shorter supply-lines, they could replenish their armies faster than the French."



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