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Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is one of the most illustrated political and military figures of the last two millennia. He has remained in the memory of the world as a legend that the passage of the years has failed to blur. On the contrary, Napoleon Bonaparte widely continues to be considered the personification of human genius.
Originally published in this English translation in 1942, leading Russian historian Evgeny Tarle details Napoleon’s military campaign to invade Russia in the early nineteenth century.
“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 Austrian threats. Only the invasion of Spain and Portugal was passed over in discreet silence.
“The War of 1812 was a struggle for survival in the full sense of the word—a defensive struggle against the onslaughts of the imperialist vulture.”—E. V. Tarle