Talk:Battle of Smolensk (1812)

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Was there another battle in 1813?--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus Talk 00:01, 24 November 2005 (UTC)

Another battle in 1813, or another battle in Smolensk in 1813? (I made this page).User:Ashdown Talk 00:01, 09 June 2006 (UTC)

There were several Napoleonic battles in 1813 but nione took place in Russia. By 1813 the field of operations had transferred to Germany (Lützen, Bautzen, Dresden, Katzbach, Kulm, Leipzig, Hanau,...) and Spain. There are however two other battles of Smolensk known to history. They took place during WWII and are consultable in the following articles:
---fdewaele, 12 June 2006, 14:25 (CET)

Copy/Edit[edit]

Whilst I found the article very interesting, particularly given how often foreign troops attacked the city, I've reworded it, keeping all the original factual content and adding additional links, e.g. co-ordinates, the cathedral etc. and correcting possible mis-tranlations. Please feel free to correct any errors. JRPG (talk) 15:10, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

Accuracy[edit]

I note there is huge variation in the the casualties given, as usual both sides appear to downplay them. I can't read Russian but this needs to be resolved as the summary contradicts the main text. JRPG (talk) 16:21, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

The 14000 number certainly doesn't seem to come from a reliable source, a website selling physical references (books and dvds) and not actually a source of information itself. I am, therefor, removing it, as it doesn't seem to fit with what anyone is saying (I'd bet even one of their own books that they are selling). —Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.112.19.122 (talk) 07:14, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Oh, and the artillery numbers should be checked by someone, 'cause it says "Grande Armée, supported by two hundred artillery pieces" but states in the summary only 84, even if they had of borrowed all of Russia's 108 they're short of two hundred. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.112.19.122 (talk) 07:19, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Hi 174.112.19.122, I've just looked at the source again. I remember not being very impressed and thinking it looked more like a schools' item. It certainly has far too many adverts now but was the only item I could find on line. I don't know enough about the topic to do much more than copyedits but the article is still inconsistent, i.e. 4200 French ,4-6000 Russians in the summary and 12,000 French in the text.
Earliest versions showed 10000 Russian and 9000 French. The June 2005 version was the first with a decent looking reference, this now showed 11,000 russians and 9,000 French in the introduction, -and 7000 French in the text! I only really speak English but the German version also shows 11,000 and 9,000. The French article Russians 15,000 dead, wounded or prisoners. French 4000 dead or wounded.
The best solution is either to find a book source by a Russian history expert -and give reasons for the estimate -or to say sources differ and give a range.
Regards JRPG (talk) 18:05, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

If you are looking for reliable sources, please note that the ones I've provided in the infobox come from a mainstream, well-respected Napoleonic military specialist, Alain Pigeard. As far as I am concerned, they don't come much better than this one.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 20:34, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

David Chandler (The Campaigns of Napoleon, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. 1990. Pg 786) states French casualties to have been 10,000 and that of the Russians being between 12,000 and 14,000 men in the two days fighting. Chandler is not too bad either, and well respected. See Chandler here Farawayman (talk) 21:11, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Sure, Chandler is a great Napoleonic scholar. I would then add them both (e.g. between 6000 and 10 000). Cheers.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 19:51, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I missed your post Alexandru but will follow the suggestion. JRPG (talk) 20:12, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

If the battle of Berezina is categorized as a 'strategic French victory' on its Wikipedia page, then the battle of Smolensk surely needs to be described as a strategic Russian victory here. With far fewer casualties than Napoleon at Berezina, Barclay-de-Tolly at Smolensk managed to unite the two Russian armies. With this merger, the French lost their chance of defeating the Russians piecemeal. And then Barclay extricated his forces from the difficult situation of facing a superior French army, avoiding the major battle that Napoleon tried to impose upon him. Thus, the Russians outmaneuvered the French, saving their main fighting force to continue the campaign. The defence of Smolensk itself was never a priority for the Russians, so their abandoning of the city meant very little for either them or Napoleon. And while at Berezina Napoleon effectively lost most of his army, with the remainder of it incapable of fighting, the Russians after Smolensk were in good fighting shape. So how in the world was Smolensk a 'French victory'? brildanz1 —Preceding undated comment added 07:22, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

that's all very well but is this an opinion shared by several mainstream historians you have read or simply your take on things. Note that here on wikipedia the opinions of editors don't matter, so if you're going to make a point, back it up with solid evidence to avoid deletion. Cheers,--Alexandru Demian (talk) 12:38, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Absolutely, Mr. Demian. As far as mainstream historians go, here is, for example, the opinion of David G. Chandler, which I quote from his _The Campaigns of Napoleon_ (Scribner, 1973):

p. 788 (about the action at Smolensk on August 18, 1812): "All day, therefore, Napoleon missed a fine opportunity of placing part of his army between the two Russian forces. A single corps would have suffice for the task. This inaction is partly explained by his uncertainty as to whether the foe was heading north or east, but Napoleon's abilities seem to have been in temporary eclipse.";

p. 789 (also about the fighting on August 18, 1812, at Smolensk and Valutino): "The enemy's escape was not wholly Junot's fault, however. It is revealing that Napoleon left the front and returned to Smolensk at 5:00 P.M. to rest; this was no longer the brilliant general of boundless energy of former campaigns. / Thus, Napoleon's third attempt to trap the Russians into a decisive battle ended in as resounding a failure as its predecessors.";

p. 789: "Fourthly, Napoleon was undoubtedly guilty of failing to press his advantage to the full. He delayed the final advance on Smolensk, then indulged in useless and piecemeal assaults on the city instead of pressing on to cut the Moscow road, selected the wrong commander for this task when at last he ordered it, and, throughout, displayed a general lack of energy and drive which might have inspired his subordinates to success, heedless of all difficulties. This is a heavy indictment of Napoleon as a general, but politically there may have been some justification for his decision to concentrate the army's efforts against Smolensk, militarily only a secondary objective. Perhaps he hoped that a resoundingly successful storm of one of the most important and venerated cities of Holy Russia would suffice to bring the Tsar to the terms. If this is what he thought, he was of course totally mistaken."

Based on the above, Mr. Demian, it looks like, in the opinion of David Chandler, the fighting at Smolensk was a major strategic failure for the French, and the blame for the strategic failure lay principally on Napoleon himself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Brildanz1 (talkcontribs) 02:29, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

I'm on holiday, with limited access to either the internet or most of my books, but I do have a few in electronic format, incl Chandler's Campaignsn of Napoleon.
Chandler, who is usually very specific about these things, does not speak of any "tactical" victory for the French, nor of a "strategic Russian victory", nor of any kind of advantage for the Tsar's army resulting from the battle. The three quotes you mentioned are quite revealing of the consequences of the battle and of Napoleon's shortcomings on this occasion but there is no element of Russian victory in what Chandler writes. Not only did the Russians suffer their foe's strategic penetration, losing a major city (although strategically secondary and partly ruined) and its adjoining region to the enemy, but they had to retreat, taking heavy casualties.
The Grande Armée was now within three-four weeks' march to either Russian capital. All this caused uproar and panic at the court. The Tsar reshuffled his army's command structure soon after the battle, replacing Barclay with Koutouzov. Hardly a victor's behaviour. On the French side, this was a third (after Vilna and Vitebsk) and frustrating failure to force a decisive victory. So, you are perhaps right in suggesting this but the French failure here is not due to any kind of Russian triumph. So, the only compromise I see is to quote Chandler directly and say "French victory. French miss opportunity to destroy the Russian army." Anything that sounds like this and that can be directly sourced to a major author like Chandler is historically accurate and thus acceptable. Cheers,--Alexandru Demian (talk) 08:13, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

Very well, Mr. Demian -- only, then the box of the Wikipedia article about the Battle of Berezina should say, "Russian victory. The Russians miss the opportunity to destroy the French army." Be consistent, please. Brildanz1 (talk) 07:44, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Consistency is ensured by quoting reputed authors rather than our own interpretation of history. Berezina is a totally different battle, in a context that has nothing to do with Smolensk. Chierly, the French were aiming to retreat in the first place. I think Chandler and others explain it pretty well.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 17:36, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

And the Russians at Smolensk were aiming to retreat as well. Barclay certainly did, despite Bagration's opinion to the contrary. Barclay was in command, and the retreat happened successfully. As for the failures of the French at Smolensk, Chandler does explain that pretty well -- see above. In a war, one party's failure is the other party's success.Brildanz1 (talk) 21:32, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Sure Barclay wanted to retreat... But he wanted that on the second day of battle, when he realised that he was running the risk of having his communications severed with Moscow. But before the second day of battle at Smolensk, Barclay was actually seeking to fight the French, in a bid to stop their blitz strategic penetration. See Chandler chapter 15, p 229 and chapter 69, p 838 and the following. The reason why this battle was a French failure to force a decisive encounter but not a Russian victory of any kimd is that the Russians were in a worse situation after the battle than before.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 19:35, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Oh, quite the contrary. The Russians were in a far better situation after the battle of Smolensk than before. Again, Barclay managed to unite the two Russian armies and to avoid being defeated piecemeal by the French, as well as being cut off and forced to fight a decisive battle that Napoleon wished to impose upon him. Thus, the army was saved for the future campaign -- parenthetically, this was Barclay's main source of pride later.

Also, Barclay wanted to retreat not only on the second day of the battle of Smolensk (August 18), but also on the first one (August 17), sensing the danger of the French cutting off his line of retreat. As Chandler puts it, "the threat of such a move filled the minds of both Barclay and Bagration throughout the day [August 17], and it accounts for the former's decision to evacuate Smolensk during the night of the 17th-18th" (David G. Chandler, _The Campaigns of Napoleon_ (New York: Macmillan, 1966), p. 786). Moreover, retreat was Barclay's strategy for many weeks before Smolensk. So it was not that he suddenly changed his mind and decided to retreat "on the second day of battle," as you propose it. His order to retreat was indeed met with uproar at the Russian headquarters (Chandler, ibid., 788), but he was still in command and did not change the order. Barclay never envisaged Smolensk as the site of the decisive battle against the French, and time proved him right.

By the way, since so much of this conversation revolves around Chandler, there is nothing about the battle of Smolensk in "chapter 15, p. 229 and chapter 69, p. 838" of his book, which you cite -- whether in the 1966 MacMillan or the 1973 Scribner edition of the book -- unless you have a different text in mind. In any case, never in the book does Chandler mention that on August 17, 1812, Barclay 'was actually seeking to fight the French, in a bid to stop their blitz strategic penetration,' as you propose.

I was away from this for a few days, so excuse the delay in responding. Sincerely, Brildanz1 (talk) 05:36, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I am also on holiday and only go online once every few days so apologies for being slow in responding.

I have been using an iBooks version of Chandler's book and pages might not be the same as a hard copy, as font type and sizes change the page number. I've tried to establish a similar font type and size and have only managed to establish and approximate corrspondance, an few pages apart from your version - e.g. page 789 for you is page 782 for me. My version has a total of 1236 pages. This is the best I can do.

Also, I am using Chandler extensively because it's one of the few books I have with me. I would gladly use other sources I've read: Lieven, Zamoisky, Pigeard, Oleg Sokolov or Tulard but I don't have them with me at the moment.

Going back to our discussion, assering that Barclay reunited the two armies after the battle of Smolensk is wrong, as this had already happened two full weeks before the battle:

Chandler, p. 776: "Returning to the situation at the beginning of August, the fourth day of the month found the armies of Barclay and Bagration at last united, to the tune of some 125,000 men, in the vicinity of Smolensk. There was also the prospect of considerable Russian reinforcements making their appearance in the near future."

After reuiniting with Bagration, Barclay ceded to pressures from the Court and activeley sought to fight the French, believing that he had reunited most of his forces and that the enemy was sufficiently scattered.

Chandler, p. 776: "The moment appeared propitious for a counteroffensive; Napoleon’s impetus had largely died away, his formations were scattered around Vitebsk, and a resolute Russian advance would enable two more Russian formations, the Armies of Finland and Moldavia, both newly liberated from their previous frontier commitments by recent agreements with Sweden and Turkey, to mass in the interior preparatory to entering the campaign against the French. Accordingly, after holding a council of war on the 6th, Barclay ordered 100,000 infantry, 18,000 regular cavalry and 650 guns to move westward from Smolensk, hoping to forestall any French concentration and catch the enemy scattered and unprepared."

Numerous hesitations from Barclay meant that no battle took place, but from a Russian victory at a cavalry encounter at Inkowo, where the celebrated cavalry commander commander Sebastiani was beaten by the Russians. Instead of encouraging Barclay, it unnerved him:

Philippe Paul de Ségur, p. 134: "Toutefois, entraîné par l'impulsion générale, Barclay venait d'y céder un instant, de réunir ses forces vers Rudnia, et de tenter de surprendre l'armée française dispersée. Mais le faible coup que son avant-garde vient de frapper à Inkowo, l'a épouvanté. Il tremble, s'arrête, et croyant à tout moment voir apparaître Napoléon en face de lui, sur sa droite, et par-tout, hors sur sa gauche, qu'il pense être couverte par le Dnieper, il perd plusieurs jours en marches et en contre-marches. Il hésitait ainsi, quand tout-à-coup les cris de détresse de Newerowskoï retentirent dans son camp. Il ne fut plus question d'attaquer; on courut aux armes, et l'on se précipita vers Smolensk pour la défendre."
Chandler, p. 777: "When Platov reported his limited success at Inkovo, the Russian war minister’s nerve paradoxically began to fail him, and fearing massive French retaliation he swung his line of advance to the northwest and virtually abandoned the forward movement. For six days his offensive hung in abeyance, and when on the 13th he again ordered an advance, its extent was very limited, and before the day was out, the Russian army was again halted a short way to the east of Rudnia. By this time Bagration was simply not cooperating with his colleague, the bulk of the Second Army remaining in the vicinity of Smolensk. Thus the last spark of the Russian offensive was allowed to die away.Napoleon’s first reaction on receipt of news of Inkovo had been to suspend preparations for the drive on Smolensk and order the army to concentrate around the nucleus of the IIIrd Corps near Lyosno in readiness to meet the Russian attack. However, by the 10th it appeared that this desirable event was not, after all, forthcoming; Barclay had halted in his tracks."

Thus, Barclay and Bagration had united their forces two full weeks before the battle of Smolensk and Barclay had been persuaded that time was right for a strategic offensive, although he changed his mind several times as to when would be the right moment for that. The mindset of the Russians was, neverhteless, offensive. The battle at Smolensk was not a chance encounter, as both Bagration and Barclay directed the bulk of their forces towards the city, in a conscious bid to defend it. Barclay decided to retreat late on 17, when he saw that the French were by then present in force and that he was running the risk of being cut off from Moscow, as indicated in the quote you provided. In terms of outcome, Chandler speaks of Napoleon's missed chance:

Chandler, p. 782: Thus Napoleon’s third attempt to trap the Russians into a decisive battle ended in as resounding a failure as its predecessors. In view of the unfavorable outcome of the Maneuver of Smolensk, Clausewitz and other commentators have asserted that Napoleon would have been wiser to make a straightforward advance from Vitebsk instead of the brilliantly conceived but poorly executed strategic envelopment. Some argue that he should have undertaken a tactical envelopment of the Russian right; others that he should have waited longer at Vitebsk, letting the enemy come to him. However, it is more important to summarize the reasons for his failure in the course he chose than to speculate about alternative courses of action.""
Chandler, ibidem: "A combination of factors deprived Napoleon of the great battle he so ardently desired. First, Bagration’s prompt reaction in sending his VIIth Corps to garrison the city ensured that an adequate force was present to face Murat and Ney. Secondly, the old-fashioned fortifications of Smolensk proved stronger than they appeared, and this enabled Raevski to hold off the French until help could arrive. Thirdly, the French sacrificed all chance of surprising the enemy by their inexplicable waste of August 15, which was spent in operational idleness. Fourthly, Napoleon was undoubtedly guilty of failing to press his advantage to the full. He delayed the final advance on Smolensk, then indulged in useless and piecemeal assaults on the city instead of pressing on to cut the Moscow road, selected the wrong commander for this task when at last he ordered it, and, throughout, displayed a general lack of the energy and drive which might have inspired his subordinates to success, heedless of all difficulties."

To conclude, I have no recollection of reading any historians or memorialists writing about how Smolensk improved the strategic situation of Russia. If their situation did improve as a result of the battle, could you please explain how? And also source your statements, rather than formulate loose interpretations? Regards, --Alexandru Demian (talk) 12:56, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

As you request, I am explaining -- for the third time now -- how Smolensk improved the strategic situation of the Russian army. In the battle of Smolensk on August 17 and 18, Barclay avoided being cut off from his line of retreat toward Moscow and being forced to fight a decisive battle against a superior French army. This was exactly what Napoleon sought to impose upon him, and Napoleon's plan failed. Both the First and the Second Russian armies managed to retreat in good order. Thus, Barclay saved the army for the future campaign. Napoleon's plan to end the war in one decisive battle, in a favorable tactical situation for the French, who possessed a superior force at the moment, failed. This was a strategic success for the Russians.

And sure, the two Russian armies had joined forces at Smolensk prior to the battle, on August 3, and not *at the actual moment* of the battle. This does not deny the fact that they did manage to unite, and Napoleon missed his chance to defeat them one by one. This was another strategic success for the Russians.

The fighting around Smolensk took several days, as you note correctly, and all the events of those days need to be considered in their historical context. Only then will we be able to say for whom Smolensk was rather a failure or a success. Tearing the battle for the city itself out of this context is unreasonable.

Now, the chronology. Barclay started his advance on Rudnia/Porech'e, west of Smolensk, on August 8. After one day's march he halted the army for four days (after the small clash at Inkovo, which indeed unnerved him, as you indicate), investigating the situation and unsure of the location of the French main forces. He resumed the advance on August 13-14. The Russians were moving along the right bank of the Dnieper, whereas Napoleon crossed onto the left bank on August 14 and began advancing on Smolensk. So, the two armies began to move in opposite directions and past each other. Once Barclay learned of this (from Neverovskii), he stopped his advance and, on August 15, ordered the Russian armies to retreat.

Thus, by the time the battle of Smolensk actually began (on August 17, or August 16 at the earliest, if you consider the first French probes against the city suburbs) the Russians were already retreating. Smolensk itself was not the objective of Barclay's retreat. Rather, the retreat was directed *past* Smolensk, further to the east, in the strategic direction toward Moscow.

It was not that "the mindset of the Russians was, nevertheless, offensive," as you propose. Some Russians, like Toll or Grand Duke Constantine, perhaps, but not Barclay. His march on Rudnia/Porech'e on August 8, and then August 13-14, was undertaken very hesitantly, as the above chronology shows. His main attention, throughout the advance, was toward guarding his line of retreat and avoiding the battle against Napoleon's main army. As soon as he sensed that danger, he ordered the retreat.

(Sources for the above: in addition to Chandler, see Clausewitz, _The Campaign of 1812 in Russia_ (DaCapo Press, 1995), 115-124.)

Nor was it that "both Bagration and Barclay directed the bulk of their forces towards the city, in a conscious bid to defend it," as you propose it. Already on August 16, Barclay instructed Bagration to dispatch, in the morning of August 17, the main force of the 2nd Army to the east of Smolensk, toward Valutino -- with the objective, again, of covering the line of Russian retreat (Clausewitz, 123). This is why in the battle of Smolensk on August 17 and 18, Barclay was present only with a fraction of the two Russian armies -- and then, only a fraction of this fraction was actually involved in the fighting.

Barclay never had a desire to fight a major battle at Smolensk. This battle for him was a delaying action, necessary to win time, hold the French, and ensure the continuing safe retreat eastward. To quote Clauzewitz, again: "Where the object is to conduct with advantage a defensive retreat into the far interior of the country, a continual resistance is a very essential part of such system, in order that the enemy may consume his strength against it. In this sense, then the battle of Smolensk is a valid portion of the campaign, although by its nature it could not be efficacious for a total conversion of the previous relative situation of the parties. That it had for Barclay a special value with reference to the Russians, and that this was the actively impelling principle of the measure with him, we have already said." (Clausewitz, 126).

This is why I argue that the battle of Smolensk was a strategic victory for the Russians. On both sides, Barclay's and Napoleon's, mistakes were made, and historians have amply criticized them. But eventually the operations around Smolensk proved advantageous for the Russians, and not for the French. This is what strategy is about.

By the way, speaking of "loose" interpretations. While Chandler, as your own quotations (and mine, earlier) from his work indicate, does outline the multiple failures of Napoleon at Smolensk, nowhere in his book does Chandler conclude that the battle of Smolensk was a French victory.

Finally, let me draw your attention back to Clausewitz, who considered Napoleon's operations around Smolensk in August of 1812, "the ... greatest error committed by Buonaparte in this [the Russian] campaign" (Clausewitz, 130).

Sincerely, Brildanz1 (talk) 01:17, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

Again, I must apologise for the delay in my response.

Ok, we have discussed this for some time now and I must say that I think this has been useful, given the extreme complexity of the strategic situation, the size of the theatre around Smolensk and the number of troops in the theatre, which exceeded 350,000. I think that at this point we need to move towards a conclusion and I think that we both agree that the difficulty we are experiencing is mainly due to the fact that such a clear-cut result as victory/defeat is difficult to accurately apply to this battle.

I thus propose that we show the two elements that the authors we talked about mention:

  • 1-French tactical victory:
    • French capture of Smolensk (Zamoyski, p. 227)
    • Russians suffer higher battle losses (Zamoyski, p. 227)

(NB: True, he says that it was a French victory but does not use the word 'tactical'. However, given the facts, this is quite straightforward.)

  • 2-Strategically inconclusive:
    • French envelopment manoeuvre of Smolensk fails (Zamoyski, p. 213)
    • Russian army retreats towards Moskow (Zamoyski, p. 222)

All this is taken directly from Zamoyski, and is not an interpretation based on the author's writings, always a danger with the 1812 campaign. I have left Chandler aside, since I don't have the right page numbers, but he basically gives the same four elements above, as can be seen in the quotes I've provided above. Lieven (p. 164-166) provides a supporting version. I've also looked at Pigeard's dictionary of Napoleonic battles (p. 794-799), where he provides a detailed account of the battle, but is a source mainly for the tactical level of the battle.

I think that this encompasses pretty much everything that there is to say about the result of the battle, so please let me know what you think about the wording above, so that we may implement it in the infobox asap. Best,--Alexandru Demian (talk) 14:20, 1 September 2012 (UTC)


I propose to keep the infobox as it stands now, namely: "French tactical victory, Russian strategic victory." Above, I have outlined the reasons for classifying Smolensk as a Russian strategic victory. As for the "French tactical victory," it is also acceptable. There a few reservations, though, to what you suggest as factors for determining the outcome of the battle:

1. The defense of Smolensk, as both Chandler and Clausewitz (and others) describe, was never a priority for the Russians, so its capture by the French meant little in terms of the outcome of the battle. A tactical gain, yes, but a minimal one.

2. As regards the casualty figures, they are, as we know, the least reliable and most controversial part of any historical account, especially about 1812. For example, Zamoyski does propose that the Russian casualty figures at Smolensk were higher than the French. But Clausewitz, on the contrary, believed that the French losses had been higher. "The mere military result," he wrote, "was, that the French lost many men, some 20,000, while the Russian loss was less" (Clausewitz, 126). His estimate of the total losses in the entire fighting around Smolensk, including Valutino, was about 30,000 Russians and about 36,000 French (Clausewitz, 131).

I am not proposing to indulge in a debate about casualty figures here. I only want to suggest that such indicators are the least reliable for determining the battle's outcome. Historians' estimates differ, and we can cite mutually opposite opinions, to little avail. It is best to avoid this. The infobox as it stands now is prudently imprecise on the casualty numbers, providing a range of casualties for both the French and the Russians. This is probably the best we can do.

Sincerely, Brildanz1 (talk) 04:46, 4 September 2012 (UTC)

We can't leave it as it is because the mainstream view, including all the authors we've spoken about, see this battle as a hollow French victory but nowhere do they speak about any Russian advantage, victory, triumph, advantage, achievement, success, ascendancy or strategic victory... Nothing. On the contrary, several, incl Zamoyski detail how the Russian position got worse. So, sorry, the only option is to find a compromise along the referenced formula above. You will see that my work here on wikipedia, see for example Battle of Wagram, is all about historical accuracy. I am not willing to rewrite history, nor to accept revisionist POVs. With all due respect, Brildanz1. Good evening.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 19:30, 4 September 2012 (UTC)


Historical accuracy, kind sir, is what I get paid for.

For the sake of historical accuracy, then, let me note that “all the authors we've spoken about” do not interpret the battle of Smolensk as a French victory. I have cited at least two authors, David Chandler and Carl von Clausewitz, who believed otherwise and interpreted Smolensk as a French failure. Clausewitz, furthermore, discussed the battle as a Russian success. For nuances, see above.

As regards “the only option” of finding a compromise, neither you nor I are in a position to monopolize and dictate interpretations of what is “the only option.”

There is no need to get excessively emotional. Because this conversation has reached somewhat of a dead end, I propose that both of us abstain from making changes to the battle of Smolensk infobox, and that we leave the conclusions about the battle to the rest of the Wikipedia community.

On my part, I need to leave this informative discussion. The academic year is starting, and I need to return to my obligation of teaching college students how to read, write, and revise history professionally -- as well as how to observe the rules of historical accuracy.

Yours truly, Brildanz1 (talk) 02:12, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Allright. While this is being discussed by other wikipedians, I am reverting to the infobox result of before our discussion.--Alexandru Demian (talk) 20:05, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Flag for Russian Empire[edit]

To be factually correct, we should consider using this flag for the Russian Empire in the InfoBox.

Estandarte Imperial de Rusia.png



Until 1852, the Empire used this flag (the Czar's Standard) as the national flag. See this (although their dates are not 100% correct) and also look here as well as the flag illustrated in the Russian Empire wiki article. Farawayman (talk) 21:23, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

The file "Estandarte Imperial de Rusia.png" is nonsense. It's the modern coat of arms, slightly modified. Wadim (talk) 21:24, 16 July 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps the PNG is incorrect, but is the claim that the Czar's Standard was the national flag correct? Farawayman (talk) 18:09, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
As far as I understand, at that time there was a banner for ceremonial purposes. The problem is that we don't know what banner(s) the army used. I think the tricolour is better for identification. It's older (this
Flag of the Tsar of Moscow 1668.jpg

flag is from 1668), the merchant navy used it as the national flag, and there were a lot of flags based on the tricolour, like this one:
Флаг Российско-Американской торговой компании (1806 год).JPG

from 1806. Basically there wasn't any "de iure nation flag", but the tricolour was "de facto nation flag".Wadim (talk) 09:11, 18 July 2010 (UTC)