Talk:French invasion of Russia

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Undiscussed move[edit]

The move today to "Russian campaign of 1812" is not as common in English (no matter that it is common in French and Portuguese I understand) therefore tech revert requested per WP:BRD. In ictu oculi (talk) 13:25, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

Russian Campaign is common in English -- try a Google book search -- as is the French invasion of Russia. --- PBS (talk) 02:05, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

"French pyrrhic victory" versus a "Decisive Russian victory"[edit]

this seems blindingly obvious, but apparently it's unclear for one user.

1. a decisive military victory = winning war/battle militarily.

2. the Russians didn't win any battles, and the French marched into Moscow

3. thus, it can not be described as a "decisive Russian victory".

I bothered to put in 7 sources who use the term "pyrrhic victory", but Google will help you find hundreds more.

it's pretty basic first-year history stuff - Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia (and Borodino in particular) is typically used as an example par excellence, of a "phyrric" victory. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:31, 22 December 2013 (UTC)

The seven sources cited to support the idea of a "pyrrhic victory" failed WP:V. I checked out these citations one by one, and I found that:
1. Von Clausewitz´s commenter don't mention the word 'pyrrhic', less to say any reference to a French victory.
2. Five other authors (Bakunin, Wilde, Dodge, Rothenberg and Schrad) use the term 'pyrrhic' to describe the outcome of the battle of Borodino, NOT that of Napoleon's whole campaign. Here you have the quotations:
  • Bakunin: "He" (Kutuzov) "could not hope to win, but he turned Napoleon's triumph into a Pyrrhic victory, best described not in military accounts but by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace. Fifty thousand Russians died; about forty thousand of Napoleon's soldiers were killed. The Russian withdrew again, and one week later, the Grande Armee entered Moscow."
  • Wilde: "Napoleon was now" (after Borodino) "able to march into Moscow on September 14th, but it was a pyrrhic victory, as the Russians had abandoned the city and burnt vast areas of it down. The Tsar wept at the news but stayed firm."
  • Dodge: "Borodino was certainly won by the French, but it was a Pyrrhic victory."
  • Rothenberg: "Borodino was a Pyrrhic victory, and Waterloo a failure."
  • Schrad: "Borodino was a pyrrhic victory for the French, who were too exhausted to pursue the withdrawing Russian army."
3. Of the seven cited sources, only Horward seems at first to support the idea of a pyrrhic outcome for the campaign, but this is a question of semantics; in one hand, he uses the phrase "classic Pyrrhic victory" in relation to Borodino and the capture of Moscow; in the other hand, Horward criticizes Napoleon's "uncharacteristic incompetence" (for staying in Moscow so long) and later praises him for conducting a "brilliant retreat against overwhelming odds." Horward surrendered to evidence, however, when he concludes that in the process "he lost over four hundred thousand men and hastened his own fall.", hardly the description of a 'victory'.
You should understand that this article deals with the entire Napoleonic invasion of Russia, not just with Borodino or the fall of Moscow. Even a random Google search of "French pyrrhic victory" in relation to the Russian campaign only produces Borodino. If you see instead to the big picture, the invasion was the turning point of the Napoleonic Wars, or in Horward's words, the campaign where Napoleon "lost over four hundred thousand men and hastened his own fall." (sorry for being repetitive)--Darius (talk) 22:24, 22 December 2013 (UTC)
So, by your own admission, three sources state that conquering Moscow was a pyrrhic victory (Howard, Bakunin, Wilde), while four others refer specifically to Borodino. How are you then justified in deleting ALL the sources, and claiming the invasion was a "decisive russian military victory"? Your own interpretation of events and sources are not relevant. (talk) 04:22, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
Not my "own admission", but what cited sources say; and NONE of these authors support your claim that the campaign as a whole was a "French pyrrhic victory".--Darius (talk) 10:52, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

Napoleon himself was rather frustrated that he won all the battles (his view) but lost the war. No question that the outcome was devastatingly decisive, and it seems to me the summary statement should reflect that, but perhaps it would be better to say the campaign was a decisive defeat of the French Army, or of Napoleon and the Grande Armée. Many of the battles were pyrrhic French victories, but I have a hard time viewing the campaign as such. Regardless, let us try to resolve it here before we change the text in the infobox, as the back and forth is bad form. The preferred process is bold edit, revert, discuss. made a bold edit, DagosNavy reverted, the next step should be to leave the article alone and discuss till there is consensus. Gunbirddriver (talk) 05:11, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

So, to continue the discussion, I must say it is not blindingly obvious to me how the campaign could be considered a French victory of any sort, pyrrhic or otherwise. Did not the campaign end with Napoleon racing back to Paris in a sled to quell political threats to his power? Was he not worried he would be captured in the process while trying to get through Germany? Was his power and prestige not greatly undermined by the failure of the campaign? Did the Russians not end up in Paris about a year later, with Napoleon abdicating his thrown? Would any of this have occurred without his massive commitment to defeat Czar Alexander and subjugate Russia to his will? Gunbirddriver (talk) 05:29, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

"Phyrric" is a concept that need always a explanation and doesn't fit in a infobox. Hóseás (talk) 09:41, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
Again, one's personal opinions are not relevant. It's for historians and other reliable sources to judge. Gunbirddriver, you haven't added a source, you've only speculated on a subject that you clearly have a limited understanding of. Sources please! (talk) 19:57, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

I truly do not understand how you could argue that the Russian campaign of 1812 was anything other than a disaster for the French, but to show that this is not merely my ill informed opinion, I could reference these sources:

  • Caulaincourt, Armand-Augustin-Louis With Napoleon in Russia translated by Jean Hanoteau New York, Morrow 1935.
  • Ségur, Philippe-Paul Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign translated by David Townsend; Mark Danner New York: New York Review Books, 2008.
  • Brett-James, Antony 1812: Eyewitness accounts of Napoleon's Defeat in Russia New York: St. Martin's Press, 1966.
  • Tarle, E.V. How Mikhail Kutuzov defeated Napoleon London: Soviet War News, 1926

Caulaincourt starts out his memoir stating: "The events in Europe leading up to 1812 had so great an influence on those which followed later, by placing the balance of Europe's destiny into the hands of Russia, that I have felt it would be valuable to preserve the notes I made..." No allusion to a French victory here. Could he be mistaken, or perhaps he did not perceive the significance of the events he was surrounded by? Based on what Caulaincourt shared in his memoir, it is hard to make the case for a French victory. Is he wrong? Gunbirddriver (talk) 23:27, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

If you actually read any history book, you will see that Napoleon invaded Russia, won militarily, conquered Moscow - but at an unacceptable cost - so then retreated. I am Russian, and this is what we are taught. I also studied history at a Russian university, where we were taught it was a "Pyrrhic" military victory for Napoleon. All serious works of history mention this. Whether it should be mentioned in the infobox at the start however, is up for debate I would say.
  • Абалихин Б. С. О стратегическом плане Наполеона на осень 1812 г. — Вопросы истории, 1985. — № 2. — С. 64 — 79.
  • Быкадоров И. Ф. Казаки в Отечественной войне 1812 года. — М.: Яуза, Эксмо, 2008
  • La Campagne de Russie - La Moskowa, Benoît Sommier et Bernard Chevallier, Le Rubicon Éditeur, 2013
  • Essai sur la guerre de partisans, Denis Davidoff, Traduction d’Héraclius de Polignac, Avant-propos du général Fortuné de Brack, Éditions Astrée, 2012, 140 p. (ISBN 979-10-91815-00-0)
  • 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow, Adam Zamoyski, HarperCollins, 644 Pages. (ISBN 978-0007123742)
  • A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars, BG Vincent J. Esposito and C John R. Elting, Greenhill Books, ~400 pages. (ISBN 1-85367-346-3)
  • Baron Dufour (1769-1842)[ordonnateur en chef de la Garde impériale], Jacques Perot, éd., Guerre de Russie, 1812, Atlantica Séguier, 2007
  • Lentz, Thierry. Nouvelle histoire du premier empire: L'effondrement du système napoléonien, 1810-1814. — Paris: Fayard, 2004
  • Понасенков Е. Н. Правда о войне 1812 года. — М.: Рейтар, 2004
  • Cornaro, Ludwig von. Strategische Betrachtungen über den Krieg im Jahre 1812. — Wien: Verlag von L. W. Seidel und Sohn, 1870 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:40, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

Napoleon did not retreat from Moscow because the costs were too high. Think about this problem strategically. That is what Czar Alexander did, with Spain as his example. Caulaincourt was familiar with the Czar's thoughts on the matter from direct conversation with him beforehand. Caulaincourt attempted to pass this knowledge on to Napoleon, but Napoleon had too many ideas of his own to change his plans on the counsel of Caulaincourt. He found out for himself that the campaign would be different than the ones he had fought against Austria or Prussia. Too late, I am afraid. Gunbirddriver (talk) 01:39, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

Borodino is often cited as a phyrric victory, I've never heard of the entire campaign listed as such. As a campaign it ranks right up there with the most decisive defeats in all history. Given that the German wars of liberation started almost as soon as the French retreated over the boarder I fail to see what the argument was about. As for the comment that Napoleon didn't leave because the costs were too high... he left because in the time he'd spent there the main army in Moscow had never rose above 95,000, despite the inflow of reinforcements. Recent victories by the Russian Army proved that his time was up, when it was already far too late. Logistics plays no favorites and the Russian high command and Kutuzov/Barkley in particular had a far superior view on it than Napoleon did. Devout, no slouch as a battlefield general, killed 30,000 men, almost as many as Borodino, by force marching his men over a single week. Everything that worked for the French in central Europe worked against it in Russia. Walking into a campaign with 270,000 men and walking out with 23,000 men is as decisive as it gets folks.Tirronan (talk)
To clarify, I was countering the previous assertion, and I meant that he did not leave Moscow in mid October 1812 because of the losses suffered thus far in the campaign (what was described as "an unacceptable cost"). He left because defeating the Russian army and taking a major city did not get him what he wanted, the Czar's petition for peace. He could not win by staying there, and things would only get worse with each passing day. He still thought if he could engage the Russian army in a decisive battle he could save the campaign, and he attempted to do so as he moved out. He was unsuccessful in forcing the issue, and he had to leave. I believe we are in agreement, essentially. Gunbirddriver (talk) 21:44, 26 September 2014 (UTC)


See Talk:French invasion of Russia/Archive 1#turning-point.

It was a turning point but it was not the only one see the discussion in the archive -- PBS (talk) 11:28, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

"Invasion of Twelve Languages".[edit]

So, the Russians have called this:

"the invasion of twelve languages" (Russian: нашествие двунадесяти языков)

But, does anyone know which are these twelve languages? It should be added to the article. I can name but French, German (for Prussia, Austria, and the other German states), Polish and Italian. We're missing... 8 languages? At least dialects (of German and Italian) are counted. -- (talk) 16:08, 15 July 2014 (UTC)

Good question. I do not know the origin of the Russian term (which I understand from the article has not been used any more in Russia for about a century), but for sure more than four languages were spoken in the Grande Armée. Napoleon had annexed Belgium and the Netherlands with its Dutch/Flemish-speakers, the Illyrian Provinces with its speakers of Croatian and Slowenian, as well as Catalonia. Natives from all these annexed territories were drafted in the French Army and participated in the invasion of Russia. This adds four more languages. Then there are the Spanish prisoners of war who were drafted into Joseph Napoleon's Regiment (France) and the Portuguese Legion (Napoleonic Wars), both participating in the invasion. This brings the number of languages up to ten. If you add the Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard from Egypt, you have an 11th language, Arabic. And if you add the Lithuanian units that joined the Grande Armée after it took Vilnius and Napoleon allowed the Lithuanians to establish a provisional government, there is a 12th language. Even more languages were spoken in other units that were part of the Grande Armée or Allies of Napoloen, but that did not take part in the invasion, such as the Danes and the Irish Legion. The Austrian Empire contributed an auxilary corps under Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, but it participated only in the beginning of the invasion. More than a dozen languages were spoken in the Austrian Empire, so if they are added the total number of languages spoken even exceeds twelve.--Mschiffler (talk) 21:28, 10 January 2015 (UTC)
I always had an impression that "twelve" here just means "a lot of" and expresses the feelings of average peasant people many of which had never encountered any foreigners before. Vs1969 (talk) 04:47, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Aborted edit under Historical assessment[edit]

I traced down an aborted edit by User:Blaue Max (notified). This edit adds a image and an unfinished paragraph of text ending in a colon.

The forces immediately facing Napoleon consisted of three armies comprising 175,250 Russians and 15,000 Cossacks, with 938 guns as follows:

This edit should be finished or removed, and perhaps the worth of the added image should be evaluated. — MaxEnt 23:45, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

I just moved an already existing picture and its text from one paragraph to an other. I'm not the author of the aformentioned sentence which has been erased since.Blaue Max (talk) 07:59, 25 February 2015 (UTC)