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Napoleon’s failed Russian invasion – What’s the history?
News: Recently, Russia asked French President Emmanuel Macron to remember the fate of Napoleon Bonaparte after he called for Russia’s defeat against Ukraine.
Why did France invade Russia under Napoleon’s rule?
After winning the Battle of Friedland in 1807, Napoleon signed the Treaties of Tilsit with Russia’s Tsar Alexander I, which marked the beginning of their alliance.
The Russians also accepted to become part of Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, which prohibited both neutral parties and French allies from trading with Great Britain. However, this caused severe damage to the Russian economy, forcing the Tsar to break the agreement in 1810 and start trading with Britain openly.
When all the attempts of negotiations failed, Napoleon sent 600,000 of his Grande Armée into Russia.
Why did the invasion not succeed?
When the Grande Armée reached the Russian territory, the Tsar’s army retreated into the interior regions, compelling the French to cover much longer distances than expected. This led to a shortage of food and other supplies. Napoleon’s military strategists also realized that restocking was a daunting task in Russia because it had a poor road network.
Russian soldiers, who adopted “a scorched earth policy of destroying everything possible as they retreated before the French”, made food scarcity worse.
As a result, Napoleon’s troops started to suffer from hunger, fatigue and diseases like typhus and diarrhoea.
After the Tsar refused to respond to any of Napoleon’s proposed negotiations for weeks, the French emperor begrudgingly ordered his men to return.
But the French weren’t prepared to face the bone-chilling cold of Russia and the situation spiralled out of control. When temperatures fell to minus 22 degrees Celsius, the soldiers froze to death.
What happened after the invasion?
Napoleon’s failed conquest of Russia united the rest of Europe against him.
Known as the War of the Sixth Coalition, the battle concluded with the defeat of Napoleon, who then went into exile.
He briefly returned to power in France in 1815 but had to abdicate his throne for the second time after he lost the Battle of Waterloo during the War of the Seventh Coalition.