War, Economy and Utopianism: Russia after the Napoleonic Era

  • Janet M. Hartley
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


The Napoleonic Wars transformed the status of the Russian Empire within Europe. At the beginning of the campaigns the perception of the other major European powers was that Russia was not capable of inflicting a major defeat on Napoleon without allied support. Alexander I was humiliated at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805, and almost suffered the indignity of being captured. Following a further defeat at the Battle of Friedland in June 1807, Alexander had to come to terms with Napoleon at Tilsit (7 July 1807) and had to recognize the dominant position of the French Emperor in central and eastern Europe. Relations between France and Russia deteriorated, particularly as a result of French influence over Poland and the implementation of the Continental System, and led to the invasion of Russia in June 1812 by a massive army of some 680,000 men. The presence of Napoleon’s troops in the Russian Empire was brief compared with the experience of some other European countries, but traumatic in terms of casualties suffered in major battles (Smolensk on 16–18 August and Borodino on 7 September), and the occupation of Moscow. The retreat started in mid-October and the Russian campaign effectively ended on 14 December 1812, with the last troops of the Grande Armée leaving Russian soil. But by now Russia had established its military superiority and became the dominant partner of the coalition which pushed Napoleon back to the borders of France.


Early Nineteenth Century Novgorod Province Russian Army Military Superiority Military Reform 
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© Janet M. Hartley 2016

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  • Janet M. Hartley

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