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Old August 13th, 2010, 08:31 PM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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Napoleonic victory with the invasion of Russia?

Most alternate TLs I read of a Napoleonic victory has a pod of not invading Russia. But would it be possible to sucessfully occupy Russia and force it to surrender unconditionally? Or would that be too wankish? How about a marginal victory in which the Grande Armee is not destroyed but with Russia staying in the continental system and an occupation force is left to see to it that Alexander was behaving himself?
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Old August 13th, 2010, 08:49 PM
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Have the Russians do even better in the previous war with an expectation to win. Beat the army badly. Get another peace with little reparation.

That's all you can hope for, even with the Grande Armee. But it could easily have happened.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 08:54 PM
stevep stevep is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Tristin View Post
Most alternate TLs I read of a Napoleonic victory has a pod of not invading Russia. But would it be possible to sucessfully occupy Russia and force it to surrender unconditionally? Or would that be too wankish? How about a marginal victory in which the Grande Armee is not destroyed but with Russia staying in the continental system and an occupation force is left to see to it that Alexander was behaving himself?
ET

A total victory such as you suggest would be too wankish. Russia is too large and populous and communications and logistics too primitive for something like that to work. Even as it was, having defeat the Russians on one bloody battle and occupying Moscow the French found they hadn't broken the Russian resistance and quickly had to retreat because their army couldn't be supplied.

About the only way you might be able to do something would be to trigger a war in which Russia is persuaded to come to you and the French can defeat them in the border regions. Then it might persuade the Russian leadership to make a new peace with France and keep them paying at least lip service to the continental system. Even then the situation is so unstable because none of the established great powers wanted to have their politics and economic dictated by Paris. Hence there would continue to be unrest until either France changes its policies or Napoleon goes down.

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Old August 13th, 2010, 09:26 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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About the only way you might be able to do something would be to trigger a war in which Russia is persuaded to come to you and the French can defeat them in the border regions. Then it might persuade the Russian leadership to make a new peace with France and keep them paying at least lip service to the continental system. Even then the situation is so unstable because none of the established great powers wanted to have their politics and economic dictated by Paris. Hence there would continue to be unrest until either France changes its policies or Napoleon goes down.

Steve

Basically, what it comes down to is that Russia is not invincible - so long as you keep your objectives limited.

After Austerlitz, about all Napoleon immediately wanted was for the Russians to go home and let him rearrange Central Europe as he pleased. He got that.

In 1854/6, the Allies just wanted Russia to pull back a bit from Turkey. They got that.

In 1904/5, the Japanese wanted Russia to pull back from Korea and the southern end of Manchuria. They got that.

By contrast, the aims of Charles XII and Hitler were far more "open-ended - and the end they found was catastrophe.

Napoleon, as noted above, had started with a limited objective - but it didn't stay limited. By laying down the law about who Russia could or couldn't trade with, he was treating the Tsar like some sort of French viceroy - and for a Russian Tsar, loss of prestige was all too often followed by loss of life. At some point, Alexander would have to say no. And the rest is history.

I get the impression that the Central Powers showed a rather similar pattern. Up through 1917, they avoided stretching their Lines of Communication too much. They fought the Russians within, at most, a few hundred miles of their borders - and wore them down into collapse. However, after Brest-Litovsk, the CP showed signs of falling into the Napoleon trap of letting their appetite get bigger and bigger. The November Armistice came before it was clear how they were going to make out.

The Allies after WW1 (or certainly the French) went the opposite way. The Allied intervention was initially "open-ended" and met the usual failure, but when the French lowered their sights and focused on the much more limited task of preventing a Russian reconquest of Poland, they were able to achieve that aim - for two decades anyway.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 09:38 AM
Yorel Yorel is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Tristin
Most alternate TLs I read of a Napoleonic victory has a pod of not invading Russia. But would it be possible to sucessfully occupy Russia and force it to surrender unconditionally? Or would that be too wankish? How about a marginal victory in which the Grande Armee is not destroyed but with Russia staying in the continental system and an occupation force is left to see to it that Alexander was behaving himself?
Occupying Russia is not possible for Napoleon : it is far too large. Occupying key towns, such as Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev or Smolensk could maybe work but that is far from sure. Besides, I doubt Napoleon would resort to military occupation of Russia : he already has the Peninsula War to deal with.

A Russian defeat in the Russian Campaign is possible, but you would need to change some factors such as :

-Napoleon going directly for Saint Petersburg. If he goes for the real capital rather than the heart of Russia, he stands better chance.

-A different commander in chief of the Russian army : Barclay de Tolly wanted to avoid confrontation with the French, and this led to a neverending chase of Russian troops by the French. Barclay de Tolly's tactic was heavily criticized by the Russian Military Staff, until he pissed off so much people he was replaced by Koutouzov (who kept using the same tactics). Basically, with someone else in charge in the first days of the campaign, you could increase the chances of a decisive battle occuring : that's what Napoleon wanted in the first place.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 10:52 AM
Alonicus Alonicus is offline
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Russia was by no means invincible; 1805 and 1807 had clearly demonstrated that. They had also demonstrated that you had to push a Russian soldier over after you shot him, to let him know he was dead.

However, the biggest problem in Russia is simply one of scale. The distances are huge, and a French Napoleonic army would average 20-30 miles a day (the 54 miles Davout's corps did before Austerlitz was a one-off forced march that wouldn't be sustainable for more than one day).

Thus, I suggest that for Napoleon to win, he would have needed to split the campaign into two seasons. In 1812, he could advance to Smolensk, resting there for the winter or possibly pulling back to Mogilev or Vilna. As in OTL, he would hope but fail to bring the Russian army to a decisive battle.

With shorter supply lines, he would lose less to partisans (who would be less active anyway - they only really came out to play once the Retreat began) while in winter cantonments, and could maintain better contact with the rest of his Empire. In 1813, starting early in spring, he could strike at Moscow or St Petersburg. The latter actually makes more sense; it is the administrative centre while Moscow was the commercial and spiritual centre. It also has the advantage that his army can be resupplied by sea, if the navies of his allies in the Baltic can hold off the English navy (or, alternatively, if enough money can be found to buy the supplies from the neutral merchants who always found their way around a Royal Navy blockade).

It is likely that with either Moscow or St Petersburg threatened, the Russian commander would be ordered to stand and fight. It's why Borodino happened in OTL. Napoleon would have the advantage that his army would have been reinforced over the winter; in OTL, 85% of his losses were on the advance, not the Great Retreat. These losses were more drop-outs than death, due to illness and fatigue (it was very dry, hot and dusty as they advanced). With these losses replaced, Napoleon could have bought 250-300,000 men to a battle rather than the weakened 100,000 who were actually at Borodino. The Russians, too, would have been reinforced, but didn't have the resources of the whole of Europe to draw on as Napoleon did.

Following a defeat at the gates of St Petersburg (let's call it "The Battle of Gatchina" - quite a likely place for it to occur), Bruyere, Pajol, Chastel and Rozniecki could have driven the beaten Russian army north, into Finland. There, cut off from reinforcements, it could have been contained relatively easily. Not to mention that it might have been an irresistibly easy target for that great opportunist, Bernadotte.

With spring coming to St Petersburg around the end of March, which would be the start of campaigning, the decisive battle would have happened by about the beginning of June. In OTL, Napoleon crossed the Niemen on 24th June, fought Borodino on 8th September and occupied Moscow on 14th September, so it's a similar timescale. The difference is that ITTL, after the Battle of Gatchina Napoleon has another 3 months of campaigning before winter starts. He can use that time to move on Moscow, or to strike at Tula (the centre of Russian arms manufacturing), or to consolidate an occupied zone running from St Petersburg back to friendly Lithuania.

Assuming the Czar had any fight left in him after the loss of St Petersburg, he'd find it harder to organise new armies than in OTL, as he would have lost the administrative centre and key training facilities. I think it more likely that at this point, the Czar would open negotiations. Although complete French occupation of Russia would be unlikely, I can see Napoleon extracting a very heavy price. Finland could go to Sweden if Bernadotte had done anything at all to help. France could have set up proxy states in what is now Latvia & Estonia, possibly extending a zone of control right up to the gates of St Petersburg as a persistent threat if Russia got out of line in future. The Grand Duchy of Warsaw and Austria could both have picked up some land in the West of Russia. After four wars in a dozen years, Napoleon would have had little inclination to give Russia yet another chance, and the treaty would likely have looked like the one he gave Prussia with limitations to army size, massive reparations (in Prussia's case 100 million francs, from an annual post-treaty GDP of 69 million) and requisition of vast amounts of horseflesh.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 03:35 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Alonicus View Post
After four wars in a dozen years, Napoleon would have had little inclination to give Russia yet another chance, and the treaty would likely have looked like the one he gave Prussia with limitations to army size, massive reparations (in Prussia's case 100 million francs, from an annual post-treaty GDP of 69 million) and requisition of vast amounts of horseflesh.

If the terms were as stiff as that, what would Alexander have to lose by continuing the war?

Agreeing to them might well cost him his life. Not being a success was very dangerous for a Tsar, as his father and grandfather both discovered.

And Napoleon, of course, could not stay long in the east. His empire was too much of a one man band for that. Even OTL, there was an attempted coup in Paris during his absence. Alexander can retire to Moscow, or even to Nizhni Novgorod or Kazan if he must, and wait Napoleon out.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 04:01 PM
Jobiwan7 Jobiwan7 is offline
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-A different commander in chief of the Russian army
I agree with this. Specifically, make sure Bagration has the command. He wanted to pursue a much more offensive strategy in 1812, proposing that the Russians meet Napoleon in Poland.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 04:07 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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I agree with this. Specifically, make sure Bagration has the command. He wanted to pursue a much more offensive strategy in 1812, proposing that the Russians meet Napoleon in Poland.

Agreed. The Russians will surely get creamed if they try that. The $64,000 question is whether Napoleon's peace terms will be moderate enough that the Tsar can accept them without endangering his throne - in a country where loss of the throne would be a virtual death sentence.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 04:29 PM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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. After four wars in a dozen years, Napoleon would have had little inclination to give Russia yet another chance, and the treaty would likely have looked like the one he gave Prussia with limitations to army size, massive reparations (in Prussia's case 100 million francs, from an annual post-treaty GDP of 69 million) and requisition of vast amounts of horseflesh.

Why not do all of the above yet be generous in victory rather than impose such harsh carthaginian peace? Would it not be better to renew the alliance with Russia by promising to give them Constantinople at some time? There's no love lost between Turkey and Russia in the first place. I'm sure the Russians wouldn't mind taking a few Ottoman territories for themselves. Napoleon can then have a free hand to drive the English out of Spain, concentrate on using Europe's resources to build a grande armada for the ultimate invasion of England itself.
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Old August 14th, 2010, 08:18 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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Why not do all of the above yet be generous in victory rather than impose such harsh carthaginian peace? Would it not be better to renew the alliance with Russia by promising to give them Constantinople at some time? There's no love lost between Turkey and Russia in the first place. I'm sure the Russians wouldn't mind taking a few Ottoman territories for themselves. Napoleon can then have a free hand to drive the English out of Spain, concentrate on using Europe's resources to build a grande armada for the ultimate invasion of England itself.

Only thing is, if Napoleon was that smart, would he have been at war with Alexander in the first place?

Best move would be to offer Alexander the Duchy of Warsaw, compensating the King of Saxony with a slice of Westphalia or something, whilst also encouraging Alex to annex Moldavia and Wallachia, and maybe a slice of Bulgaria as well.

This would serve a dual purpose. The Poles would hate Russian rule, so the new acquisition would be a running sore for the Tsar, whilst the King of Prussia, who had owned the lion's share of it pre-1807, would be antagonised against him. The Balkan acquisitions would have put Russia astride the Danube, which carried most of Austria's trade, so she too would be annoyed. But of course it's all fantasy. Napoleon would need a complete personality transplant to behave in such a manner.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 04:56 AM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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Only thing is, if Napoleon was that smart, would he have been at war with Alexander in the first place?.
Its called megalomania and I think its an actual disease like a gambler's addiction. They just can't seem to quit while they're ahead.


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This would serve a dual purpose. The Poles would hate Russian rule, so the new acquisition would be a running sore for the Tsar, whilst the King of Prussia, who had owned the lion's share of it pre-1807, would be antagonised against him. The Balkan acquisitions would have put Russia astride the Danube, which carried most of Austria's trade, so she too would be annoyed. But of course it's all fantasy. Napoleon would need a complete personality transplant to behave in such a manner.

Napoleon keeping the Europeans bickering among themselves would have been a good idea. In retrospect it wouldn't be that difficult to do. Or maybe he can also turn the Russians and the British against each other.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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Evil Tristin

Unfortunately the problem with the 2nd paragraph was the 1st one. He was too busy turning everybody against France to be turning them against each other.

Steve

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Its called megalomania and I think its an actual disease like a gambler's addiction. They just can't seem to quit while they're ahead.


Napoleon keeping the Europeans bickering among themselves would have been a good idea. In retrospect it wouldn't be that difficult to do. Or maybe he can also turn the Russians and the British against each other.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 06:58 PM
Alonicus Alonicus is offline
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I think it's possibly an over-simplification to just say "Napoleon was a megalomaniac" and use it to justify stupidity. Everything he did was intelligently calculated, even if it didn't turn out as expected.

What needs to be considered is the background. France was a revolutionary state (even after it became a Napoleonic monarchy again), and every monarchy in Europe wanted to see a return to the status quo ante-bellum. From Napoleon's perspective, every war he fought but one was defensive. When he attacked a country, it was because he believed it was either about to attack him or be used as a base to attack him.

Let's look at the cases.
1800 Italy; the Austrians were working up to use it as an axis to attack France from the south.
1805 Austerlitz campaign; it was called the war of the third coalition because Britain had assembled a coalition to attack France.
1806 Prussia; the Prussians were gearing up to attack (hence the famous story of the guard cuirassiers shapening their sabres on the palace steps).
1807 Poland; the Russians had mobilised to aid the Prussians. The fighting was mostly in East Prussia, not Russia, because the Russians were the ones who attacked.
1808 Portugal/Spain. That was the aberration, but was still intended to hurt Britain which was already at war with France.
1809 Austria; the Austrians clearly attacked first, and indeed caught the French and Bavarians on the hop initially.
1812 Russia: Napoleon attacked pre-emptively because he expected Russia to mobilise and attack.

While Napoleon was not exactly a pacifist, there was never a case where he started a war just because he felt like it.

I still think the loss of St Petersburg and Moscow would take the fight out of Alexander. Thinking about it, you're right about the consequences of failure for a czar, mikestone; it's completely possible that a palace coup would have gotten rid of Alexander if it looked like he had lost the war. But the idea of endlessly retreating but keeping on fighting is a much later concept; at this date, Russia east of the Urals didn't have the organisation, population or infrastructure to support a war. Moscow and St P were the centre, and with them gone, there's not a lot to hold the country together.

The idea of getting the other powers bickering among themselves is a good one, but made difficult because they perceived Napoleon as a usurper. His marriage to Marie-Louise was a step to resolve that which could have worked if it had had a longer period of time. Austria only turned against Napoleon when it was obvious he had lost; Schwartzenburg's withdrawal from the campaign of 1812 was very much a unilateral move.

If Napoleon had won against Russia, I really do think it unlikely he'd have been generous. After Tilsit, Alexander's defiance was a personal insult, but more to the point, Napoleon would have wanted to remove the possibility of having to fight yet another war against Russia. They were the hardest of his wars, and three was enough ! I wonder if he might even had planted one of his brothers on the throne and left a sizeable army to enforce this until things calmed down a bit.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 08:10 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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I still think the loss of St Petersburg and Moscow would take the fight out of Alexander. Thinking about it, you're right about the consequences of failure for a czar, mikestone; it's completely possible that a palace coup would have gotten rid of Alexander if it looked like he had lost the war. But the idea of endlessly retreating but keeping on fighting is a much later concept; at this date, Russia east of the Urals didn't have the organisation, population or infrastructure to support a war. Moscow and St P were the centre, and with them gone, there's not a lot to hold the country together.

Who said anything about east of the Urals? Nizhni Novgorod and Kazan are still well west of them, though further east than Moscow. Alternatively, Alexander could head for the Don and Rally the Cossacks there.

As for "taking the fight out of Alexander", how is that possible? As already noted, given the mortality rate for unsuccessful Tsars, the man was quite literally fighting for his life. Even if he secretly wants to give in, he dare not. He is riding a tiger

Nor am I quite sure what you mean about SP and Moscow being the "centre". Russia didn't really have one. There would be vast areas where people wouldn't even be aware of those cities' destruction, let alone affected by it, for many weeks after the event.



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If Napoleon had won against Russia, I really do think it unlikely he'd have been generous. After Tilsit, Alexander's defiance was a personal insult, but more to the point, Napoleon would have wanted to remove the possibility of having to fight yet another war against Russia. They were the hardest of his wars, and three was enough ! I wonder if he might even had planted one of his brothers on the throne and left a sizeable army to enforce this until things calmed down a bit.
What would be the point? The poor guy would be even worse off than Joseph Bonaparte. At best he would only be mayor of St Petersburg, assuming StP still existed other than as a burnt out shell. If the army spread out to occupy a larger territory, its units could be picked off in isolation.

Also, the only possible "fifth column" inside Russia would be the Polish nobility in Lithuania and western Byelorussia and Ukraine, and possibly the German barons on the Baltic. These, however, would be taking an almighty risk, since Alexander, if cornered into it, might proclaim the emancipation of the serfs, and encourage the Barons' peasants to rise up and massacre them [1]. To wait until "things calmed down a bit" would be to wait forever.


[1] This is not fanciful. Iirc it was seriously discussed. In 1846, the Austrian authorities in Galicia would use a similar tactic to defeat an uprising by the Polish nobility.

Last edited by Mikestone8; August 15th, 2010 at 09:00 PM..
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Old August 15th, 2010, 08:47 PM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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I wonder if he might even had planted one of his brothers on the throne and left a sizeable army to enforce this until things calmed down a bit.
I've wondered the same thing. But how long would a Russian branch of the Bonapartes would have lasted?
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Old August 15th, 2010, 08:53 PM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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What would be the point? The poor guy would be even worse off than Joseph Bonaparte. At best he would only be mayor of St Petersburg, assuming StP still existed other than as a burnt out shell. If the army spread out to occupy a larger territory, its units could be picked off in isolation.

I dont know, the way I see it Russia was a powder keg of underclass resentment against the Tsar and the rest of the Aristocracy. How about the French behaved like the Enlightened liberators they set out to be this time by sowing the seeds of revolution in Russia. One of Nap's brothers or perhaps one of his marshals for one thing can abolish Russian serfdom, the French might have gained the support of the vast underclass of the Russian population from that act alone. They can then set up a system of meritocracy for the most promising Russian children of the peasant class, establish public schools promote literacy and basically just educate the Russians just how evil the ancien regime was. Wouldn't be the first time foreigners have established themselves as Russian Tsars. Rurik comes to mind. It wouldn't be far-fetched to see a French dynasty on the Russian throne.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 09:24 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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I dont know, the way I see it Russia was a powder keg of underclass resentment against the Tsar and the rest of the Aristocracy. How about the French behaved like the Enlightened liberators they set out to be this time by sowing the seeds of revolution in Russia. One of Nap's brothers or perhaps one of his marshals for one thing can abolish Russian serfdom, the French might have gained the support of the vast underclass of the Russian population from that act alone. They can then set up a system of meritocracy for the most promising Russian children of the peasant class, establish public schools promote literacy and basically just educate the Russians just how evil the ancien regime was. Wouldn't be the first time foreigners have established themselves as Russian Tsars. Rurik comes to mind. It wouldn't be far-fetched to see a French dynasty on the Russian throne.

They don't have the power to abolish Russian serfdom, since 99% of the country is out of their reach. The Tsar could, if he so decided, because the Orthodox Clergy would carry his orders the length and breadth of the land. The French had no one to perform such a service for them. Their power would always be confined to the patch of ground they were actually camped on.

After all, the game you have in mind is pretty much what Nappy actually tried in Spain - where it was an almost complete flop. The programme rallied a few "Afrancesados", mostly in the cities, but the peasants cheerfully tossed French officers into boiling water. Yet Spain was culturally far more akin to France than was Russia, a totally alien society. If Joseph couldn't make it work in Madrid, the chances of anybody making it work in Russia were zilch. Moreover, as I noted above, Napoleon's most reliable collaborators in the east were themselves landowners, especially Polish ones, who would be among the first victims of any peasant uprising.

There is also, of course, the small point that a French Army so far from home would have no choice but to live off the land, ie by robbing the very peasants it (or its propaganda department) would be pretending to liberate. Not one Russian peasant in a thousand would understand the French manifestos, but they would all understand having their crops stolen.
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Old August 16th, 2010, 12:48 AM
Alonicus Alonicus is offline
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The average serf had no great loyalty to Russia or the Czar. Their prime loyalties were to their owners, their families, and their stomachs. Most of them wouldn't have understood emancipation, whether it came from the Russians or the French.

But there is one big different thing they would understand. Both French and Russians would steal their crops, but the French, unlike the Russians, would not be stealing their sons. When the Russian army took a conscript, his family would hold a funeral for him because once in the army, he'd never be seen again. I think it would be a long time before Napoleon would take a significant number of Russian conscripts.

The other thing is that I think we should forget this idea of a great uprising of Russian peasants. With very few exceptions indeed (the only one I can think of is the Pugachev revolt), Russian peasant revolts were purely local affairs. We have to think ourselves into the mindset of the time, rather than applying modern thought patterns. To the average peasant, the ruling clique might as well have been on the moon most of the time, and they would have no more reason to rise against the French than they would against their Russian overlords. The partisans who actually fought in 1812 were generally cossacks and brigands. The peasants would normally only fight in their own villages and often only when officered by cossacks or detached army officers (despite the propagandist reports of independent action both at the time and subsequently).

Additionally, unlike Spain, it would be virtually impossible for Britain to provide a field army and deliver endless arms supplies to the peasants. Wherever you are in Spain, you are within a couple of hundred miles of the coast; the same cannot be said for Russia.

Perhaps Napoleon would find it easier to just carve Russia back into a series of individual principalities. Give local Russian nobles enough power to be able to squabble among themselves, plus a nice tribute bill to pay each year. The key thing, from his point of view, is that Russia must never be a threat again.
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Old August 16th, 2010, 04:45 AM
Evil Tristin Evil Tristin is offline
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Perhaps Napoleon would find it easier to just carve Russia back into a series of individual principalities. Give local Russian nobles enough power to be able to squabble among themselves, plus a nice tribute bill to pay each year. The key thing, from his point of view, is that Russia must never be a threat again.

Assuming Napoleon suceeds in doing this, how would this arrangement influence European history for the next hundred years?

Would Napoleon have eventually used all of Europe's resources to create a massive fleet for the invasion of England?
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