Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace

Dominic Lieven, Author . Viking $34.95 (617p) ISBN 978-0-670-02157-4

Lieven, professor of history at the London School of Economics, uses Russian archives as the basis for this seminal reinterpretation of Napoleon’s defeat in 1812-1814. Russia’s leaders cleverly engaged Napoleon in a kind of drawn-out campaign the French system was least able to wage. Russia’s armies outfought Napoleon’s, thanks in good part to the “courage, endurance, and loyalty” of soldiers led by officers whose central virtues were honor and courage. Russian staffs and administrators kept the troops supplied despite the long and increasing distances between bases and theaters of operations. And coordinating the effort was Tsar Alexander II, whose “courage, skill, and intelligence”held together the final alliance against Napoleon all the way from Moscow to Paris. Lieven weaves these threads together with flair and offers insight into the specifics of everything from infantry tactics to diplomatic negotiations. He concludes that Russian and European security were mutually dependent, and that Russia’s war was seen by Europeans a one of liberation from Napoleon’s exactions and ambitions. While debatable, neither point can be dismissed. Illus., maps. (Apr. 19)

Reviewed on: 02/08/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
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