"The Patriotic War of 1812" - Part 1.
The Patriotic War of 1812 was a just war of national liberation in which Russia fought against the aggression by Napoleonic France and in which the Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian peoples accomplished a feat that serves as an example of courage and heroism in the battle for the country's liberation and independence.
By the time the Patriotic War began the whole of Western Europe had been under Napoleon I Bonaparte, a champion of the interests of the big French bourgeoisie who had cashed in on the outcome of the French Revolution.
Analysing the aggressive policy of Napoleonic France, V. I. Lenin wrote that after Napoleon created a French Empire by having subjugated a whole host of long-shaped, large and viable national states in Europe, the national French wars turned into imperialist ones that had in turn gave rise to national liberation wars against Napoleon's imperialism.
The Patriotic War of 1812 proved to be the major war of national liberation of the early 19th century that decided the fate of both Russia and Europe.
Preparing for an attack on Russia, Napoleon had closely studied her armed forces and the campaigns of Swedish King Charles XII and other conquerors in Russia. As early as 1811 he declared: "In five years I shall reign the world. Only Russia is left but I shall crush her". Napoleon's well-equipped multi-national army counted more than 600,000 officers and men. In June 1812, three powerful groupings of the French army of 440,000 infantrymen and cavalry and 1,200 artillery pieces were poised for attack on Russia's Western borders. Planning his Russian campaign, Napoleon aimed at defeating the Russian army in swift border action, forcing Russia to her knees and eventually strengthening his power in Europe.
On June 12(24), 1812 the Napoleon army crossed the Nieman and invaded Russia. The French main thrust was levelled at Moscow. "If I capture Kiev", said Napoleon, "I'll sieze Russia by her feet; if I capture St. Petersburg, I'll seize her by her head; if I capture Moscow, I'll strike Russia in the heart".
All action in the Patriotic War of 1812 can be divided into three stages:
1. from the invasion by Napoleon's Grande Armee to the joining of the Russian armies near Smolensk (June-August 1812);
2. the battle of Borodino, the Russian army's withdrawal from Moscow, the march to Tarutino, and its re-forming for a counter-offensive (August-September 1812);
3. Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, the Russian counter-offensive, the rout and driving out of the French remaining troops (October-December 1812).
The war against the crack French bourgeois army was a terrible ordeal for Russia's peoples and cost them inhuman effort and vast sacrifices.
Napoleon's preparations for war were no secret to the Russian Government. Russia's Embassador in Paris A. B. Kurakin reported to St. Petersburg in December, 1811: "The time is coming for us when we shall have to defend with courage and steadfastness Russia's present borders to keep them intact and secure... In my opinion, the best scheme for this warfare is, to avoid a major battle, hold on to a little war as long as possible, following the example of the Spanish resistance to the French, and disorganise the huge mass of soldiers by creating difficulties in food supplies".
Russia was involved in the war in a disadvantageous strategic situation and with an unfavourable balance of forces. The Russian armies on the Western borders numbered 220,000 men and officers in strength and 900 artillery pieces spread on a wide front from the Black to the Baltic Seas. The war plans worked out by the Main Headquarters had several shortcomings in the organisation of the country's defences. This presented great difficulties for the Russian troops and became a cause of their retreat. Assessing the situation at the start of the war, Marx and Engels noted that the retreat of Russian...