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From 1712 to 1917, Moscow saw its position as Russia's capital city usurped by St Petersburg. Despite this, the city remained the historical heart of Russia.
Founded on the banks of the Moskva River some time before the twelth century, Moscow was first capital to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, before this state expanded to become the Russian Empire. The city's famous Kremlin dates from 1156, when it was first built out of wood. Over the centuries the city has been sacked by the Tatars, the Mongols, the Swedish, the Polish-Lithuanian army and, of course, the French under Napoleon, when the Great Fire destroyed the majority of the city's historic wooden architecture; modern Moscow was created during the reconstruction after Napoleon's defeat.
Unlike St Petersburg, which was built as a modern, Western European city, nineteenth-century Moscow was seen as authentically Russian: a comfortable, homely place, more relaxed than the formal capital, but also more insular and backward-looking.
St Petersburg was the creation of one man, Peter the Great (1672-1725), who founded the city at the beginning of the eighteenth century on land newly conquered from Sweden. He wanted to create a 'window on Europe', a new capital city symbolising his aim to change Russia from a medieval country steeped in tradition to a modern, European superpower. It was Russia's capital from 1712-1917.
The city was built with forced labour, using tens of thousands of serfs, many of whom died in the process. Its location on marshy land on the River Neva meant that it was prone to catastrophic floods. These facts gave the city a sinister reputation, one best evoked in Pushkin's poem The Bronze Horseman, in which the famous statue of Peter the Great comes alive during a flood and terrorises the city's inhabitants. (Read it online here.) At the same time, in the nineteenth century St Petersburg was the city to which writers and artists flocked in search of inspiration. Tolstoy, however, fell out with the literary scene in St Petersburg during his youth and saw the city as shallow and inauthentic; he preferred Moscow, although as he got older he grew increasingly unhappy in any city environment.
The so-called Battle of Ulm was not really a battle. Instead, it was a completely overwhelming military manoeuvre that saw Napoleon's army surround that of the Austrians under Karl Mack. Napoleon managed to cut off the Austrian army's supply lines and isolate them within the city of Ulm in Germany, forcing Mack to surrender the entire 27,000-strong force, including eighteen generals. The two forces engaged in some skirmishes as some parts of the Austrian army attempt to escape, but there was no set-piece battle in the normal sense. The surrender knocked Austria out of the War of the Third Coalition.
The shine was taken off Napoleon's great victory when the British won a great sea battle at Trafalgar the following day; yet, on land, the surrender of the Austrians opened up the way for Napoleon's swift capture of their capital, Vienna.
The Battle of Austerlitz was one of the major turning points of the Napoleonic Wars. It was a significant victory for the French, who named a railway station in Paris after it.
On 2nd December 1805, Napoleon's army met those of Tsar Alexander I and Emperor Francis II of Austria at Austerlitz, now known as Slavkov, near Brno in what is now the Czech Republic. It is estimated that Napoleon had around 65-75,000 men, and the combined Russian and Austrian armies 73-85,000. The Allies, under Weyrother, decided to attack Napoleon's right flank, to clear a path south to Vienna. Napoleon, anticipating this, made the right flank look all the more tempting by thinning out the troops massed there. When the Allies attacked, the French countered against their weakened centre. The village of Sokolnitz, in the middle of the enormous battlefield, changed hands several times during the course of the day. Eventually the French pushed the Russians and Austrians back, forcing them to retreat. While the French lost 1,305 killed, 6,940 wounded, and 573 captured, the Allied casualties were far greater: 15,000 killed and wounded, as well as 12,000 captured.
On 2nd December 2005 over 4,000 enthusiasts from 23 different countries gathered in Slavkov to reenact the battle to celebrate its bicentennial anniversary.
A gripping account of the lead up to the battle, and the conflict itself
Moravia is a region in what is now the Czech Republic; it is where the Battle of Austerlitz was fought. Its largest city is Brno. The traditional dress of the region is called kroje, and involves a lot of lace and ribbons, and hats with feathers on them. Many famous figures originally hail from Moravia, including Gregor Mendel, Edmund Husserl, Sigmund Freud, Oskar Schindler, and Milan Kundera.
These battles were both fought on 14th October 1806, between Napoleon's army and the Prussians. The Prussians had a force of 143,000; the French had about 150,000. Both armies were split into different parts, which met in different places around Jena and Auerstadt in what is now Germany. A combination of superior military training and tactics ensured victory for the French.
This battle was fought at Friedland in Prussia on 14th June 1807, between 71,000 men of the French army, under Napoleon, and 76,000 of the Russians under Count von Bennigsen, a German general in the Russian army. The French utterly destroyed Bennigsen's army, forcing it to retreat over the river Alle, where many drowned. This defeat led Tsar Alexander I to sue for peace at the Treaty of Tilsit that July, ending the War of the Fourth Coalition.
From the nineteenth century to the present day, Russia's imperial ambitions in the Caucasus have led to conflict in this region, which lies on the border of Europe and Asia, mainly between the Black and the Caspian Seas. It is one of the most diverse regions on Earth both linguistically and culturally, with a wealth of indigenous populations. Independent countries in the region include Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; the rest of the region is divided into autonomous regions of the Russian Federation, such as Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia.
The region has been contested throughout history as Russia sought to control and expand her borders. Clashes between Iran, the Ottoman Empire and Russia were often fought in the Caucasus, and the local population continue to fight against Russian domination to this day. From 1817-1864 Russia slowly conquered the region, although it has never been completely subdued, as recent events show.
Tolstoy and his brother Nikolai both took part in this war. His novella Hadji Murat is about one of the most famous rebel leaders involved in it. Mikhail Lermontov also fought in the same conflict, and wrote about it in his novel A Hero of Our Time, a work Tolstoy strongly disliked and is here subtly undermining. Alexander Pushkin was exiled to this region, which inspired his writing, although he did not fight. As a result of the literature born from this conflict, the region acquired a sort of exotic glamour for Russians living safely out of harm's way in Moscow and St Petersburg. The inhabitants of the Caucasus were seen as being exotic, romantic savages with strange customs and costumes that could be admired even while they were being crushed. This was a part of the wider European fashion for Orientalism, the fascination with the 'exotic' East. Veterans of the war, such Dolokhov in this scene, would return from the front line imbued with second-hand glamour from their contact with the rebels. Dolokhov is maximising this appearance by wearing 'Persian' clothes, just as the English poet Lord Byron does in his famous 'Albanian' portrait by Thomas Phillips.
The Patriarch's Ponds area of Moscow now only has one pond, although it is thought to have once had three.
Originally a swamp known as Goat's Marsh, the area acquired its present character after the Great Fire of 1812, when much of the city was rebuilt.
The 20th century writer Mikhail Bulgakov lived in Patriarch's Ponds, which appears at the beginning of his most famous novel, The Master and Margarita.
The Island of Elba lies in the Mediterranean sea near the coast of Italy. It was Napoleon's first place of exile, following his first defeat after the invasion of Russia. He spent less than a year on the island before raising an army and escaping back to France, determined to re-establish himself.