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21 September 2018

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Springtime in Paris

Author: Tamara Eidelman
Translation: Nora Seligman Favorov

Mar/Apr 2014
Page 19   ( 3 pages)

Summary: Russian troops marched into Paris in March 1814 and were mostly welcomed during the duration of their occupation.


In December 1812, Tsar Alexander I issued a manifesto proclaiming an end to what came to be known in Russia as “The Patriotic War”. Indeed, in the historical memory of your average Russian, the war against Napoleon is strongly associated with the year 1812. Few remember what happened next or realize that fighting actually continued for another year and a half, or that it ended only after long campaigns beyond Russia's borders resulting in countless deaths (suffice it to remember the Battle of Leipzig, which took thousands of Russian lives) and, ultimately, brought the anti-French Sixth Coalition all the way to Paris. It was around this time that Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy quipped:


Just when it seemed things would not go our way

Look! We're in Paris with Louis le Désiré.


Louis le Désiré was, of course, No. XVIII, brother of the guillotined No. XVI. The erstwhile Count of Provence, after years wandering Europe in exile, forgotten by most and of little use to anyone, at the advanced age of 58 suddenly found himself on the French throne. Meanwhile, Alexander I, who just two years earlier had seen enemy forces reach Moscow, now became the great liberator of Europe – “Agamemnon” as the newspapers flatteringly gushed, comparing him to the Homeric hero whom all the kings of the Achaean alliance called on to lead their armies.

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