The Founder of the European Idea

Try to bring back to your memory the “Dying Galatian”, the ancient Roman marble copy of a lost Hellenistic statue that is now in the Capitoline Museum. At the beginning of the 19th century Europe bears a certain resemblance to this figure, the wounded soldier. The open wound was France. The revolution of 1789 had enthralled the minds of all Europeans able to read Rousseau or dream of a life with greater justice. France had executed its monarch and established the radical republic of the Jacobin revolutionaries. A general had defeated its enemies and exported its principles to the rest of Europe. But such was his ambition that he had ended up just as absolutist and arrogant as the old monarchs. Napoleon Bonaparte was a force that to the peoples at times appeared to be their liberator and at times their oppressor. This takes us to discussion of the first serious assignment to be undertaken by Capodistrias, in 1811-1812. As head of counter-espionage, first for Admiral Chichagov and later for Barclay de Tolly he was put in charge of psychological warfare before and after every encounter between the French and Russian armies on the battlefield. The most important factor for … Continue reading

France’s benefactor

Napoleon succeeded in exporting the French Revolution to Europe, along with some of its admirable achievements. At Abukir, at Austerlitz, at Jena, at Borodino he defeated the hegemons of the old European order, sometimes resoundingly, sometimes with great losses to himself. Some of them changed their way of thinking: they adopted French principles and ideas, and made their comeback at Leipzig on 19th October 1813. At the following peace conference the victors did not choose to vanquish France: they sent Bonaparte into exile. But everything changed when the Corsican escaped from the island of Elba and on 18th June 1815 led a new army against his united enemies. It was the hundred-day last stand of the ravager of our continent. General Blücher and Talleyrand In the summer of 1815 the Prussians and their allies entered Paris. General von Blüchermined the Jena bridge over the Seine, which had been built to remind the world of the humiliating defeat of the Prussians by the French in 1806. The French prime minister Talleyrand, who was himself making a comeback, threatened via an emissary to go personally and stand in the centre of the bridge to prevent the German general from blowing it up. … Continue reading