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Battle of Krasnoi

The Battle of Krasnoi

Battle of Krasnoi, by Piter von Hess

The Battle of Krasnoi, while not well known, was a smashing victory for the Russian Army against the retreating Grand Armee of  Napoleon Bonaparte. Having been smashed in the Battle of Moscow, Napoleon believed he could first head to his supplies in Smolensk, then try to head to Minsk where another storage site was available. Unfortunately for Napoleon, the Russian winter came early and hard. His men were being battered by the sub-zero temperatures, snow and constant attacks by Cossack horsemen.

Napoleon had arrived at Krasnoi on November 9th and decided to wait there for the armies of Marshall’s Davout and Ney. He also believed that there was no way for the Russian’s to be close as they must have also suffered greatly due to the cold and snow. How wrong he would prove to be. General Kutuzov and General Miloradovich were travelling on a parallel road to the south of the French. Scouts for the Russians believed that there were only a small number of French troops in Krasnoi so they decided to swing northward and smash them.

By the time all the French troops reached Krasnoi on November 15th, so did the Russian army. Instead of just attacking with a full assault, Kutuzov decided, after realizing that the whole of Napoleon’s army was there, that they should launch smaller attacks to harass the disorganized French. Having vastly larger number of soldiers and artillery, Kutuzov’s decision has baffled historians for years.

Day after day, the Russian’s and French fought valiantly but Napoleon’s men were by now starving, frustrated and tired. They had to get to one of their supply depots in the town of Orsha, some 25 miles away. Napoleon feigned a major attack which scared Kutuzov and Miloradovich into backing off. Instead, they decided to lob artillery fire into the French lines.

Finally, by November 18th, Marshall Ney, with 11,000 troop decided to attack Miloradovich and his 12,000 strong me. At first, Ney’s men broke through two lines of the Russian infantry before being repulsed by the third line. The French refused to surrender, with the remaining 2,000 soldiers heading into the forest. When Ney reunited with Napoleon at Orsha, he made it there with only 800 men.

What has puzzled historians and angered Tsar Alexander I was that Kutuzov refused to press his advantage and destroy Napoleon who was terribly weakened. While the Russians could claim a major victory, having captured 20,000 French soldiers, and killing between 6-13,000, it was a hollow victory as they should have crushed the French completely.

Kutuzov was smart not to have pressed his advantage as his men were exhausted and he was a general who was deeply concerned with the health and morale of his men. Because of that he was greatly loved by the Russian people which caused Alexander I to make him the Prince of Smolensk.

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Russian Author Dostoyevsky Condemned to Death!!!

Portrait of Dostoyevsky painted by Vasily Perov in 1872.

On November 16, 1849, the famous Russian author Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (also spelled Dostoevsky) was condemned to death for his association with the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of liberal intellectuals and commoners who discussed the need for change in Russia. Reactionary Tsar Nicholas I was so frightened of the group that he had them arrested and condemned to death. The sentences were commuted but many had to face years imprisonment for their actions. There were approximately 25 people in the Circle, most of whom were in their 20’s.

A mock execution took place to ‘teach them a lesson.’ Dostoyevsky served four of the eight year sentence doing hard labor in Siberia. Upon his release he was briefly forced to serve in the military but was released from that due to poor health.

Considered by some to be the greatest Russian literary figure some of Dostoyevsky’s works include: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. His novels were considered to have influenced many great writers such as James Joyce, Ann Rand, Anton Checkov, Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Satre.

After his release from prison, he published a number of magazines and traveled through Europe. He face two major hurdles in his life, one was that he suffered from epilepsy and the other was that he was a pathologic gambler. He was often broke and was forced to beg for money.

Feodor Dostoyevsky died on January 26, 1881 of a stroke one day after having his home searched by the Tsarist secret police looking members of the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) who were involved in the assasination of Tsar Alexander II.  His tombstone has the following epitath:Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24).

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Catherine the Great Passes Away

Catherine II

Catherine posing for the painter Rokotov.

On this day in 1796, Catherine the Great (aka Catherine II) passed away in her commode (Episode 51) at the age of 67. She was considered, along with Peter the Great, as one of the greatest leaders of the Russian Empire. Her son Paul I was to take over and reign for a little over four years. Paul despised his mother and did much to reverse many of her policies. He put into law that only male heirs to the throne were eligible setting up the way for the decline of the Romanov dynasty.

She was the wife of Peter III and upon his murder during a coup d’etat on July 16, 1762, she took control of the government. Born, Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, she was hand-picked by Empress Elizabeth (Episodes 40 and 41) the daughter of Peter the Great. The marriage was a disaster and likely was never consummated. Fearing that she would be sent to a nunnery and divorced, she decided along with her friends the Orlov brothers, to stage the overthrow. What helped her was the fact that Peter III was generally disliked and had sided with the Prussians during the wars going on at the time.

The era of Catherine’s reign is generally considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire although the vast majority of the people living in Russia at the time were incredibly impoverished. It was also the time of one of the greatest revolts in Russian history, the Pugachev Rebellion (Episode 47).

Her time as Empress of all of Russia was a time of great expansion and a instilling more European style into Russian society. Catherine was one of the few Russian leaders (post Peter the Great) to have no direct heritage to previous rulers (Catherine I was the other). She was also a great patron of the arts and commissioned the building of the Smolny Institute the only school of higher learning for women in Russia.

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Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova’s Birthday

On this day in 1895, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanova was born to Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorova and Tsar Nicholas II. She would be murdered with the rest of her family on July 17, 1918 when she was just 22 years of age. Because of her murder, she, along with the rest of her family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a passion bearer.

As an aside, you might notice that her last name is Romanova and not Romanov. In Russia, females have different last names from the males, so in her case, an “a” is added to the end. If the ends in a “y” like Rimashevsky, the feminine would be Rimashevskaya.


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