This book’s focus is on Russia and the Napoleonic Wars. The importance and timeliness of the topic can hardly be questioned. The Napoleonic Wars had a big impact on Russia’s state, society and economy. Their immense cost ravaged state finances and played a part in Russia’s sharply reduced rate of economic growth in the first half of the nineteenth century. Victory over the seemingly all-powerful foreign enemy provided added legitimacy to the tsarist regime and contributed to the cautious and conservative mind set of Nicholas I when faced with the need to confront serfdom and other obstacles to modernization. Above all war and victory changed the way many educated Russians thought about themselves and their country. When Tolstoi began to work on War and Peace he did so with the aim of explaining the impact of the war on Russian mentalities and showing how victory over Napoleon had fed into the Decembrist movement, whose aim it was to replace the absolute monarchy with a constitutional or even republican regime. The Decembrist rising in 1825 and the reaction to it of Nicholas I’s regime played a great role in the ‘parting of the ways’ between state and society which was to dominate much of the subsequent political history of imperial Russia down to the revolution.
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