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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Greatest 'Year of Broken Pathways'

Now I want to speak to you directly. Get up out of your comfy chair and put down that cup of coffee. Go to the wardrobe and put on an overcoat. Stand in front of the mirror and put your hand inside and press it to your heart. Look solemn......as though something very bad is about to happen, but you're not sure what it is. Now you are once again Napoleon! It's been seven long years since you have conquered Europe, following the Battle of Austerlitz. Yet you're still Emperor of the mightiest nation in the world at the time. What happens after seven years from the greatest 'Year of Revolution'? Naturally it's going to be the mother of all 'Years of Broken Pathway'.

Start up the 1812 Overture if you haven't already and read along as we go. It's sort of comforting to read of other's misfortunes and those on the grand scale will seem paricularly remote from your day to day life. This, however, is the paradox of 'Life Cycles'. Your own challenges and crises will be in proportion to your own life. Read 'Life Cycles' (now available on Kindle and many other sites....just google up "neil killion"/life cycles and you'll soon see) and read in Chapter Nine exactly how it worked in my own life.

Back to Napoleon. He had just turned 43 on August 15th. 1812. He was in his own 'Year of Broken Pathways'. He was determined to invade Russia. The Tsar, once his ally, was now on the global 'hit list'. On September 7th, the bloodiest battle so far in the campaign, took place near the village of Borodino. Although Napoleon had lost around a third of his Grand Armee (70,000 troops) Russian losses were heavier and he was the victor. The Russian Army was out of position and ripe for destruction. The road to Moscow was wide open and General Kutuzov had ordered the evacuation of the city.

On September 14th, Napoleon moved into the empty city that had been stripped of all its supplies. He expected Tsar Alexander I, or his representative, to surrender but instead the Tsar did no such thing. Then the troops began to loot what little remained and that evening fires broke out, then subsided and broke out again a few days later. Moscow comprised two-thirds wooden buildings and burnt down completely. due neither to deliberate actions of the Russians or the French. Sitting in the ashes of a ruined city began a long retreat, first out of Moscow and then out of Russia itself, starting in mid-October.

Food supplies by the roadside had all but gone and with winter setting in, Kutuzov's reinforced army attacked them at every opportunity. Starvation and disease took an enormous toll and large scale desertion followed. Finally they were driven from Russia on Dec. 14th and only a small fraction of the original Grand Armee survived.

It was to mark the most significant turning point in Napoleon's career. It caused a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened the once dominant French position. This time it was not just individual troops deserting, but whole countries like Prussia and Austria switched sides and triggered the War of the Sixth Coalition. The challenge facing Napoleon was enormous and in only a few short years the Empire would be lost. Yet would it have seemed this way to him on September 8th, the day after the Battle of Borodino, when he had the Russian army on its knees? Almost certainly not. What about when he expected to be received as a conqueror in Moscow? Definitely not then. Even when Moscow burnt to the ground, he probably thought things would work out, as they always had before. Even with the retreat he was still claiming victory in each battle with the Russians (who were themselves claiming victory). No, it probably crept up on him in an insidious way. There was no doubt about it, by the end of the year he had lost both the Russian campaign and most of his army.

There may be other tragic tales from history, but the sheer scale of lives lost and dreams shattered and Empires crumbling, would make it hard to top. Now get comfortable again. I have told his story and that is not yours. Why did I tell it now. You must read my unregistered second blog lifecyclesstory-neil-killion.blogspot.com to understand the symbolic purpose of every post. There is no other blog like this anywhere. No other brand new theory of life, in spite of the many adaptations of pre-existing ideas. Till we meet again:- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

6 comments:

  1. Neil,
    You did an amazing research here, about James and Rosa and the harsh reality between law and people's rights. As usual your article amazes me for all its good intent. It makes me reminisce my own past and think which year was my "Year of Broken Pathways", too. Good job! Congratulations, Neil!

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  2. Great post! And Tchaikovsky's music is the perfect backdrop.

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  3. Neil-have you read War And Peace? Tolstoy's perspective on Napoleon's defeat is not so different from yours.

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  4. Marty I am heartened to know that is so. I'm not a great reader, so it would be daunting. The full range of emotions must have happened to him during the Russian campaign.

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  5. Neil, one of my favorites! And your post is sooo interesting. It is always worthwhile to brush up on history, and look at it in a different aspect.

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  6. Is this post part of a book you have written? Or a book that will be published? This is a very interesting work. I'm looking forward to your written works.

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