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“A Long Road Home”: Russian Prisoners in France, 1799-1801
18.03.2021 Eman M. Vovsi
military
André Masséna

There were several reasons – economic, practical and personal – why Russia participated in the Second Coalition. First, Bonaparte’s Egyptian expedition 1798-1801 threatened Russia’s exports at the Mediterranean to market in Europe and elsewhere. Second, Russia had been excluded from the Second Congress of Rastatt, opening in December 1797 (where Russia, since 1779, traditionally should have had a seat), which followed in the wake of the Treaty of Campo-Formio, 17 October 1797, regulating some territorial questions between France and Austria (as part of the Holy Roman Empire). Finally, the seizure of Malta by the French at the end of June 1798 - where Tsar Paul I had been the Protector of the Order of the Knights of the St. John since 1797 - was seen as an additional expansion of the French hegemony in the Mediterranean. Thus, Russian armies were sent to Europe – mainly to collaborate in the restoration of the old pre-Revolutionary order. [1][1]Frederick W. Kagan, The End of the Old Order, New York: Da Capo…

2According to the treaty with Austria – a major initiator of the Second Coalition against France’s encroachment in Italy – Russia sent her forces under overall command of Field Marshal Alexander V. Suvorov to support the Habsburgs. However, these troops did not come to Italy all at once. The corps under General of Infantry Diedrich Arend von Rosenberg (originally 21,976) arrived in mid-April 1799, while Lt.-General Maxim Woldemar von Rehbinder’s corps (10,489) – only in June. Additionally, a corps under Lt.-General Ivan Hermann von Fersen (17,736) was sent to assist the British in their invasion of Holland, where the French had established a satellite Batavian Republic. Finally, Lt.-General Alexander M. Rimsky-Korsakov’s corps (32,399) was sent to join the Austrian troops under Archduke Karl against the French army commanded by General André Masséna operating in Switzerland. 

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