Living in the USSR, I was brought up to view the Great Patriotic War of 1812 as a clear-cut case of French perfidy. Evil Imperial French and their dozen allies invaded Russia…ok, invaded the part of Poland previously occupied by Russia, and proceeded to loot, burn and pillage. Then they were defeated by the Russian army and poor logistics.
Somehow, no connection was made with the equally unproductive Russian foray into Italy and Switzerland in 1799, where Suvorov’s troops fought the French. Or the 1807 battles fought in Germany. Or the scuffle over the control of Poland which precipitated the first Great Patriotic War the same was the 1941 event was made easier by the re-absorption of the Russian Imperial possession by the USSR in 1939, producing an extended common border with Germany.
Orwell’s 1984 had plenty of grounds for Eastasia/Eurasia switching roles as enemy and ally. Russia fought a war involving England in 1807, yet the two were allied against France by 1815. England condemned the German invasion of Denmark, but the same 1807 war saw an unprovoked bombardment of Copenhagen a hundred thirty years before Guernica. It’s only an atrocity when “they” do it, right?
France, for all of its numerous insane domestic policies, at least had dispensed with serfdom. So casting it as the purely evil empire while presenting Russia as the divinely directed innocent bystander, was at the very least ignoring certain nuances. With that in mind, I am curious how American culture treats its own history…are we overlooking unflattering details as well?