Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy

Russian Foreign Policy, 1796-1815

A.) Paul I. : the Second Coalition, 1796-1800

In 1796 PAUL I. ascended to the Russian throne. He intended to pursue a policy of peace, but quickly got involved in the SECOND WAR OF THE COALITION, in which a Russian fleet took the IONIAN ISLANDS and then landed in Italy, where the Russian army under General SUVOROV accomplished a number of remarkable victories. When a British fleet took MALTA in 1800 (Paul had been elected Grand Master of the Knights of St. John before Malta had fallen to the French), Russia left the 2nd coalition.

B.) Paul I. : the League of Armed Neutrality, 1800-1801

The coalition had been held together by mutual dislike of the French Revolution; Paul was convinced that Britain was abusing the situation in order to extend its supremacy of the seas from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. In order to prevent the British from entering the Baltic, he proposed the LEAGUE OF ARMED NEUTRALITY, an alliance of the countries adjacent to the Baltic sea, an alliance in which Denmark, an old Russian ally, played a key role as it controlled the Sound. France, on the other hand, had no reason to object to this policy; it concluded peace with Russia. In 1801 a British fleet appeared in Danish waters, defeated the Danish fleet, towing away most ships they had not been destroyed. Russia did not come to Denmark's assistance, the plan was dead; Czar Paul died that year, succeeded by his son Alexander I.

C.) Alexander I. : the Third and Fourth Coalition, 1805-1807

On April 11th 1805, Britain and Russia signed an offensive alliance directed against France, which soon was joined by Austria (The THIRD WAR OF THE COALITION. An Austro- Russian force was defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte in the BATTLE OF AUSTERLITZ (Dec. 2nd) which forced Austria out of the war; Prussia failed to make good on her promise to enter. Two years later a French army marched on Prussia, now joined by Russian forces, defeated in the BATTLE OF EYLAU (1807). Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander I. met at Tilsit, where they concluded peace; Russia was to turn into a French ally.

D.) Alexander I. : Franco-Russian Alliance, 1807-1812

In 1808, Russian forces occupied FINLAND (offered to Alexander;'s grandmother by Finland's nobility in the ANJALA CONSPIRACY in 1788; the country was ceded by Sweden in 1809 (Treaty of Frederikshamn). When Austria rose against France in 1809, Russia annexed TARNOWICE district in Eastern Galicia. In 1812 Russian troops would occupy the DANUBE PRINCIPALITIES (Moldavia, Valachia) which had belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
The Franco-Russian alliance was one of equals, Russia not getting to close with France. Prussia's reform minister VOM STEIN, dismissed at Napoleon's insistence, found refuge in St. Petersburg where he functioned as advisor to reform politicians.

E.) Alexander I. : Napoleon's Invasion, 1812-1813

In 1812 Napoleon, dissatisfied with Russia's implementation of the continental blockade, decided to invade Russia (FRANCO-RUSSIAN WAR. When the Grand Armee marched on Moscow, no European power offered to assist Russia in her plight, although Britain and the Spanish guerilla fighters were natural allies. Once the scorched earth policy, a burning Moscow and General Winter had worn down the French army, Russia suddenly became the centerpiece of a grand coalition, joined by Austria, Sweden, Prussia.
Sweden's heir-apparent Bernadotte was given supreme command of the allied forces in the BATTLE OF LEIPZIG 1813 believed to be the decisive battle breaking France's hold over Europe. After the battle, Europe's princes descended on Vienna where negotiations began on Europe's future.

F.) Alexander I. : the Vienna Congress, 1813-1815

Russian policy in Vienna aimed at gaining all of Poland for Russia and in creating the Holy Alliance as an instrument to guarantee the new borders established at the Vienna Congress. Russia had gained Finland and would get much of Poland, and the policy aimed at securing those gains. Britain turned out to oppose Russia's demands; Russia was to gain much, but not all of Poland (CONGRESS POLAND).

G.) The Asian frontier

In 1801/1805 Russia annexed much of Georgia (hitherto Ottoman), in 1805 the Khanates of Karabagh and Shirwan, in 1806 Baku and Kuba, in 1813 Talysch (northern Azerbaijan), gained in a war against Persia and ceded by the latter in the TREATY OF GULISTAN 1813.

Russia's Czars, 1796-1815
Paul I.
Alexander I.

DOCUMENTS Lithography : Battle of Austerlitz 1805, from Napoleonic Medals
Russo-Swedish Peace Treaty of Frederikshamn, 1809, from clinet, in French
Documents upon the Peace of Tilsit, 1807, from Napoleon Series
Speach of Bailiff Count Jules Rene de Littto to Paul I Emperor of Russia, from Order of St. John of Jerusalem, British Grand Priory Home Page
Treaty of Alliance between Great Britain and Russia, April 11th 1805, from Napoleon Series
Letter from Lord Nelson to the Czar, Oct. 31st 1799, from It's Malta
British medal issued to honour Count Suvorov, from Blackwatch
REFERENCE P.P. Segur, Histoire de Napoleon et le Grande Armee pendant l'annee 1812, Vol.1, Vol.2 (1825); English Edition, posted by Gutenberg Library Online, in French

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on October 22nd 2007

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