The Great Retreat

Napoleon’s Grande Armee in Russia.
The Contingents and the Artefacts.

Author(s): Alexander Korolev
Language:< English, Russian
Year of publishing: 2015
ISBN: ISBN 978-5-87417-471-2 (Liki Rossii)
ISBN 978-1-90650-941-5 (Uniform Press)
Format: 215 х 290 mm
Pages: 248
Pictures: more than 1200
Cover: paperback
Price including VAT 10% (delivery not included):: See below about distribution in UK

This book is the product of 14 years’ work by one of Russia’s most earnest researchers into the events of 1812, the dedicated enthusiast Alexander Korolev, and his many friends and helpers. It is based in the latest works by historians, extensive archival research and extremely rich archaeological material from museums and private collections, provided by specialists in Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. Having personally walked over the sites of battles, troop deployments and bivouacs, as well as villages scattered along the route taken by the Grande Armee (some of which have since disappeared without trace), the author has been able to provide answers to a number of questions that have eluded historians to this day, to supplement and on occasion even to amend the celebrated catalogue produced by the French researcher Louis Fallou that gives a picture of all the forces included in Napoleon’s army. This confirms once again that without consulting the material evidence from the period our knowledge of that campaign cannot be complete.

When Bonaparte’s Grande Armee crossed the Niemen in June 1812, the invasion was perceived in Russia as an apocalyptic event. As if in revenge for the onslaughts of the Huns or Tartars, the West had taken up arms against the East. This was the largest army that had ever been raised, led, moreover, by one of history’s greatest generals. Yet just a few brief months later, due not least to the enormous number of civilians accompanying the troops (the servants of generals and officers, members of fighting men’s families and French residents who left the city along with their countrymen), the Grande Armee’s withdrawal from Moscow acquired the character of an all-embracing calamity – a real humanitarian disaster, as the author puts it. This war and its chief participants have always been an object of historians’ attention. Today, thanks to the enormous quantity of diplomatic and military documents, letters, diaries and memoirs that are accessible, the hidden mechanisms behind the events of 1812 have become more obvious. The chronicle of the war has been described in numerous works of historiography and also in fiction.

Nevertheless, this book – in which pride of place is allotted to such an impartial source as artefacts extracted from the soil (more than 1400 images are included) – adds significantly to our understanding of what actually took place. Compiled to a large extent along the lines of a catalogue, in which genuine elements of uniforms, arms and equipment are scrupulously reproduced, this publication gives a near-exhaustive picture of the force that assailed the Russian state in 1812 and came to such a tragic end. It provides a full, far from abstract, sense of the scale of the Grande Armee, made up of numerous units from France and the countries allied to it, each of which had its own set of symbols, reflected in variations of buttons, cockades, buckles, horse tack and so on. Deviations in uniform from the officially adopted patterns and the presence of non-regulation elements of clothing and equipment are also highly informative. These reflect internal redeployments, logistics and even the morale of the officers and men. This book will undoubtedly find its readership and will be of use not only to amateur military history enthusiasts but also to specialists.

The English version of the book is distributed by UniformPress, you can buy it directly there or you can find it at Amazon.

To Russian annotation

"Liki Rossii", 17/8 Pirogova Lane,  Saint Petersburg, 190000 Russia
Fax +7(812) 320-8788     E-mail: