A mini-series about the rise and fall of five aristocratic families in Russia as they vie for power following Napoleon’s invasion. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel.
Plot 1805 – 1820
The saga begins in Russia in 1805. When Pierre, Natasha and Andrei are first introduced to viewers, their youthful ambition, despite their privileged circumstances, is to find meaning in their lives. Kind-hearted but awkward Pierre, the illegitimate son of Russia’s richest man, wants to change the world for the better. The spirited Natasha is searching for true love, while handsome and gallant Andrei, frustrated with the superficiality of society, seeks a higher purpose.
Having begun with Napoleon’s military campaign against Russia and Austria in 1805, the story concludes in 1812 after Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has failed and he has retreated and withdrawn from Russian territory. The families at the center of the saga have undergone major changes and lost members, but those remaining have experienced a transformation and a new life, with new growth and new families started.
The era of Catherine the Great was still fresh in the minds of older people. Catherine had made French the language of her royal court. For the next one hundred years, it became a social requirement for members of the Russian nobility to speak French and understand French culture. Catherine’s grandson, Alexander I, came to the throne in 1801 at the age of 24.
Napoleon’s military campaign against Russia and Austria in 1805
The War of the Third Coalition was a European conflict spanning the years 1803 to 1806. During the war, France and its client states under Napoleon I defeated an alliance, the Third Coalition, made up of the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Britain and others. The war would be decided on the continent, and the major land operations that sealed the swift French victory involved the Ulm Campaign, a large wheeling manoeuvre by the Grande Armée that captured an entire Austrian army. and the decisive French victory over a combined Russo-Austrian force at the Battle of Austerlitz in early December. Austerlitz effectively brought the Third Coalition to an end.
The Battle of Ulm was a spectacular French victory. The mass of Austrian army was taken prisoner. So vigorous was the pursuit of the escaping Austrians that only one division was able to join the Russians under Mikhail Kutuzov, who arrived at the battlefield with fewer than 40,000 men and who now retired as Napoleon advanced.
The French continued to pursue the Russians, who fell back to Olmütz (Olomouc). Napoleon was constrained to suspend his advance at Brünn (Brno), since Kutuzov had been joined by the second Russian army. In the Battle of Austerlitz (December 2, 1805) the allies lost approximately 26,000 of their 87,000 men and 180 guns, and the French between 7,000 and 8,000 of their 73,000 men. Francis of Austria signed an armistice with Napoleon on December 6, and Alexander withdrew his broken army to Russia under a truce.
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia (also known as the Russian Campaign) in 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It was the greatest and bloodiest of the Napoleonic campaigns, involving more than 1.5 million soldiers, with over 500,000 French and 400,000 Russian casualties. The reputation of Napoleon was severely shaken, and French hegemony in Europe was dramatically weakened. The Grande Armée was reduced to a fraction of its initial strength.