Why Did Napoleon Invade Russia?

did-napoleon-invade-russia Credit: Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to the History Channel, the invasion of Russia in 1812 by Napoleon's Grande Armée of France was intended to force Russia's leader Czar Alexander I to the negotiating table to resolve differences between the two nations The attack was disastrous, leading to the decimation of Napoleon's army and eventually to his exile from France in 1814.

There were numerous issues between Russia and France that led to Napoleon's invasion. The Russians had broken a commitment to embargo Great Britain, returning to trade with the island because he embargo was hurting Russia's economy as well. The Russians also heavily taxed luxury goods imported from France, driving down demand. Napoleon then angered Russia by creating the Duchy of Warsaw from Prussian lands, which Alexander felt might result in an upswelling of Polish nationalism. Even Napoleon's bid to marry a sister of Alexander was turned down by the Russian leader.

Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed into Russia with 450,000 to 650,000 troops, but by the middle of winter the army was reduced to about 100,000 and began the retreat back to French lands. The invasion led Russia to join with Austria, Sweden and Prussia to fight against Napoleon, leading to the capture of Paris itself.