Military Review

French propaganda and information warfare before the 1812 campaign of the year

This year was the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, the main battle of the war, which we used to call Patriotic. She devoted a lot of educational programs, films and books, including the immortal novel of Leo Tolstoy's “War and Peace”. It seems that everything possible and impossible has been said about the commanders and battles of that war. To the question of why such a powerful army led by a brilliant commander was put to flight, the answer is known even to secondary school students. However, the other is puzzling. How did Napoleon manage to make so many nations and states fight against us? After all, at the time of his march to Mother Russia, only the British were true opponents of the French. How could he justify such an aggressive attack in front of French society, famous for its love of freedom and independence?

French propaganda and information warfare before the 1812 campaign of the year

Napoleon's words are known: “Of all the nationalities of Europe, I must make one people, Paris will become the capital of the world”

By the time of his appearance on the political Olympus of France, the country had experienced great upheavals. The revolution, the execution of the royal family, the destruction of the revolutionaries themselves revolutionaries. Amid all these terrible events, Napoleon Bonaparte became a symbol of the unity and strength of the nation. In the eyes of the French - admirers of democracy - he was also great because he rose from the bottom, with his own talents and efforts he made his way into life. They were proud and admired, they believed him.

Before starting a campaign against Russia, the emperor of which until recently Bonaparte firmly shook his hand, good preparation was needed. The ties between our country and France were very strong - the entire Russian high society spoke French, and in each noble family a French tutor was hired to raise children. Preparing for war with Russia was not only about improving and building up military and economic power. It required something completely new and hitherto unknown. Therefore, Napoleon was launched this information campaign.

The main means of propaganda at that time (in the absence of television, radio and the Internet) were printed publications and the press. It is known that Napoleon attached great importance to printing. “Four newspapers will do more harm to the enemy than a hundred-thousandth army,” the commander’s famous words.

Regarding the press, the emperor of France adhered to his own rules. No freedom of speech and thought, newspapers should be under his complete control. Having come to power in France, he reduced the number of Parisian newspapers five times. And one cannot say that they were opposition publications, writing something against him and the new policy - no, he just thought that it was an excess, and it was easier to manage with a smaller number. Next - more, or more precisely, less. In 1800, there are only eight prints left. Naturally, these were private newspapers, but their editors were allowed at their discretion to publish only secondary, insignificant materials. Everything related to politics or public life was strictly controlled and censored. In turn, journalists and publishers began to give preference to lighter topics, so as not to run into trouble. Napoleon did recognize the press, if not the fourth power, as they say now, it is still some special force, preferring to hold it in their hands.

Before going to Russia, he used, in modern terms, all the possibilities of PR. With the help of the French print media, as well as in the states under his control, he carefully created the public opinion he needed about the enemy, about his aggressive aggressive campaign.
He began by discrediting the image of Russia. From the pages of newspapers and magazines, Napoleon turned to the French: “Do you think that Russia is a distant peaceful country that treats us with respect? Not! This is a real aggressor. Russian barbarians are the enemies of civilization and the whole of Europe! ” Surprisingly timely, namely at the beginning of 1812, a remarkable piece “On the growth of Russia's power from its inception to the beginning of the 19th century” was published. The publicist and historian Charles-Louis Lezur was named the author of this pseudo-historical work. Although now historians argue that the manuscript of the book was corrected, and perhaps in some places and wrote the text, Napoleon himself. In this work, the so-called testament of Peter the Great was put at the forefront. It was said that it is kept under close supervision in the home archives of the Russian emperors. However, not only at that time, even to this day, the researchers did not find the mentioned document, as well as any real evidence and evidence of its existence. The book argued that the emperor Peter the Great, before resting, left his descendants and future rulers of Russia a secret plan. It was bequeathed to bring unrest and feuds in international politics, to support the Russian people in a militant mood. The main goal of all this is to achieve power over all of Europe, to seize Constantinople and to rush through the Persian Gulf to the lands of India. So the idea to wash the boots in the Indian Ocean was attributed to the Russians in the nineteenth century.

The readers of this historical literary opus by Lezur should have made up a very definite idea of ​​Russia as a country of militant savages who cherish the idea of ​​conquering neighboring (and not only) states. In this light, Napoleon’s campaign was no longer a seizure, but a preemptive strike protecting all European states at once. Bonaparte, hiding behind a great preserving mission, at the same time presented himself and his army as a common European force opposing a threat from the East, barbarians, only dreaming to invade foreign territories and destroy centuries-old civilizations.

They say that they believe in a lie, you need to bring in as much truth as possible. So it was here. Part of the made-up plans of Peter the Great at that time was really implemented. The division of Poland, a freer access to the Black Sea, the establishment of lucrative alliance agreements with Great Britain, dynastic marriages with the princesses of the German principalities ... It was assumed that after reading such a brochure, every European would have to think: “Oh, and the Russians have been acting in accordance with this testament. Very soon, according to him, they will come to us. ” The warriors of the Great Army felt they were saviors, the enemy seemed to them especially dangerous in terms of the seizure and plunder of new territories due to the fact that they were under the yoke of slavery. But to protect their land - just the opposite. Yes, and that the slaves to protect?

Enlisting the support of most European states (which, by the way, were already for the most part under his authority), Napoleon developed vigorous activity in the camp of opponents. In particular, it is known that the agents of France were sent to Albion in order to get in touch with the publishers and editors of the English press and to incline them to the French side, offering good content. Nothing is known on this account about our country. Russia is not England, and even if such tricks had worked out, then here they, probably, would have had quite the same effect as the enemy expected. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Russians at that time were illiterate. And they could not read not only the peasants, but even a part of the noble community.

Meanwhile, the printed word in Russia was believed unconditionally, and the rumors that certain information was obtained from the newspaper, dispersed very quickly, and, as usual, in a distorted form. That is why in the period of about five years before the start of the Napoleonic invasion, the Russian government did not advertise its differences in relations with France. It served not very good service. The document of the Ministry of Police officer from 1812 of the year clearly states: “The unenlightened people, especially the middle class and commoners, who are accustomed to count everything that is printed, for the undeniable truth, hearing only the victories and conquests of Napoleon, are discouraged and lose their spirit of cheerfulness, especially in remote cities and villages, where every deacon and diploma is a luminary and every printed line is a Gospel. ”

It is necessary to note the Moscow nobility, which has always had certain oppositional sentiments. Liberal newspapers also played a role in shaping public opinion in the highest circles of Russian society, protesting against serfdom. They represented Napoleon as a new force capable of crushing feudalism, undermining the king’s popularity and power.

However, when the "crusher of feudalism" moved its troops to Russia, much has changed. First of all, the real goals of the “wolf in sheep's clothing” became clear (after all, it was Napoleon who dedicated his fable to Ivan Krylov). In the European press throughout the war a lot of exaggerated information was published about the successes of the French and the failures of the Russians. Of course, this should have contributed not only to raising the morale of its citizens, but also to demoralizing the army and the population of the opposite side. Ours did not remain in debt and also actively printed proclamations and appeals to Napoleon’s soldiers — the French, the Germans, the Italians. Many of them were then printed in the enemy's newspapers with answers and derogatory comments. The responses have always emphasized that the soldiers of the Great Army are free people, led forward by the commander they adore, a real genius and liberator, and the Russian soldiers are robbers. Also in the 1812 information war of the year, in addition to the struggle of printed publications and books, such unpretentious, but effective means were used as visual agitation in the form of leaflets-pictures for the common people hanging on the fences, the creation and dissemination of rumors.

We should also mention one more distinctive feature of this war - the financial attack undertaken by the French side. A huge amount of fakes were introduced into the economy of a number of countries. Scam unfolded even in England and Austria. Of course, to destabilize the financial systems of other countries, fake money was issued before, but now it has taken on a gigantic scale, without exaggeration, justifying its name - financial war. Finance Minister Dmitry Guryev reported to the emperor of Russia that according to the collected data, in the year preceding the war, in Poland, banknotes were issued in the amount of twenty million Russian rubles - four percent of all monetary funds that circulated in our country. And according to later calculations of scientists in 1811-1812, the Russian economy received an infusion of the order of 120 million "left" rubles!

They made fakes almost openly: they created two printing houses in Paris and Warsaw, and when they captured Moscow, they set up a printing machine for printing money right there in the Old Believer church at Rogozhskaya Gate. Special “dusty rooms” were separated, where freshly issued banknotes were soiled and carried on the floor to make them look like they had already been used. The quality of the fake money was much better than the real ones: the bluish tint of paper, the greater clarity of watermarks, the depth of embossing embossed, even small letters. By these signs, by the way, they could be easily distinguished from the genuine ones. In addition, the manufacturers did not really delve into the spelling of Russian words, making many spelling mistakes - “state”, “common” (instead of “state” and “walking”). True, in an illiterate country, it did not have much importance.

The efforts of the enemy achieved a certain result; in 1812, the Russian ruble in banknotes cost 25 kopecks in silver. But the country's economy still survived. There were several reasons. First, the war ended too quickly - in 1813, the year Napoleon’s invading soldiers were no longer on Russian soil. The second reason lies in the territorial characteristics of our country. In the depths of the relationship, sales and purchases have always been more natural, peasants and have never seen paper money. In a pinch, silver or copper coins. And the French issued notes in denominations of from twenty-five to one hundred rubles. Why are they Russian man, if the cow was worth within two rubles? If someone from the villagers agreed to sell food or fodder to the foreigner, they flatly refused to take banknotes as payment. There were no exchange points at all.

By the way, one important fact is that Napoleon paid the salaries of his army also with fakes. Of course, advancing through winter Russia, the would-be warriors could not buy anything from them for food or warmth. It is a known fact that the retreating soldiers of the French emperor threw whole wads of such money into fires, which they tried to warm up.

Some of the counterfeit money continued to walk in the country. After the victory, the government offered to carry out monetary reform, approve new banknotes and thus get rid of fake bills. But Emperor Alexander I did not do that. He chose a more humane way, although very expensive, by equating real and fake banknotes. Gradually, the latter were withdrawn from circulation, while their owners have not lost anything.

The power of the great army, information war, economic provocation - how could our country stand against all this? With careful historical analysis, scientists gave the following official definition of the reasons for Russia's victory over Napoleon’s army:
- size of the Russian territory and climatic conditions difficult for Europeans;
- military talents of the commanders of the Russian army, including commander-in-chief Mikhail Kutuzov;
- nationwide participation in the defense of their homeland, the mass heroism of not only officers and soldiers, but also the civilian population of various classes.

All this is true, but how can one not mention the mysterious Russian soul? Partly, probably, and this played a role. The French did not understand why the Russian peasants did not sell them bread and milk - after all, this is beneficial for them? On the contrary, the villagers were taken behind the pitchfork and scythe and hid in the woods, from where they injured their “liberators”. Why did Russians pray and dress in clean clothes before the battle? How could it happen that the wealthy representatives of the nobility gave all their goods, utensils, and rich ladies - jewelry for military purposes, to ensure the Russian troops? And these were people who really couldn’t speak Russian, preferring their usual French language? And most importantly - how could you quit, let alone burn your own houses in the capital of the country?

Barbaric, from the point of view of Europeans, Russia always had its own, strikingly different from the standards they established, the type of statehood and social thinking.
War 1812 of the year. The first information


Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. mar.tira
    mar.tira 20 November 2012 13: 47
    Frogs, they are also Frogs! Even now, everyone despises them, for their lack of consistency, and treason, for the sake of political trends. Germans, Americans, Russians, despise everyone. Especially now, because they have done what cannot fit into the framework normal civilized existence of peoples. And the socialist president, suddenly became an ardent right-wing reactionary, and an accomplice of extreme Muslim views! They did not like our views on life and the world order then, they do not like it now. But now it’s not the Patriotic War of 1812, and they don’t even have Napoleon , - a boss, that would raise the tail to Russia!
    1. nickname 1 and 2
      nickname 1 and 2 20 November 2012 16: 45
      Yes! there were people in our time not like the current tribe. Heroes are not you!

      1. In every country, most are good people!
      2. Good people should not be held responsible for the affairs of bad people.

      (and this little villain managed to organize a big dirty trick to everyone)
  2. George
    George 20 November 2012 15: 30
    One of our generals or officials went into one of the taverns and saw a large portrait of Napoleon there and asked the tavernsman: Why did he say to you?
    To which he replied: What if he comes forward, so I will catch him.
    This jerky Corsican, who ascended the throne on the corpses of those who carried the Bastille, wanted to spit on all people. When he was taken out in exile, he only rubbed his hands fairly, counting the profits.
    It is gratifying that in the end the French finally realized what this upstart wants from them: young guys chopped their fingers, and women directly said: we did not engage in giving birth to cannon fodder. We no longer believed his winning ballots.
    On October 23, on October 1812, Claude Fansua Male revolted and captured Paris. For three hours Brigadier General Male owned the capital, but it was enough for Bonaparte to abandon his army and rush to Paris.
  3. bart74
    bart74 20 November 2012 18: 19
    Yes, there were people, human beings! Respect for the author of the article! smile
  4. vladimirZ
    vladimirZ 21 November 2012 06: 23
    Before the attack on the USSR, many Hitler’s generals read Kolenkur’s diaries and memoirs about the Napoleonic campaign against Russia and found many analogies with their invasion, seeing the same defeat for themselves in the future.
    And Hitler and Goebels took a lot from Napoleon in terms of achieving world domination, denigrating Russia and threatening its West in order to justify its invasion of the USSR.
    Surprisingly still worshiping the French ashes to Napoleon, who set the goal of world domination. What is the wounded pride of a nation about its once world greatness?
  5. vladimirZ
    vladimirZ 26 November 2012 09: 10
    Yesterday in the program of Vladimir Solviev was Edward Radzinsky - writer, etc. He uttered the phrase that Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Stalin - the great gosudarstveniki who destroyed revolutionary chaos in their states, instability, coped with that terrible orgy, the destruction of thousands of people - revolutionaries, various kinds of bandits clinging to the revolutionary rebellion, and this is their merit, for which people value them.
    Maybe the French really appreciate Napoleon, built him a pantheon for ending the revolutionary turmoil in France, bringing some stability and peace to the people?