Throughout the history of Russia its troops have reached the majority of European capitals.
Thus, 255 years ago, on the early morning of the 28th of September, 1760, the troops of General Zakhar Chernyshov entered Berlin. The favourite of the Russian Tsarina Elizabeth, Count Shuvalov, dropped a phrase that shook all of Europe: “It is impossible to get to Petersburg from Berlin, but quite possible – from Petersburg to Berlin”.
And, as history shows, the Count was right. There are few European capitals that were never reached by Russian soldiers. Moreover, some capitals were visited more than once.
1. Berlin, 1760.
An interesting fact – two years before Berlin was invaded by Russians for the first time, General Chernyshov had been captured by the king of Prussia, Frederick the Great. But it did not make Germans fight for their capital, they ignominiously ceded Berlin to allied Austrian and Russian troops. This is when the national character fully declared itself. The Austrians were damaging statues and pictures, setting fire to German property, and abusing locals. Russian soldiers were forced to kill their own allies to save the people from devastation. Finally, Frederick the Great even thanked Russians for saving Berlin from the Austrian threat.
2. Rome, 1799.
Rome is a dream city for invaders of all times, but the Russian marines under the lead of Lieutenant Peter Balabin came there for liberation, not for invasion. The garrison of Napoleon fled as soon as they found out that the Russians were coming. The Russian marines were met with delight, locals were applauding and shouting out “Vivat Moscviti!”
3. Stockholm, 1809.When Swedish people heard the rumors about Russians at the gates on March 7th, 1809 they simply did not believe it, as Stockholm was separated from Russia by the Gulf of Bothnia. But it was the first forced foot march across a sea in history: 250 km along the ice in a snowstorm and blizzard under the lead of a genius in tactics and logistics, Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly. The result – huge panic and elimination of Sweden from the list of great powers.
4. Paris, 1814. Ultimatum of Tsar Alexander I: “If Paris is not ceded, nobody will recognize the place where this capital was by the night”. The city was ceded and Alexander even agreed not to take weapons from the French police. He was surprised not to see some paintings and statues in Louvre – they had been taken away to Orlean for safety from Russian barbarians. “They didn’t have to do it, nobody would damage them” – commented the Tsar. It’s not boasting: when the French wanted to destroy the statue of Napoleon, Alexander ordered to strictly guard it.
5. Amsterdam, 1813. Alexander Benkendorf occupied the city and read the leaflet about liberation of the country from the French. The Dutch, in their turn, had been celebrating a national holiday in honour of the Russian General until 1914 – Cossack Day.