Les Italiens dans la Grande Armée: La campagne de Russie et le patriotisme italien
Piero Del Negro
Translated by Adam Molho
Revue historique des armées, 250 | 2008 : France-Italie, p. 16-24
The Italians in the Grande Armée: Napoleon’s Russian campaign and Italian patriotism. After underlining the importance of the politico-military characteristics of the Napoleonic era’s three Italies (the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Naples and the departments absorbed into the French Empire), this article analyses the participation of the Kingdom of Italy’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812. It compares this episode with the part played by Italians during the campaign in Spain, using three elements for comparison: a) the military context b) the role of Italian patriotism in this military context and c) the memories of the war. The things to be stressed in what emerges from the study are the contradictions between the patriotism of the Italian officers, subordinated to a large degree to the cult of Napoleon and to their professional values and aspirations, and the tendency in Italian commemorations and memory to treat the campaign in Russia as an isolated, tragic, event and one bereft – unlike the case of the Spanish campaign – of any politico-military fallout linked to the subsequent political, social and ideological renaissance experienced down the Italian peninsula.