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1799, Switzerland: a Russian Army Does the Impossible, Crossing the Alps in a Legendary March - Last Week Volunteers Reenacted It

How the Suvorov’s legendary campaign through the Alps is remembered today?

Celebrating the 220th anniversary of the Suvorov Swiss Pass, a group of devotees in military uniforms of those years followed the footsteps of Russian soldiers. Today they are located in the vicinity of the city of Andermatt. Alpine peaks, formidable gorges, swift mountain rivers, a 12-meter monumental Suvorov Cross. September, 24 Switzerland honored the memory of the Great Russian commander A. Suvorov and the soldiers who died in the battles, which have no analogue in the world history in their scope and duration at the mountain theater of military operations.

A correspondent on the scene reports from the mountains.

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Suvorov is the liberator of Switzerland.

The world had never seen such battles as those which took place among the peaceful peaks of the Alps in Switzerland in the fall of 1799.

The troops of Field Marshal A. Suvorov went through 7 high Alpine passes. The soldiers overcame them in the conditions of cold, damp and snowy September. 200 km of path along narrow mountain trails, sometimes along snow and even rocks - without mules and virtually without provisions. And at the same time - with constant fights and victorious battles with the French.

Russian and Swiss delegations, a huge number of Russian patriots arrived to bring wreaths and flowers to the monument of Suvorov’s Cross near Andermatt. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Switzerland Sergey Garmonin noted that Suvorov came to Switzerland as a liberator. At that moment, the Swiss Confederation consisted of 13 cantons. Turning into the main arena of military clashes between European powers, it was captured by France. “The French invasion threatened both the state integrity of Switzerland and its further development,” - the Russian ambassador recalled the course of history.

Geopolitical alignment. Why did this happen?

At the time of the reign of Catherine II, Russia was in alliance with Austria, England and Prussia, directed against France. She even ordered A.V. Suvorov to beginforminga corps of 60,000 to fight the French Revolution and restore the monarchy there. The immediate occasion for the outbreak of war with France were the events associated with the Order of Malta - Napoleon captured the island, which was under the auspices of the Russian Empire. This circumstance prompted Paul I to participate in the second anti-French coalition, which, in addition to Russia, included Austria, the Ottoman Empire, England and the Kingdom of Naples.

In March 1799, the 69-year-old Field Marshal Count Alexander Vasilievich Suvorov, by decision of the Russian and Austrian emperors, was appointed commander of the combined army of allies in Italy. Under his leadership, a brilliant campaign was carried out there, which ended in the complete defeat of the French troops. However, soon by the decision of the rulers of the coalition, Suvorov was sent to the Alpine campaign against his will. It was of great strategic importance, while it seemed to be an impossible task.

How it was? The Devil's Bridge, tied with soldier's scarves.

Suvorov’s army had to move from the northern part of Italy to Switzerland in order to connect with the corps near Zurich of generals from the infantryof Rimsky-Korsakov. There, Russian troops opposed four times the superior forces of the French. At the same time, impassable mountain passes were controlled by theenemy troops.

The army of 25,000with convoys and artillery had to be led through the steepest slopes. Of particular difficulty was the climb to the St. Gotthard Pass and the so-called Devil's Bridge - a high and narrow stone arch without a fence over a mountain stream with rapids and waterfalls. The Austrians promised to deliver food and mules. They did not fulfill their promise.

It is here, in the vicinity of the now defunct Devil’s Bridge, that a ceremony in memory of A. Suvorov and Russian soldiers took place on September, 24. A group of Russian historians and enthusiasts decided to reenact the campaign of Suvorov and his troops. After careful preparation and the support of the A.V. Suvorov State Memorial Museum of St. Petersburg, a group of 39 people set off on September 23, 2019. “We started the trek yesterday and took the St. Gotthard pass. It was physically the most difficult - a very sharp and large climb. The Suvorov army went on this campaign without convoys and without tents. The soldiers were sleeping on the ground, wrapped in their cloaks and coats. We, modern city dwellers took tents with us. Nevertheless, spending the night at an altitude of 2100 m is not easy, ”- says Boris Megorsky, a historian from St. Petersburg. According to the historian, the Suvorov soldiers did not eat up, there were big problems with the food, which the Austrians pledged to provide, having failed to fulfill their obligations.

“In the old form, walking is more difficult than in the modern one. The uniform is all woolen and when it gets wet, it becomes heavy. The uniform and the komzol, which we made by the exact analogy of that time, are dried in the air – for this we need a lot of time. Like Suvorov, we hardly make bonfires. At that time, Russian soldiers ate mostly dryers, but we cook on the burners, ”- Peter Knopf says, project manager of the “Swiss Campaign of A.V. Suvorov, 220 years later”, sharing his impressions of the first day of the pass.

Filippo Lombardi, Swiss MP, Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the Council of the Cantons (Upper House of the Parliament of Switzerland) welcomed historical reenactors at the St. Gotthard Pass: “We want to underline 220 years of Suvorov pass. For as it is a special event. A group of historical reenactors will rebuild Suvorov tradition. It is a part of Swiss history. Particularly the country was occupied by French troops and Suvorov was some kind of liberator. "

After a successful assault on the St. Gotthard Pass, Suvorov’s troops attacked the Devil's Bridge. Here one of the legendary battles of the military campaign took place. “The bridge over the Reis River was completely controlled by the enemy. The French dismantled one of the spans of the bridge, making it impassable. Therefore, Russian troops under enemy fire had to direct a crossing. There was a small hut, which was pulled for firewood. They made the flooring and were able to cross,” - says Boris Megorsky, a historian and participant of the modern Swiss pass. According to legend, Russian soldiers bandaged the logs of the bridge with their scarves.

“As in the entire Swiss campaign, the Suvorov unshakable faith in luck and in our own soldiers, ready to go on the attack till the end, appeared in the battles at the Black Bridge. That was, of course, associated with high losses, but as a result, the victory always accompanied Suvorov”, - the historian from St. Petersburg continues.

In memory of the Suvorov Swiss pass, near the Devil's Bridge a huge stone cross was carved 100 years ago, and a small piece of land on which it is located was donated to Russia by Switzerland and is considered Russian territory. Also, near Andermatt since June 1999 there is Suvorov’s monument. In general, Andermatt plays one of the key roles in preserving the memory of Suvorov.

World politics after the Swiss campaign.

However, after the Rimsky-Korsakov corps was defeated, which were under Zurich and waited for Suvorov, the French surrounded the Muotathal Valley, where Suvorov’s troops were located. Regrouping his forces, Suvorov launched a desperate attack and defeated the enemy. Suvorov crossing the Alps ended with a breakthrough from Muotathal Valley and went down in history as one of the highlights of the Swiss campaign.

In the absence of support from the Austrians, Russian troops were forced to retreat through difficult mountainous terrain, in particular, through the famous Paniks Pass, covered with a glacier. “We must remember that the Russian army was not trained to fight in mountains. Unlike the French, Russian soldiers did not have such a military experience. These were people of Central Russian highness who had never seen such mountains. They didn’t have to climb them, especially did not fight there, ”says Boris Megorsky, a participant in today's Swiss pass.

At the same time, the seemingly unsuccessful company brought the Russian troops more honor than the most brilliant victory. Suvorov's actions, as a commander, became a classic of military art and entered the world textbooks on military strategy and tactics. Emperor Paul I blamed the Austrians for the defeat of the Rimsky-Korsakov detachment in Zurich, to which Suvorov could not keep up. He recalled his troops to Russia. Suvorov was granted the rank of generalissimo and the honorary title of the Prince of Italy.

After the second anti-French coalition broke up, Bonaparte strove to restore the monarchy and turned to Paul I with a flattering letter, returned all the Russian prisoners. As a result, the peace of Paul I was concluded with Napoleon, and the severance of the alliance with Austria and England. In 1800, he concluded an alliance with Prussia against Austria, and a coalition was formed against England consisting of Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Prussia.

Why Suvorov Alp pass is important?

“The Swiss campaign of A. S. Suvorov was highly praised by contemporaries and subsequent generations. After all, then the 25-thousandth Russian army entered the battle in an absolutely unknown terrain for themselves in unspeakable mountain conditions with the French troops that significantly outnumbered it ... However, Suvorov did the impossible by breaking 200 kilometers for 17 days along the snowy highlands, sweeping the enemy on his way, " - said the Russian Ambassador of Russia to Switzerland Sergey Garmonin.

Swiss Commander Territorial Division 3 Lucas Caduff, bringing wreaths to the monument of Suvorov’s Cross today, told, that great Russian general is an excellent example of good leadership even today.

A participant of the motorally to the memorial Suvorov Cross, Swiss biker Rolf Schevler, is convinced that “Suvorov finally saved Switzerland, because without him, I think, we would be a French colony today.”

The grand campaign of the Russians both in the 18th century and in the 21st seems to be an impossible mission. At the same time, Suvorov was 70 years old, and together with the soldiers he went through all the hardships of the pass. Among the highlanders there is a legend, that after the death of Suvorov more than once they saw on the heights of the St. Gotthard pass the Great general riding a gray horse, examining the cliffs.

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