December 14, 1812 — French begin retreat from Moscow

It is possibly the most notorious defeat in military history, a textbook example of strategic and logistical errors: Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, in the chilly Winter in 1812. This day, December 14, marks the date upon which the French were finally expelled from Russian territory.

A combination of factors – worsening weather, an over-extended supply chain, the scorched-earth policy of the Russian peasantry and the guerilla tactics of the Russian military being the most well-known – came together to make the French position in Moscow untenable. When Napoleon left the army to shore up his political position in France, the already poor morale of the French army sank lower still, and the remaining commanders ordered a retreat, most likely in order to prevent a mutiny.

Thus began one of the most infamous and fatal retreats the world has ever seen. In addition, the defeat was the beginning of the end for Napoleon, whose fortunes declined over the next few years, finally culminating in his defeat in the battle of Waterloo in 1815

Napoleons retreat from moscow.jpg
By Adolph Northen (1828–1876) – [1], Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Done with Bonaparte — Mark Knopfler

December 16, 1916 — Rasputin is murdered

Rasputin is one of the legends of the Twentieth Century. He was definitely real, but has been imputed with supernatural powers since at leat 1890. A popular preacher in his native Russia, he came to international prominence in 1905 when he was summoned to the imperial palace to heal Prince Alexei. His success in doing so led to him having great influence over the Tsarina, and, it was rumoured, the Tsar.

There were rumblings against him from quite early on, but they only became truly serious as it became clear that Russia’s involvement in World War One was becoming increasingly disastrous. A group of aristocrats led by Prince Felix Yusupov, were alleged to have poisoned him with a dose of cyanide large enough to kill five people, then shot him in the head. Still not dead, Rasputin attacked Yusupov, and the conspirators clubbed him, tied him up and dumped the body in the Neva river.

It is unclear how much truth there is to this – the poisoning in particular has been disputed. He was definitely shot in the forehead and dumped in the river, and he definitely died. But his death, like his life, remains controversial and disputed.

Rasputin PA.jpg
By <span lang=”en”>Unknown author</span> – <a rel=”nofollow” class=”external autonumber” href=”http://www.zm-online.de/hefte/Der-Makel-der-Maechtigen_49351.html”>[1]</a>, Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Rasputin — Boney M

September 1, 1939 — Germany invades Poland

It was the opening gambit of World War Two in Europe. After trying to press its geographical claims (especially to the Danzing corridor) through political means, Hitler decided to go ahead with an invasion of Poland.

Two weeks later, in accordance with the provision of a secret agreement between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Stalin’s forces invaded Poland from the east, and within a month, the nation was conquered entirely, and partitioned between the two invaders.

But the war wasn’t over. Poland had allies – France, Britain and Britain’s Empire all declared war on Germany on September 3. World War Two had begun in Europe.