It was almost 219 years ago when Russian troops under the leadership of Alexander Suvorov got trapped by the French in the Alps. Another heroic page in the history of Russian army, an unforgettable time for the alpine dwellers who witnessed the glory of the soldiers – it’s all about Suvorov’s Swiss campaign!
The name of one of the most brilliant Russian military leaders – Alexander Suvorov – is well known in Switzerland. He never lost a single battle in which he had taken part, he always cared about the soldiers as if they were his own sons and in the end of the 18th century, when Switzerland was weakened by the attacks of French troops Suvorov was the first commander who came not to conquer but to liberate.
Here’s the context: in 1799, in the end of August, 24,000 Russian soldiers and their leader, general Alexander Korsakov, were left in Switzerland by their allies, the Austrian troops. Thus there was no difficulty for 84,000 French soldiers under the leadership of Andre Massena to defeat their enemy. The loss of the Russians would mean the complete triumph of the French and no hope for independence of Switzerland.
In order to save the situation, Suvorov, who had just finished his Italian campaign, decided to march through the Alps and join his compatriots. The task was almost impossible to complete – yet Suvorov said: «Where a deer will pass, so will a Russian soldier; where a deer will not pass, a Russian soldier will pass no matter what».
And so 20,000 exhausted soldiers and their commander battled their way through the snowy St. Gotthard Pass and came to the valley of Muotathal where they were blocked by the troops of Massena. The Russians defeated their enemies heroically and continued their way. Suvorov commenced a trek through the snows of Panix Pass and into the 9,000-foot mountains of the Bündner Oberland. Despite hunger, cold and human losses the soldiers eventually reached the town of Chur in the Rhine and set off to their motherland from there.
Suvorov came to Switzerland as a liberator and while going through the country he treated Swiss customs and traditions with great respect. That’s why the Swiss never forget to pay tribute to Russian heroes. There’s a memorial installed in the heart of St. Gotthard in honor of all Russian soldiers who died heroically during the crossing. Moreover, many Swiss cities organize various events to celebrate the anniversary of Suvorov’s campaign. For example, every September the city of Muotathal in the canton of Schwyz holds Suvorov Days where all history lovers can attend lectures and concerts, enjoy traditional Russian dishes in local restaurants and even go hiking to see the places that Russian army had passed during the campaign!
Fantastic history in Fantastic Switzerland!
Fantastic Switzerland Association