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Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (2014)

de Adam Zamoyski

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450955,788 (4.04)10
Traces the epic events following Napoleon's exile in 1814 and the subsequent Treaty of Paris, examining how the eight-month Viennese carnival brought thousands of aristocrats to the Austrian capital and established the Congress of Vienna.
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Zamoyski ott veszi fel a fonalat, ahol előző könyvében elejtette: amikor a végzetesen leamortizálódott francia sereg kénytelen volt visszavonulni Oroszországból, nyomában pedig beözönlött Európába a győzedelmes orosz hadsereg. Ebben a történetben Napóleon csak statiszta, aki egy szépen-lassan elolvadó katonai erő élén vánszorog*, a szerző inkább azokra fókuszál, akik, mint a keselyűk, egy egyre bővülő szövetség részeként eredményeinek felszámolására törekszenek. Zamoyski talán legnagyobb erénye, hogy ezeket a figurákat milyen élettelin ábrázolja. Ott van például a magára egyfajta modern megváltóként tekintő Sándor cár, a ravasz Talleyrand, a katona Wellington és személyes kedvencem, az osztrák Metternich, aki annyira tündérien nagyképű, hogy az már cukiságszámba megy. (És még sokan mások.) Ők azok, akik azon melegében, még Napóleon lemondása előtt nekiállnak rendezni az európai helyzetet, figyelembe véve egyrészt az ún. győztesek igényeit, másrészt pedig megelőzni, hogy efféle kataklizma a jövőben előfordulhasson.

Rendezni. Hm. Nem lesz könnyű. Ugyanis az európai helyzet finoman szólva is egy merő kupleráj. Egyrészt ugye ott vannak azok az uralkodók (élükön a Bourbonokkal), akiket a nagy Napóleon kipaterolt a hatalomból. Ez így szimpla. Másrészt akadnak itt olyanok, akiket ugyan Napóleon paterolt be a hatalomba, de remek érzékkel ellene fordultak, amikor szorult körülötte a hurok. (Köztük még Napóleon rokonait vagy egykori tábornokait is ott találjuk, mint például Nápoly királyát, Murat-ot, vagy a svéd uralkodót, Bernardotte-ot.) Na és persze ott vannak a nagyhatalmak is, a maguk összetett és egymásnak ellentmondó igényeivel. Úgyhogy elkezdődik a szörnyűséges pókerjátszma, amiben a koronás fők és sunyi diplomaták úgy cserélgetik egymás között a földterületeket és városokat, mintha azok állatos albumba való matricák lennének. Az, hogy mondjuk egy lipcsei cipészmestertől megkérdezzék, hogy ő most szász, osztrák, porosz, orosz vagy épp antarktiszi alattvaló kíván lenni a későbbiekben, a fejükben meg sem fordul. És úgy egyáltalán: igyekeznek semmit sem észrevenni, semmit sem felhasználni abból, amit a francia seregek nyilvánvalóan széthordtak a kontinensen – az ekkor még édestestvérekként funkcionáló nacionalizmust és liberalizmust**. Ugyanakkor elképesztően sokat báloznak, és irritatív mennyiségű különböző társastáncot mutatnak be.

Zamoyski üdítően kritikusan szemléli a bécsi rendezés folyamatát. Akadnak (köztük nem kisebb személyiség, mint Henry Kissinger), akik ezekre a tárgyalásokra úgy tekintenek, mint egy 100 éves béke előkészítésére, ami stabilitást adott Európának. Zamoyski szerint ez nettó marhaság, és igazat kell adjak neki. Hisz alig telt el 30 év a leírt események után, a kongresszus legfontosabb eredményei máris semmissé váltak (például a lengyel autonómia), a századfordulóra pedig tényleg semmi sem maradt belőlük. Másfelől aligha tekinthető békésnek ez a század, ha figyelembe vesszük (hogy csak a legvéresebb konfliktusokat említsük) a ’48-as eseményeket, a krími háborút, a porosz-osztrák és porosz-francia összecsapásokat, hogy a tekintélyes mennyiségű polgárháborúról és gyarmati vérontásról ne is beszéljünk. Ráadásul ezek mindannyian azokban a hibákban gyökereznek, amiket a bécsi kongresszus elkövetett: az új ideológiák, vagyis parasztosan szólva: a korszellem teljes figyelmen kívül hagyásán. Ezeknek levázolásában a szerző igazán pazarul teljesít.

Van azért a könyvnek egy nyilvánvaló hibája – az, ami miatt valószínűleg egy narratív történelmi munka sem kívánta eddig részletezni ezeket az ügyeket –, és ezzel a problémával vív Zamoyski végig hősies (és néhol sikeres) küzdelmet, amikor a szöveget telepakolja a prominens személyiségek budoárpletykáival. A probléma pedig az, hogy ez a körülményes adok-kapok az országok között (hogy a kerti fészer legyen a poroszoké, de akkor a ruszkiknak oda kell adni a fürdőszoba-használati jogot a hét páratlan napjain, viszont ebben az esetben az osztrákoké a fűnyíró, amit ugyan már odaígértünk a szászoknak, de őket meg kárpótoljuk azzal, hogy elvihetik a konyhakredencet, etc., etc, etc., a végtelenségig), szóval ez a kozmikus cserebere, ez valami iszonyatosan unalmas tud lenni.

* És egyben mumus, aki azért egyszer még alaposan rá fog ijeszteni a szövetségesekre.
** Ebben egyesek egész elképesztő szinten teljesítenek. A Rómába visszatérő pápa például nem csak a kompromittált köztisztségviselőktől szabadul meg, de a zsidókat is visszaküldi a gettóba, sőt: a közvilágítást és a védőoltásokat is megszünteti. Merthogy nem lehet jó, ami a franciáktól származik. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
This book provides a great overview of the Congress of Vienna. It starts with the events leading up to the Congress, which is invaluable to help understand the discussions during the Congress itself. The book provides a good balance between the Viennese gossip ("who is sleeping with whom"),provided by the detailed police spy reports and letters of the participants, and the detailed negotiations. The gossipy details help to make the key figures of the Congress more human and therefore easier to understand.

This book is strongly recommended as a very readable overview of an event that changed world history. Reading it today helps explain the challenges facing political leaders in the EU who are trying to reach consensus on things as well as the challenges of trying to get discussions started on the Syrian crisis.
  M_Clark | Jan 31, 2016 |
Rites of Peace by Adam Zamoyski is an epic. At around 570 pages it is a thorough description of the people, events, and decisions surrounding the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815. Zamoyski provides a very readable account of a defining moment in European history starting with the very throes of Napoleon's France through to his eventual despatch to St Helena and the conclusion of the diplomatic concert that redrew Europe.

Zamoyski draws from a large number of sources especially the personal correspondence of the main actors. The copious letters and notes they drafted provides a treasure trove for historians. Zamoyski points out in his introduction the distinct absence of analytical coverage of the Congress of Vienna and indeed it is a surprisingly sparse field. With so much ink having been devoted to the all-conquering Napoleonic France, the lack of literature on the Congress is quite some gap. Zamoyski has filled the niche incredibly. His is an incredibly easy read for a 570 page treatise on a diplomatic negotiation. The personalities involved burst from the page, their interests and activities giving them rounded personalities.

Much of Zamoyski's work is about the people rather than just their deeds. The most prominent players at the Congress have plenty of pages devoted to them. Metternich, Castlereagh, and Alexander are the leads. Each of them is described in detail, their foibles exposed and analysed, their successes and their intrigues plotted out through the various turns of the negotiation.

While Zamoyski is describing a process and the people involved in it, he has also set out an entire class of person who existed in early 19th century Europe. Much like the generals for hire who fought for various causes in their careers, the statesmen involved appear as an elite and highly mobile cadre often promoting aims for leaders who were not of their own nationality.

Another class of person featured heavily in Zamoyski's work is the ambitious socialite woman. Zamoyski's tale is not just of the great men who changed the world around them but also the women who sought to profit and enjoy themselves along the way. At times the work reads a little less like a dedicated historical analysis and more like a breathless celebration of scandal and gossip. The number of balls and illicit encounters threaded throughout the work sometimes outweighs the limited progress the negotiations make.

Indeed, Zamoyski may have been better off not replicating all of the soiree information and devoting a little more to the negotiation. It is ultimately the diplomatic dance that makes the Congress of Vienna a special moment in time rather than the socialising it has become notorious for.

The various phases of diplomatic action are the most fascinating parts of the work. The initial phase of battlefield diplomacy as Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain attempt to move themselves into the right positions as they converge on Paris. Of course it is Russia who gets to Paris first, setting the tone for the next couple years of negotiation battle. Alexander of Russia is the primary figure, his decisions seemingly often influenced only by his latest whim, the archetype of the monarch as despot unaware of the implications of his actions.

Getting to Paris first really seems to have given Alexander a first mover's advantage he never relinquished. For all his dancing and later mysticism, he is really the dominant figure of the Congress by Zamoyski's analysis. His obstructionism frustrates his allies in the later phases of negotiation, especially in securing his unusual aims for Poland as a nation under his rule as Russian Emperor.

The phases of the Congress itself often read like the worst excesses of the UN in the modern environment, small issues derailing the best of aspirations, and dogma getting in the way of progress. Zamoyski is particularly positive about the skills of French delegate Tallyrand. It is Tallyrand who displays by far the most skill in negotiation, clearly using techniques still credible today. Of all the participants, it is only Tallyrand who coes out with credit under Zamoyski's analysis. He is somewhat scathing about pretty much everyone else. In particular the British diplomats do not seem to fare well, clumsily failing to take advange of opportunities especially in the early going and finding themselves out-played frequently.

Of all the many characters present though it is the King of Württemberg who comes in for by far the most criticism. It is not clear exactly what Zamoyski has against him but every description is a rendition of Württemberg as a contemptuously obese monster.

It is all these second tier characters though which make Rites of Peace so excellent. The comprehensive coverage of the many issues at stake and the players involved works so well. The issues which carried on throughout much of the discussion seem never to have really been resolved. The Polish, Saxon, and Dutch questions were never really dealt with. Taking decisions on these kind of major issues requires serious leadership of a type that seems not to have been present at the Congress.

What was present though was pioneering diplomatic process. This must have been down to the combination of Metternich and Congress facilitator Gentz. The setting up of sub-committees to handle various lesser points in smaller groups is the way such matters have been dealt with ever since. It would have been nice to have seen a little more of how these sub-committee played out rather than their being reported on generically. The description of negotiators from States such as Spain and Portugal being difficult and obstructive when they owed their very existence to those they were being difficult to is a snapshot in time that could be entirely contemporary today.

The step-change in the pace of negotiation comes with the return of Napoleon and the Waterloo campaign. It all seems a bit of a rush compared to the turgid speed of the main negotiations. Zamoyski also rushes it a little, not giving a huge amount of space to the final decisions following Waterloo.

Once the discussions are over, Zamoyski's conclusion is really quite negative. Having been slightly critical of various actors throughout, especially of their personal failings, Zamoyski's own analysis in the final chapter is entirely negative. The Congress he has researchd and written about so outstandingly is a failure. It fails to solve the underlying issues within Europe, sets Britain firmly on a non-European track, leaves the fate of lesser nations such as the Poles at the mercy of others, sets Austria up for failure and Prussia up for militarised expansion. The most interesting element of Zamoyski's final analysis is the major disruption of the bonds between people and their rulers. Parcelling populations out undermines stability.

Zamoyski alludes to some of the other failings of the Congress, especially the abandonment of non-major powers. The great powers of Europe make decisions for themselves but their sacrifice of places like Genoa is really unforgivable. One legacy of the Congress which Zamoyski does not really recognise is that it put in place a system to defend the interests of Nation States against more localised interests. Today the international environment still suffers from the ubiquity of State in decision making to the exclusion of everything else. The Congress snuffed out so many great historical peoples, especially the City-States. The death warrant of Genoa, various Cantons in Switzerland, and the Hanseatic cities was explicitly signed by the Congress, cementing the power of the nation over that of the city.

The Congress of Vienna is a significant point in history, a possible precursor to the League of Nations, United Nations, and European Union. It is a moment in history that saw a change of eras. The people involved are fascinating and Adam Zamoyski has brought them to life magnificently. His very readable history has shone a light on the Congress, bringing it to the mainstream and providing outstanding desription of the unfolding of one of the greatest episodes of negotiation the world has ever seen. ( )
1 vota Malarchy | Jun 27, 2013 |
Om iets te begrijpen van hoe Europa van vandaag werkt, is het raadzaam om dit boek te lezen. ( )
  ChrisHeynen | Jul 27, 2009 |
For two decades the scourge of the ancien régime Napoleon Bonaparte has been the fear and master of the crowned heads of Europe, but his attempt to add Russia to his list of conquests proved the beginning of his downfall. In December 1812 he was forced back to Paris in advance of his retreating army by the Russians, who as they advanced across Europe, turned his former allies Prussia, Austria, and the other German states into theirs. In April 1813 the allied armies joined by England and several exiled kings arrived in Paris and forced Napoleon’s surrender. But months before the question of how to undo what revolutionary and then imperial France had done to Europe occupied the minds of the kings and their diplomats as much as defeating the French army.

Following victory parades and triumphal visits they convened in the Austrian capital in 1814 to work out the details of the peace. They were filled with a hope for a lasting peace and the new ideal of international law. They even invited the defeated power, France, represented by newly restored monarchy to attend the Congress. Ironically the French ambassador, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, had previously done the same job for the last French ruler, Napoleon. The Congress with its multiple attending sovereigns immediately became the new center of European diplomacy and social life, compete with accompanying diversions. As the author puts it,

“Perhaps the most striking aspect of the great charade known as the Congress of Vienna is the continuous interplay between the serious and the frivolous, an almost parasitical co-existence of activities which might appear to be mutually exclusive. The rattling of sabres and talk of blood mingled with the strains of the waltz and court gossip, and the most ridiculously trivial pursuits went hand in hand with impressive work.” Page 385

Zamonyski has plowed though voluminous official archives and memoires of the participants to give a detailed, highly readable, account of the preparation for and the proceedings of the Congress, both official and social, followed by his own assessment of what it accomplished: consultation and cooperation between multiple states, what we would now call a Summit Meeting, as a means of resolving an international crisis, and what it failed to accomplish: a permanent peace and stable boundaries. ( )
1 vota MaowangVater | Jul 26, 2009 |
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Introduction The reconstruction of Europe at the Congress of Vienna is probably the most seminal episode in modern history.
 

Chapter 1 The clock of the Tuileries had begun striking the last quarter before midnight when a mud-spattered carriage of the type known as a chaise de poste, drawn at a gallop by four tired horses swung onto the parade ground in front of the palace.
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Traces the epic events following Napoleon's exile in 1814 and the subsequent Treaty of Paris, examining how the eight-month Viennese carnival brought thousands of aristocrats to the Austrian capital and established the Congress of Vienna.

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