Introduction Project Austerlitz follows the successfully completed Project Austerlitz 2005. The main goal of the event was the preparation of the dignified commemoration of the bicentennial of the battle of Austerlitz. The new Project Austerlitz is designed as the long-term one and is not focused on any particular jubilee. Instead it will concern the deepening and valuation of the Austerlitz and Napoleonic traditions in Southern Moravia but it is going to include other historic events of the French First Empire era connected to the Czech lands.
In the Czech Republic there are three regions where the Napoleonic Wars left a significant trace. Except the Austerlitz battlefield and places which the armies passed through in 1805, these are the region of Znaim (nowadays Znojmo, Southern Moravia) and Kulm battlefield (nowadays Chlumec near Usti nad Labem, Northern Bohemia).
The battle of Austerlitz belongs to the most important moments of the world military history, the emperor of the French Napoleon I has decided within a few hours the outcome of the campaign of 1805 and the war of the 3rd coalition. The defeated russian emperor Alexander I and his army has left the central Europe; the war between France and Russia would however continue untill 1807, the battle of Friedland and the Tilsit peace treaty. The austrian emperor Francis I has accepted the conditions of armistice signed on the 6th december 1805 at the Austerlitz castle and later also the conditions of the severe Presburg peace treaty signed on the 26th december. The severity of these conditions and Napoleon’s rising influence in Germany have led in three years to another conflict between Austria and France, the war of 1809, culminating in Moravia again, by the battle of Znaim.
The battle of Znaim brought the end of the 1809 campaign (11-12 July). Austria, heavily burdened with conditions of the 1805 peace treaty, saw the chance to change its situation with the core of the French army being held in Spain since 1808. With the British financial support the Viennese war party prepared the offensive plan which counted with the general discontent in Germany with the new French-organized Europe. The Austrian H.Q. expected the smaller south German states to join their side however, as in 1805 the plan had failed. Napoleon returned from Spain with the new army composed mostly of the second-line units with important contingents from the Rheinbund states. He managed to push Austrian corps from Bavaria and after the month-lasting campaign he seized Vienna again. Afterwards followed the battle of Aspern-Essling where archduke Charles delivered the French Emperor the very first defeat in his so far brilliant career. However, it was not the decisive loss and six weeks later both armies stood again face to face on the same field. In the battle of Wagram Napoleon succeeded and forced Austrians to retreat. He followed them and in the vicinity of Znojmo where archduke Charles made his halt, last battle of the campaign took place but was ceased with the armistice. The peace treaty was signed only on October 14th in Schoenbrunn and brought another heavy stroke to Austrian politics and economy. For four years Austria became the compulsory French ally. In 1810, this was confirmed by the marriage of the Emperor Napoleon and Emperor Francis’ daughter Marie Louise.
The third place of the important Napoleonic Wars’ event on our soil is the above mentioned Chlumec nearby Usti nad Labem. In late August 1813, the engagement between the part of the Napoleon’s army under general Vandamme and the Allies retreating from Dresden (after being defeated there by Napoleon) took place there. At Chlumec and Prestanov (30 August), Vandamme engaged the strong Russian corps and after the arrival of Prussian troops under general Kleist into his rear he had found himself in hopeless situation and surrendered. The battle was part of the 1813 fall campaign ended up with the battle of Leipzig. The campaign followed after the peace congress in Prague from early June until mid-August. Austria tried to play the role of the negotiator between France of one side and Prussia and Russia on the other side while keeping its own power interests in mind. Resultless talks ended with the Austrian accession to the anti-Napoleonic coalition.
The Napoleonic Tradition
The battle of Austerlitz and with it related events are perpetually printed in memory of local people and became the source of the later Napoleonic tradition. This term was first used on the occasion of the centennial in 1905 and culminated in the inter war period mainly through the influence of enthusiasts concentrated around the Brno catholic priest and high-school teacher father Alois Slovak (1859-1930). Many activities concerning the battlefield take place in this period. They are focused on commemorations and tightening of the awarness of belonging to one of the most famous battlefields in Europe. Many associations run their activities there, piety and social events are being organized, and first re-enactment attempts are taking place. In this period, most of the important building are erected (finishing of the Peace Monument, Zuran memorial, marking of mass graves etc.), Zuran Hill – the place of Napoleon’s commanding post – becomes the ex-territorial French ground. All this created a very interesting atmosphere for the early tourism and in the same time significantly helped – while respecting the piety character of the place – the development of the region. The period after the WWII and further 40 years of communism suppressed such activities and almost smothered them. Only in 1960’s the tradition saw the slow revival thanks to the limited number of (mainly local) enthusiasts. The full release came only after the fall of communism in 1989.
The battle of Austerlitz is one of the most famous battles of world history and the word ‘Austerlitz’ is being automatically connected with Emperor Napoleon’s triumph by everyone. The battle of Znaim had been somewhat forgotten probably because it was never fought until the end and similarly the battle of Kulm where Napoleon was not present in person. For all that there are many 1809 and 1813 events’ memorials in these battlefields, and many associations run there activities there commemorating the history of times of these battles.
Project Austerlitz 2005
In 1998, representatives of the community of Tvarozna, Napoleonic Union of the Czech Republic – nowadays C.E.N.S. (Central European Napoleonic Society), Davay Communications, s. r. o. and the town of Slavkov u Brna (since 2001) agreed to co-operate on the preparations of the bicentennial of the battle of Austerlitz. Until that time, commemorations were somewhat uncoordinated, full of narrow or local interests, and thus with a low benefit to the region. Therefore, the Project Austerlitz 2005 was born. Shortly afterwards it was accessed by the public service society Mohyla miru – Austerlitz, representing 24 communities and towns of the Austerlitz battlefield.
Within the frame of the Project Austerlitz 2005, great winter commemorations of battle of Austerlitz were organized annually since 1998 next to other events. Revived was the pre-war tradition of Napoleonic Days to commemorate Emperor Napoleon’s birthday. Organized were events concerning the battle of Znojmo (at Dobsice in 2004 and in Mikulov in 2005) as well as at Chlumec (190th anniversary in 2003). In 2004, the French capital Paris saw the propagation event on the occasion of the bicentennial of the distribution of Eagles to the French army. Best “French” re-enactment units were awarded with replicas of original eagles and flags. Certainly the most important event of all was Austerlitz 2005, the great bicentennial of the battle. It was the great success. Some 3600 enthusiasts with historically accurate uniform and equipment from 24 countries took part in the re-enactment of the battle viewed by tens of thousands spectators. Thousands of people came to bow to the memory of fallen during the piety act at the Peace Monument.
The Project Austerlitz 2005 objective was to present the given historic period to the wide public in the interesting and viewer-attractive way. This was with no doubts achieved. Except commemorative events the Project organized historic conferences, run the much-frequented internet server austerlitz.org, published both scientific and non-fiction books, in co-operation with the Czech Television three documentaries were produced. As the Project Austerlitz 2005 resume a multimedia DVD will be issued in the first half of 2006 which is going to include the edition of the great re-enactment of the battle of Austerlitz from December 3rd 2005, the above mentioned documentaries by Czech Television, thousands of photographs from 2000-2005 and many others.
Project Austerlitz Objectives
The currently prepared activies are not related to the celebration of militarism or wars in any way. On the contrary, they are the permanent commemoration of the basic value of life in places of bitter fighting, give publicity to the exploration of the European history and its tight connection to our country. All Project’s intentions are impulse and inspiration for many social, cultural, sports and other activities predetermined to be offered in the field of tourism. Authors of the Project have set the following particular objectives:
- to bring this historic era closer to the wide public in the interesting and viewer-attractive way;
- to prepare and co-ordinate commemorative events of Napoleonic battles on the Czech territory and events connected with them including the co-operation with similar activities in Austria, Germany and Poland;
- to support the consciousness of historic belonging of our country and the region with the historic development within the process of integrating Europe;
- to help to the deeper knowledge of history and culture by supporting thematic lectures and seminars, exhibitions, documentaries etc.;
- to create activities attracting the interest of both foreign and home tourists and thus to contribute to the overall support of tourism in the region;
- to support and publicize all activities aimed at the region’s development while keeping its historic and cultural uniqueness.
The Project Austerlitz directly takes up to activities of the Project Austerlitz 2005. The tradition of the battle of Austerlitz has not finished with 2005. On the contrary! The year 2005 was supposed to wake up a deeper interest in events connected with the battle, in the Napoleonic tradition in Southern Moravia and consequently in Czechia and Central Europe.
In Brno 31. 1.