Writing Paris In Ruins involved research into the political environment, rivalries, economics, and egos of those involved in the Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris. On the Prussian side there was Otto von Bismarck and Wilhelm I of Prussia. On the French side there was Napoleon III. Bismarck staked his reputation on uniting the German states and stoked the flames of nationalism in order to create a new country that would encompass the north German confederation (Prussia), the southern German states, and Alsace-Lorraine. Napoleon and his supporters sought to maintain France’s position as the dominant power in Europe.
The spark? The Spanish throne needed filling. A Prussian prince was proposed as a candidate. Napoleon feared being surrounded on two sides by those loyal to the German states. Although that candidate was formally withdrawn by Wilhelm I in a telegram, Bismarck altered the text of the telegram in a way that was insulting to the French and the French press fanned the flames of outrage. To maintain the honour of France and respond to public opinion (and, by the way, to ensure his son as his successor), Napoleon III declared war.
Big egos. Trumped up rationale. A desire for power. Patriotic fervour. Impulsive decision making. Does any of this sound familiar?
As it turned out, Napoleon and the French army were defeated in less than three months. (The French army was nowhere near the size of the Prussian army, they were poorly organized, and their weapons weren’t as modern.) The Prussian army then marched into France with the intention of taking Paris. They did so by encircling the city and laying siege to it for five months.
Recent maps of Ukraine illustrate Russia’s intent to surround key cities like Kyiv as a strategic step toward taking over the country.
Legend: light pink shows past advances; dark pink are recent advances; blue lines are Ukrainian defences; pink circles are cities captured by Russian forces.
What will happen to the capital city Kyiv? If 1870 Paris is any guide, Kyiv will soon be surrounded. Supplies won’t be able to get through. Food and fuel will become scarce. Citizens will become desperate. The poor and the elderly will suffer the most. Bombardment will kill or maim citizens and destroy precious monuments, historic buildings, important archives – did you know that Kyiv’s Cathedral of Saint Sophia (built in the 11th century) is a Unesco world heritage site? Here’s a list of other Unesco works heritage sites in Ukraine. Brave citizens and soldiers will do their best to defend the capital, but how long will their supplies– food, ammunition, medical aid, weapons — last? Will Europe and NATO countries be able to drop supplies into the country?
After five months of siege and bombardment, Paris surrendered. More than 2000 citizens had died. With today’s weaponry and a more densely populated city, Kyiv’s toll could be much higher.
What can we do? Donate, march, speak up in whatever ways you can, write to your political representatives, volunteer, support local Ukrainian journalism. Global Citizen – a movement to take global action to end extreme poverty – has a lengthy list of possibilities to choose from.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.