Translated in to English from Moscou, capital de l’Europe?, originally written in French by Alexandre Latsa for Tribune Libre.

France and the French people are, in their majority, europhils. This may seem paradoxical since foreigners visiting the country are at once struck by the people’s seeming closed-mindedness, lack of knowledge of foreign languages, and chauvinistic zeal.

However that may be, it is from the French that the first attempt at unifying Europe arose. Charlemagne, the late 9th-century western emperor, reigned, shortly before his death, over an empire stretching from modern France, parts of Spain and Italy to large swaths of the Germanic world and parts of the Balkans. For many scholars and historians, Charlemagne is the “father of Europe.” Luckily or not for Europe, Charlemagne’s empire fell apart after his death and was divided between his successors. The second French attempt at building Europe was led by Napoleon, who envisionned himself at the head of an empire stretching from Corsica to Moscow. As we all know, however, and particularily in Russia, this attempt at building a unified Europe by force of arms failed in 1812, as the Emperor was met both by fierce Russian resistance and a deadly winter.