In September 99, many memorial celebrations will be held in honor of the Russian Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevich Suvorov and his troops, who traversed the Swiss Alps 200 years ago. This transition, which gave the byname "Russian Hannibal" to Suvorov, is not only important because of military aspects ....
Who was Aleksandr Vasilevich Suvorov? He is estimated one of the greatest military leaders of the russian history, was severly wounded 6 times and won 63 battles without one defeat.
But that's not the reason why we remember him here at Avantart. There are other reasons: history means not only "Man make History", the circumstances and the cultural consequences are what interests us...
a short excursion into history:
Instead of invading France, Czar Paul I ordered Suvorov to march over the Alps to replace the Austrian element of an Austro-Russian army in Switzerland.
The expedition was doomed before it reached its destination. After being defeated by French General André Masséna near Zürich, Austrian Archduke Charles was transferred to the Netherlands with half of his 80,000-man army. Leaving 12,000 troops at St. Gotthard Pass to guard against Suvorov, Masséna then turned on the 20,000-man Russian army of General Prince Aleksandr Rimsky-Korsakov at Zürich, and on September 25, 1799, he sent it reeling in headlong defeat with 8,000 casualties.
That left Suvorov's force of 18,000 Russian regulars and 5,000 Cossacks, exhausted and short of provisions, to face Masséna's 80,000 victorious French troops. The only alternative to annihilation was to undertake a historically unparalleled withdrawal over the Alps.
On September 27, the Russians began making their way through Pragel Pass to Glarus. The French reached Glarus first, but Suvorov evaded the trap by redirecting his troops through the village of Elm. Then, on October 6, Suvorov commenced a trek through the deep snows of Panixer Pass and into the 9,000-foot mountains of the Bündner Oberland. Thousands of Russians slipped from the cliffs or succumbed to cold and hunger, but Suvorov, never admitting that he was retreating, eventually escaped encirclement and reached Chur on the Rhine with the bulk of his army--16,000 men--intact.
Suvorov's Alpine feat gained the grudging admiration of the astonished French and earned him the nickname of the Russian Hannibal, but it did nothing to improve his standing with Paul, who, disgusted with Austrian policy and conduct, withdrew from the coalition. Soon after being promoted to the supreme rank of generalissimo, Suvorov was recalled to St. Petersburg on January 21, 1800, by the czar, who summarily stripped him of his command, his rank and his titles. In poor health and heartbroken, Suvorov died in St. Petersburg on May 18, 1800.
Now many diversifying memorial celebrations are announced for early autumn 99: russian traditionals express their plans to parade in Russia and Switzerland in historical costumes, but also the avantgarde side is not passive:
A artistic-military council, headquarter of Übergang announces:
In September 1999 200 years celebration of significant Suvorov's transition through the Alps will happen. The significance of this military operation of Russian army leaves far beyond a historical and military science.
By a corollary of transition, long and conjugate with huge difficulties, Suvorov's army through the Swiss Alps, apart from of fulfillment of military problems, was a certain unplanned cultural mission spontaneously and successfully realized amidst simple and unsophisticated Swiss people. The traces of this mission can be found in the Swiss culture even now.
The Project, dedicated to 200 years anniversary of Suvorov's transition (now a non-militarists remake, and it can be named as a missionary campaign or tour), has the title ÜBERGANG or DEVIL'S BRIDGE. We suppose to repeat a campaign of Suvorov exactly after 200 years, but in today's political and cultural conditions, to realize it not military, but with art forces, not with the help of guns and cannons, and using musical instruments, dramatic and visual arts.
In several galleries in Zurich in this period will be exhibitions dedicated to that significant event, organized by the Russian-Swiss curator and critic Alexander Shumov. The opening of these exhibitions will be either at the starting or at the final point of the prospective tour-campaign. Just as Suvorov's soldiers have brought advanced culture of that time (and not at all on bayonets, they were at war not with Swiss, but with French army) to the deeply provincial peasant country, we today plan to realize our "cultural attack", to bring some kind of the humanitarian aid, to pour fresh blood in to the decrepit veins of old Europe.
Except for such historical-humanitarian-cultural missions the expedition assumes to realize also a research program with the purpose of a determination and returning back home elements of Russian culture, 200 years ago lost in the Alps. Such restitution does not contradict the modern international law and only will promote development and fixing partner relations (instead of today's paternalist) between poor huge Russia and rich small Switzerland.
The cream of new actual today's Russian culture (as well as 200 years ago) will participate in the action-expedition. Beside most advanced followers of new musical mentality, researchers and players of Russian traditional music NETE, best in the world Alphorn player ARKADY SHILKLOPER with Swiss Alphorn group led by HANS KENNEL, unique and only SAINKHO, the fighters for flower movement German group EMBRYO, one of the best free jazz warriors WERNER LUEDI, there Swiss folk singers from the Jodlerclub in Muotathal will take part in the program. Also in a campaign a movable cinema and video projective installation will present historical films and modern videoart to the Swiss peasants. Art landing force a Russian public will accompany.
The expedition will follow the historical way of Suvorov's army, using for travel the buses, but some, most critical stages (Devil's Bridge etc.) will be done by foot. To the place, the participants will arrive by buses from Zurich, where they will arrive by airplane. On the way in small cities, villages and simply in mountains there will be cultural actions (concerts, performances, video show, etc.), and also fraternization of the Russian and Swiss people will happen. Also Swiss and international actors and musicians will take part in the performances. The campaign will last 7 days and will be finished in Zurich on Suvorov's exhibition opening on September 7th.
All who wish to take part in a memorial campaign can do it, having introduced the contribution to its organization. The most simple and direct method to join an "army" is the financial contribution.
HEADQUARTER of ÜBERGANG
The OrgKomitee: DOM, Rustamushki International, Long Arms, IMA-press, RISK, National Contemporary Art Center
Date: September 2 - 8, 1999
St. Gotthard Region, Switzerland
Participants: Sainkho, Arkady Shilkloper, NeTe, swiss and international musicians and artists
Those who are not able to participate at Übergang maybe find their way to the Restautran Count Suvorov in St. Petersburg? Or to the museum, dedicated to the Russian Hannibal?
Aleksandr Suvorov Memorial Museum