What Is a Kampagne?

A kampagne (kämpänä, kämmänenä), sometimes also called a crusade, is a French campaign that can be either military or non-military.

In military usage, it usually refers to the use of a mobile and agile force that can conduct sudden, short-lived attacks and maneuvers in order to gain an advantage in a larger conflict. The French Foreign Legion’s motto, Servir moi, sercer les autres (translated as To Serve, To Fulfil My Duty To The Rest Of The World) sums up the spirit of a kampagne: to serve one’s country while also doing one’s part to save others.


The first recorded use of the word ‘kampagne’ in French appeared in a 17th-century book, Journal de Saint-Simon. A kampagne was first used in reference to a military campaign in 17th-century France against the English and their allies. From that point on, the term was used interchangeably with ‘campagne’ (a camp, or military campaign, in the sense of an organized, concerted effort). This usage of the word gradually faded, and in the early 20th century it became restricted to the term ‘kämpänä’ (swift attack, as in the Finnish racehorse, whose name means ‘kämpänä’ ), referring to the tactic of launching a sudden attack. 


The main objective of a kampagne is to achieve a specific mission or task as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The best-known example of a kampagne in history is the 1800 invasion of Russia by the French under Napoleon. It was described as “the most daring and most brilliant invasion of all time.” Napoleon hoped to use the campaign to end the rule of the Romanovs in Russia. However, the campaign was a complete disaster, and Napoleon was forced to make a long retreat back to France. Nevertheless, the invasion and the resulting retreat have come to be known as the “Battle of Berezina.” The French commander, General Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, reported that the invasion had only been possible because his forces were “well-equipped with modern arms and horses.” It was these technologies that enabled the French to outmaneuver and outwit the Russian forces at every turn, ultimately resulting in a decisive victory.

Rough Guide To Different Types Of Campaigns

A kampagne involves a mix of military and non-military methods. It uses both overt and covert strategies, has a defined beginning and end, and is generally more focused and has a higher chance of succeeding than an ad-hoc or ‘hit-and-run’ style of operation. 

Here is a basic guide to the various types of campaigns and their meanings.

Traditional Campagna

A traditional campagna (‘traditional Kämpänä’) is a type of military campaign that uses a combination of innovation, aggressiveness, and superior military tactics to achieve its goals. Traditional camps have a clear beginning and end, and are usually a series of carefully planned, coordinated attacks. They are usually launched from a fixed position, and once over, the enemy is rarely given a second chance at victory.

The most famous example of a traditional campagna is the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, which was a joint operation between the United States and Great Britain. The goal was to draw Hitler’s Germany into the war, and the attack was carried out by hundreds of young American men wearing Blue and Gray outfits. It led to the formation of the United States Marine Corps. The attack was so successful that it could be said to have laid the groundwork for the victory in World War II.

Fashionable Campagna

A fashionable campagna (‘moderne Kämpänä’), also known as a ‘dandy war’, is a type of military campaign that relies heavily on audacity, panache, and showmanship, rather than actual military might. It is often characterized by an exhibitionist element, as well as a conspicuous consumption of luxury goods, especially when the campaign is a failure. It can be traced back to the mid-18th century. During that time, due to the Industrial Revolution and the development of new technologies such as mass production and the internal-combustion engine, soldiers had to adapt and change in order to remain relevant.

One of the first examples of a fashionable campagna was Napoleonic Wars that were being fought between France and their many opponents between 1792 and 1815. While these wars were technically campagnies due to the invasion of the country of Italy, it was a spectacular display of French military prowess that led to the nickname ‘le Grand Campagne’ (the Grand Campaign). During those wars, Napoleon would often field a combined arms force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, taking the fight to the enemy with his own personal guard of sharpshooters, known as the ‘Immortals.’ He would often hit the enemy where they were weakest: at the gates of their capital city. This would give the impression of great power, but in reality, Napoleon’s forces were overstretched and under-equipped, and he failed to truly conquer any part of Europe. Nevertheless, the campaign was a magnificent spectacle that showcased the technological and military might of the French Empire.

In more recent times, the Italo-Austrian War in the 1920s was also a spectacular display of style and elegance on the part of one of the contestants, Antonio Marinoni. The elegant and well-dressed Marinoni is said to have declared that his aim was “not to beat the Austrians, but to make a good impression on them.” When it came time to invade, he would dress in full regalia, ride a white horse, and carry a white flag. Marinoni was successful in this campaign, and after the war he would go on to become the French ambassador to Rome. He is credited with the opening of the Vatican Museums to the public in 1927, as well as being the first to introduce the concept of cruise missiles into warfare. 


An omni-campagna (‘omni-Kämpänä’), or ‘all-round campaign’, is a type of military campaign that uses a combination of strategy, innovation, and audacity, to achieve its goals. It is characterized by an emphasis on speed and tactical effectiveness, rather than a prolonged struggle. A classic example of an omni-campagna is Mao Zedong’s ‘Long March,’ the 1936–37 campaign against the imperial Japanese. 

During the march, the Chinese Army would regularly change direction and split into smaller groups in order to outmaneuver their opponents and gain an advantage in the constantly shifting front lines. Even now, the march is viewed as one of the greatest examples of tactical brilliance in history. Ultimately, it allowed China to emerge as a world power.

In more recent times, one of the most famous omni-campagnies was conducted by the United States during the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. It was known as the ‘Sunset Strategy’ and was designed to “bleed” North Korea of men, women, and children through a combination of conventional and nuclear warfare.


A kämpänä-kampagne (‘Kämpänä-Kämpänä’) is a type of short-lived but highly effective military campaign that relies heavily on speed, surprise, and aggression, rather than military might. The main purpose of a kämpänä-kampagne is to achieve a swift and decisive victory that will allow the attacker to focus on more important matters.

A classic example of a kämpänä-kampagne is the Sicilian Expedition of July 1736, which was conducted by the French against the Kingdom of Sicily. In order to keep his forces intact for the impending attack on the Great Britain, King Louis XIV of France decided to launch a quick strike against the ‘vital’ Sicilian Kingdom. Led by the talented young Comte de Chauny, the French Army crossed the Alps and descended upon the Italian Peninsula, engaging the enemy in battle after battle, usually resulting in a decisive victory for the French. This allowed de Chauny to return to France with a high reputation, as well as a sizable chunk of territory under French control. He would later be instrumental in negotiating the peace treaty that ended the War of the Polish Succession, thus leaving a lasting mark on the history of Europe.