Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Borodino: The Field on which Empires Clashed

From Russia Beyond the Headlines:

Borodino, where the Russian and French armies clashed on Sept. 7, 1812, is known throughout the world through the incomparable description of the battle in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In Russia, however, the battlefield has achieved an almost spiritual significance, and has been preserved as a national shrine.
The Battle of Borodino – known to the French as the Battle of Moscow – is thought to have been the bloodiest in all the Napoleonic wars, exceeding even Waterloo. The French won a tactical victory, yet they failed to destroy Russian forces under the command of Prince Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov (1745-1813). Although the retreat of the Russian army after Borodino resulted in the destruction of much of Moscow, the occupation of the capital led not to Russian defeat, but to the disintegration of the French Grand Armee.

he usual approach to Borodino is from the city of Mozhaisk, located 56 miles west of Moscow, and the group of monuments that form the memorial begins a few miles west of Mozhaisk with an obelisk at the village of Gorky. It was here that Kutuzov had his headquarters during the battle. The obelisk, erected in 1912, has a golden sword on the shaft and is crowned with the spread-winged form of an eagle in flight. Its base contains a bronze relief of Kutuzov surrounded by his closest associates.

A short distance beyond the Kutuzov monument, the road passes by the graceful Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Virgin, which overlooks a corner of the battlefield. Originally dedicated to the Nativity of Christ, the whitewashed brick structure was built in 1697-1701 in a decorative style suggestive of 16th-century architecture. The church has two stories, the lower is dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Virgin, which is revered as a protector against Russia’s enemies from the west; the upper church remains dedicated to the nativity. Although vandalized during the Soviet period, both levels have been returned to active use, with new wall paintings and icon screens. The church is crowned with a dome and high decorative cross. At the west end is an octagonal bell tower. During the Battle of Borodino, the church dome was hit by artillery fire....MORE
And from a 2014 post, "History of the Timeline", Minard's depiction of Napoleon's Russian campaign, the width of the line representing the number of soldiers in the French army.

Tan is the march on Moscow, black the escape of the survivors. This depiction has 422,000 soldiers on the attack across the Neman river and only 10,000 making it back after the retreat. Later scholarship has both figures larger but either way it was a disaster for the Grande Armée.


The graph at the bottom is temperature on the Réaumur scale. The lowest figure, −30°R = −37.5 °C.