Russia celebrates 200th anniversary of 1812 Patriotic War
Сегодня ровно 200 лет Великому Сражению!
The Patriotic War of 1812 began on June 24 when the Napoleonic army entered the Russian Empire.
The Borodino Battle took place between the Russian army led by Mikhail Kutuzov and the French troops commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte in the village of Borodino 125 km to the west from Moscow on September 7, 1812.
“September 7, 1812, was a day that perpetuated the heroism of Russian soldiers, becoming an eternal memorial to their indomitable courage.”
That’s how Russia’s Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov described it after engaging Napoleon’s army in a bloody battle near the village of Borodino 150 km west of Moscow.
The Borodino Battle lasted for six hours and resulted in the retreat of the Russian army.
The Borodino Battle death toll was extremely high with up to 8,500 people dying on both sides every hour.
The Battle of Borodino (Russian: Бородинское сражение, Borodinskoe srazhenie
; French: Bataille de la Moskova), fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia and all Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties.
The French Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I attacked the Imperial Russian Army of General Mikhail Kutuzov near the village of Borodino, west of the town of Mozhaysk, and eventually captured the main positions on the battlefield, but failed to destroy the Russian army despite heavy losses.
About a third of Napoleon’s soldiers were killed or wounded; Russian losses were also heavy, but her casualties could be replaced since large forces of militia were already with the Russian Army and replacement depots which were close by had already been gathering and training troops.
The battle itself ended with the Russian Army out of position.
The state of exhaustion of the French forces and lack of information on the Russian Army’s condition led Napoleon to remain on the battlefield with his army instead of the forced pursuit that had marked other campaigns that he had conducted in the past.
The entirety of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, however, was still available to his disposition and in refusing to implement it he lost his singular chance to destroy the Russian army.
The Russians consider it their victory although the Russian army had to retreat after a battle that was inconclusive in the military sense.
Nevertheless, Napoleon failed to conquer Russia and was ousted from the country by late December.
The Russians let the Napoleonic army occupy Moscow, which had been
almost completely burnt down, but cut his overstretched supply lines and
forced him to retreat a month later. The regrouped and reinforced
Russian Army then drove Napoleon’s freezing and starved forces out of
Russia and all the way to Paris
“Of the fifty battles I have fought, the most terrible was that before Moscow,” Napoleon Bonaparte later recalled. “The French showed themselves to be worthy victors, and the Russians can rightly call themselves invincible.”
«Из всех моих сражений самое ужасное то, которое я дал под Москвой. Французы в нём показали себя достойными одержать победу, а русские стяжали право быть непобедимыми…” (Наполеон I Бонапарт)
The battle at Borodino was a pivotal point in the campaign, as it was the last offensive action fought by Napoleon in Russia. By withdrawing, the Russian army preserved its combat strength, eventually allowing it to force Napoleon out of the country.
Historical reports of the battle differed markedly depending on
whether they originated from supporters of the French or Russian sides. Factional
fighting between senior officers within each army also led to
conflicting accounts and disagreements over the roles of particular
individuals.There’s still some historical dispute about who won the battle of Borodino. On the one hand Mikhail Kutuzov ordered his army to retreat and abandon Moscow.
On the other hand, this battle became the turning point in the war, and the French army was badly weakened for the first time.
1812 Battle of Borodino map
“Where are the POWs?” Napoleon would wonder as his army fought its way deeper into Russia.
He, who had easily subdued half of Europe and had crowned himself Emperor of France, was amazed at the unprecedented degree of resistance he had little expected to encounter.
More than 250,000 soldiers clashed on the Borodino field about 50 square km in area in the early morning of September 7 two centuries ago. About a thousand cannons traded crossfire almost incessantly from dawn to sunset.
The losses on both sides were enormous – 2,500 men per every hour of fighting, says historian Andrei Sakharov, a correspondence member of the Academy of Sciences:
“There were several aspects to the Borodino battle. First and foremost, there was a huge moral aspect for the Russian army, for the people of Russia and for the Russian history.
The battle ended in a draw, so to say. Neither the French won, nor the Russians backed down.
Both sides maintained their positions. But the fact that the Russian army withstood the onslaught of the monstrous colossus – Napoleon the Invincible – was absolutely incredible.”
Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian officer and military theorist who took part in the 1812 campaign, thought that the only way to conquer Russia was to try to play on the internal contradictions between its power and its people, otherwise it was unconquerable, he said. The Battle of Borodino showed that, unfortunately for Napoleon, there were no contradictions. Andrei Sakharov:
“Why is the 1812 war called Patriotic? Because it united the nation and that unity vividly manifested itself at Borodino.”
Napoleon described Borodino as the greatest battle he had ever fought. And indeed, it was the bloodiest battle of the 19th century. The death toll on both sides totaled about 100,000. But though he had suffered no defeat at Borodino, Napoleon still lost the war. Why?
“Because, says historian Vadim Roginsky, Napoleon failed to reach the main goal – to crush the Russian army. And that predetermined to a large extent the unfavorable outcome for him.”
A few months after Borodino, Napoleon’s Grande Armee was completely routed. Later, he called his invasion of Russia a “fatal mistake”.
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