Kutuzov – Napoleon – Borodino
The Battle of Borodino happened in 1812 during the Napoleonic Wars when the French army invaded Russia. Napoleon’s intention to defeat the Russian army in a single battle was not rewarded with success. The Russians, under the command of Mikhail Kutuzov, showed miraculous bravery and military skills, with the French only gaining a tactical victory. The fighting involved around 250,000 troops and left at least 70,000 casualties, therefore it is considered one of the bloodiest Napoleonic battles and one of the deadliest one-day battles in history.
The great battle lasted 12 hours, and over 45,000 Russian soldiers died and around 30,000 were killed on the French side. Napoleon later said: “Of all of my battles the worst one was near Moscow. The French soldiers proved themselves in it worthy of victory, and the Russians – to be called invincible.”
One hundred fifty years later the Borodino Battle Panorama museum was found in Moscow. It has a collection of weapons, ammunition, uniforms and graphics, but the centerpiece of the exhibition is the round canvas painting depicting the scenes from the battle. The Triumphal Arch, now on Kutuzovskiy Avenue, was built to Bove’s original designs in order to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon.
In memory of the Battle of Borodino and the defenders of Russia, the Borodino Museum of History was established. On the museum premises on a weekend in the beginning of September a re-enactment of the Battle of Borodino takes place. About two thousand people wearing the uniforms of Russian and French armies of 1812 recreate the main events of the Battle of Borodino. Horses, guns, pyrotechnics immerse viewers in the atmosphere of the battle of the beginning of the 19th century.
The color, shape and all details of the uniforms are copies of the real ones. Re-enactors recreate uniforms and use the weapons, equipment, musical instruments of that time. The music, customs and military techniques are reconstructed to create the true scenario of the Battle of Borodino, so is the language, the “French” army speaks French.
To get into the atmosphere, the re-enactors arrive to Borodino several days prior to the event and set up a field camp. They give up all the modern habits and get used to bivouac life.
Cuirassiers were generally the senior branch of the painted portion of an army, relating their status as heavy cavalry. They achieved increased prominence during Napoleonic Wars. The commander of re-enactment regiment of cuirassiers, Ilya Turovskiy, told us about what it took him to become a re-enactor.
When he was 19, after passing four exams such as swordplay, horse riding, history of Napoleonic wars and military charter he joined re-enactors as an uhlan. For the last 20 years he has attended re-enactments in different countries going up in ranks and changing uniforms. To be a re-enactor needs a lot of enthusiasm and financial contribution to your hobby as all expenses are paid by the participants, and for devoted ones in time it becomes a great part of their life. To recreate a battle, the cuirassiers from many countries come together: Germany, Poland, Italy, Belgium and England and many others. Joined together by the same interest these people form international friendship and present us the opportunity to be the witnesses of an impressive historical event.
The exclusive photo collection — episodes of Borodino battle — provided by the photographer