Two hours of clanking swords, firing canons, hundreds of horses, tons of armor and pure fun for spectators. The famed 1812 Battle of Borodino has been reconstructed in the Moscow region, marking its bicentenary jubilee.
The cavalry, infantry and artillery were all identical reproductions of what’s written in the chronicles about the most famous battle of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia.
Napoleon attacked the Imperial Russian Army, lead by General Mikhail Kutuzov, near the village of Borodino on September 7, 200 years ago. The real battle lasted 12 hours, and left over 45,000 Russian soldiers dead and around 30,000 dead on the French side. Napoleon called it a battle of giants. “The French have proved worthy of victory and the Russians earned the right not to be defeated,” the French Emperor said.
Despite the fact that the real battle began early in the morning – at roughly 5 am – the reenactment was scheduled to begin during the day, so that more people could see the show. The weather 200 years ago was very similar to this Sunday’s, so viewers got a rather clear picture of how it all happened in 1812.
This weekend's event featured the key episodes of the battle.
Among hundreds of cavalrymen and thousands of infantrymen dressed in 19th-century military uniform, more of them wore the French uniform – just as it was back in 1812.
“We will win this battle today. And probably it will be the biggest victory in the history of France… I expect victory,” a US actor playing the role of Napoleon I said before the first shots were fired.
“Though it is only a reenactment, we will fight in the memory of those who threw back Napoleon on the approaches to Moscow,” the man who played Kutuzov told Channel 1.
With 3,000 men, 300 horses and almost 50 pieces of ordnance, this year's Borodino reenactment has already been labeled the most ambitious one ever put on.
Descendants of the heroes who fought at the Battle of Borodino attended the event. Among them were the great-grandsons of both Napoleon and General Kutuzov, as well as former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, whose forefathers participated in the Napoleonic Wars.
Some 100,000 spectators are reported to have come to watch the event.