Trip through Time / Where Napoleon's Sun Begins Setting: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in Borodino

By Tamura, Yu | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Trip through Time / Where Napoleon's Sun Begins Setting: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in Borodino


Tamura, Yu, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


BORODINO, Russia--Undulating hills, white birch forests and fields of grass stretch out before Borodino, a village about 120 kilometers from Moscow that nestles on the right bank of the Moskva River. It was from the top of a hill here in September about 200 years ago that Napoleon Bonaparte gazed down on what would become a bloody battleground.

Napoleon was leading his forces against the Imperial Russian Army in the Battle of Borodino, a turning point in the French emperor's Russian campaign.

The Battle of Borodino is known as one of Napoleon's fiercest battles, with 132,000 French soldiers fighting 117,000 Russians. A combined total of 85,000 soldiers died in the battle.

Stone monuments of varying sizes now stand in places where Russian Army divisions set up their positions.

Aleksandra Pistnova, a guide of the State Borodino War and History Museum and Reserve, which manages the war memorial sites, explained, "There are 37 monuments in a 50-square-kilometer area." This is roughly the size of Tokyo's Nerima Ward.

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 when he was at the peak of his power. Not only was he emperor of France, but also king of Italy, and he was married to an Austrian princess. Most of Europe was under his rule.

Napoleon was apparently confident that he would be victorious in Borodino. Aleksandra said Napoleon saw sunlight shining on the fields of grass and murmured, "It's the sun [that I saw] in Austerlitz."

Napoleon was referring to the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, one of his most glorious victories.

In the Battle of Borodino, however, the French Army faced withering Russian cannon fire and lost at least 35,000 soldiers. Napoleon's army also had to contend with the Russian Army's scorched-earth campaign. In October 1812, the French Army began to retreat.

Hunger, guerrilla attacks and cold weather laid further waste to the French troops. …

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