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Borodino, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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The village of Borodino and the site of the bloodiest battle of the Patriotic War lies 129 kilometers to the west of Moscow and just two and a half hours from the capital by train. It was here on this site, which covers an area of 130 square kilometers, on August 26th 1812 that Napoleon's army of 135,000 men and 600 canons fought a 121,000-strong Russian contingent led by the great commander Mikhail Kutuzov. On that single day of gory and wretched battle the Russians lost a total of 40,000 men and the French 30,000. Although the Russians withdrew the next day and retreated to the capital to burn the city to prevent its capture by the French, the Russians still consider Borodino a victory for themselves although the French have spent the last 200 years disagreeing with them!

The battlefield area, with the small village of Borodino somewhere near its center, is littered with various monuments to the great event. These include a small museum 1 kilometer to the south of the village, which details and illustrates each phase of the mighty battle and displays an impressive collection of Russian and French uniforms, regimental standards, weapons and some of Kutuzov's personal effects. The site also boasts 34 other monuments that were erected all over the area to commemorate the centenary of the battle and including obelisks to mark Kutuzov's headquarters. On the same site stands the Church of the Savior of Borodino, erected in the 1830s and used as a field hospital in 1941 as the Nazis approached Moscow. Not far from there is the inn where the great Russian writer Tolstoy stayed whilst researching his novel War and Peace, which has now been turned into a museum devoted to his stay there.

Every September a scaled-down re-enaction of the battle occurs, in which local enthusiasts don military uniforms, mount their steeds, grab their muskets and launch into friendly combat. This is a fabulous spectacle for anybody even vaguely interested in military history and starts with a religious service held on the gilt monument that stands on the Ravetsky Battery, the highest point on the battlefield.

Borodino is an enjoyable day out for the whole family and a fascinating glimpse of the past for any military enthusiasts and lovers of Tolstoy! More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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