Russia and France: Last honor for the fallen from Napoleon’s Russian campaign

Rare moment of harmony between France and Russia: more than 200 years after Napoleons During the Russian campaign, representatives of both states buried the remains of 126 fallen soldiers in the western Russian city of Vyazma. A military band accompanied the mourning ceremony, which took place at high winter temperatures of minus 15 degrees and in which descendants of the army commanders at the time also took part.

In the presence of around a hundred extras in historical clothing, the corpse bearers carried eight in their flags Of Russia and France’s wrapped coffins in the freshly dug graves in the Vyazma cemetery. The coffins contained skeletal parts of 120 soldiers as well as three women and three teenagers who died in one of the bloodiest battles after the withdrawal Napoleons died in Moscow.

“Over the generations, death and time ensure the reconciliation of all,” said Julia Chitrowo, great-great-granddaughter of the Russian field marshal and national hero Mikhail Kutuzov, at the funeral ceremony. Death “equalized” the soldiers. “They are all in one grave now.” Prince Joachim Murat, descendant of the famous Napoleonic officer of the same name, expressed his “great emotion” at taking part in the event “in honor of Napoleon’s soldiers”.

On June 24, 1812, Emperor Napoleon I and his 500,000-strong Grande Armée crossed the river Nyemen to the Tsarist empire to march on Moscow. But the Frenchman suffered a severe defeat and had to withdraw five months later. How high the losses were cannot be precisely clarified: Experts put the number of deaths at an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 – only around 120,000 soldiers returned alive.

Alleged mass grave from the Second World War

The remains of the members of the army allegedly killed in the devastating battle of Vyazma on November 3, 1812, were found in a mass grave by Russian and French archaeologists in 2019. The researchers had initially assumed a mass grave from the second World War to have encountered. However, experts from the Russian Academy of Sciences found that most of the victims were soldiers who fell after Napoleon’s defeat in the Russian campaign.

The three women were presumably so-called Vivandières, who provided first aid to the soldiers of the French army and operated military canteens. The three teenagers were probably drummers.

“Direct descendants of the main actors in the conflict are meeting today as a token of reconciliation to commemorate the Russian and French soldiers who commanded their ancestors more than 200 years ago,” said the head of the Foundation for the Development of Russian-French Historical Relations. Pierre Malinowski, the AFP news agency.

Relations between France and Russia are because of the way the leadership in Moscow deals with the opposition and especially with the Kremlin-Kritiker Alexey Navalny currently heavily burdened.

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