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The famous Borodino battle took place

7 September 1812

Borodino battle or the battle on Moscow river as the French call it took place near Borodino village on August 26 (September 7), 1812. The commander of Russian army was M. I. Kutuzov and of the French one – Napoleon Bonaparte. Kutuzov had at his disposal 120 thousand men and about 640 units of gun. Napoleon disposed of 135 thousand men and 587 guns.

From the moment that French army invaded the territory of Russian Empire in June of 1812 the Russian army had constantly retreated. The rapid progress and numerical superiority of Frenchmen prevented the general commander of the Russian army M.B. Barclay de Tolly from preparing the troops for the battle. The prolonged retreat had provoked social displeasure. The army and the people longed for the decisive battle and demanded that M.I. Kutuzov was appointed the general commander. On August 8 (20), 1812 yielding to the demands of society Alexander I nominated Kutuzov the general commander.

Kutuzov arrived to the headquarters on August 17 (29) and immediately started to search a convenient position for the decisive battle. Finally he chose the place near Borodino village, 120 km away from Moscow.

Early morning of August 26 (September 7) Napoleon began the battle attacking the left flank of the Russian army and its center. The decisive struggle started for Bagration’s fleches and for Raevsky battery that the Frenchmen managed to win at the cost of great losses. The battle lasted all day and by evening the French troops drew off without having solved its essential problem – to defeat and destroy the Russian army.

If Napoleon aspired to win making one blow in the decisive battle, Kutuzov chose another strategy. It implied the whole system of separate battle and maneuvers as well as an active defense followed by a counteroffensive. Withdrawing the army far inland Kutuzov was preparing the necessary conditions for the future aggressive offensive war.

Borodino battle was first of all strategically reasonable. It meant to ruin the plan of Napoleon to win in just one decisive battle, to slow further progress of Napoleon’s army toward Moscow and to lay a solid foundation of the future victory over the enemy.

In this battle Napoleon’s army lost over 50 thousand men killed or wounded. The losses of the Russian army reached 44 thousand people.

Later, in exile, the defeated French emperor admitted that of 50 battles he had held “in the battle near Moscow the greatest valor was displayed and the least success achieved. The Frenchmen showed themselves deserving a victory, and the Russians merited the right to be invincible”.

Lit.: Богданов Л. П. На поле Бородинском. М.,1987; Бородино (Нашествие Наполеона на Россию) [Электронный ресурс] // Музеи России. 1996-2019. URL: http://www.museum.ru/1812/Library/tarle1/part04.html; Бородинское поле: сайт / Гос. Бородинский военно-ист. музей-заповедник. 2008-2019. URL: http://www.borodino.ru; Вдовин Н. И. Бородино. М., 2008.

From the Presidential library materials:

Cathedral of Christ the Savior founded in Moscow // On this day. 22 September 1839;

Council in Fily took place // On this day. 13 September 1812;

Defensive period. The battle of Borodino. The turning point of the war // Patriotic War of 1812: collection.