Borodino fieldRussian: Borodinskoe pole or Бородинское поле is a huge memorial monument built in honour of the Russian military. Situated not far from the settlement of BorodinoRussian: Бородино, it is built on the site of two major battles which occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. Napoleon’s Grand army and the Russian troops led by M. Kutuzova Field Marshal of the Russian Empire, who served as one of the finest military officers and diplomats of Russia under the reign of Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander I fought here on 26 August, 1812. In 1941 and 1942, a second battle, the Moscow Battle, raged here with the Soviet Army fighting Nazi troops.
Today, Borodino field comprises some forty monuments, a museum dedicated to the Patriotic War of 1812 (also known as the French Invasion of Russia), Spaso-Borodinsky ConventRussian: Spaso-Borodinskiy monastyr or Спасо-Бородинский монастырь and the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of GodRussian: Tserkov Smolenskoy ikony Bozhey Materi or Церковь Смоленской иконы Божьей Матери dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The landscape has remained the way it was in 1812, and you can walk around the field and find every site where the troops, described in detail by Leo Tolsoy in his War and Peace, were deployed (his book is, arguably, the best-known description of the Battle of Borodino). Even the fortifications built on the site during the Battle of Borodino have been reconstructed. However, what helps to locate the exact location of the fiercest fights are the obelisks commemorating the commanders and common soldiers who fell here, including French soldiers. The whole field is, in fact, a huge cemetery, and the exact number of soldiers who fell here is impossible to estimate (no less than 40,000 Russian soldiers are thought to have died here in 1812).
SPASO-BORODINSKY CONVENT AND ITS MEMORIAL EXHIBITIONS
The Spaso-Borodinsky Convent has a special place in the Borodino field memorial. Its historical background is both dramatic and inspiring. General A. Tuchkov’s widow Margarita was madly in love with her husband and used to accompany him even during military campaigns (she had to change into men’s clothes for this), suffered privations and did her best to help her husband. Having learned that he had been killed in the Battle of Borodino, she headed for the field to find and bury his body. She spent several days searching for it, knowing only that Tuchkov had been killed near the Semyonovsky redoubtRussian: Semyonovskiy redut or Семёновский редут. It is hard to imagine what she had to go through while examining corpses, most of which were severely disfigured.
Tuchkov’s widow never did find her husband’s body. She began, however, the construction of a church dedicated to the icon of Saviour Not Made by HandsRussian: ikona Spasa Nerukotvornogo or икона Спаса Нерукотворного on the alleged site of her husband’s death. She had to sell her family jewelry to buy a plot of land and build the church on it. When Emperor Alexander Ireigned as Emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825 learned about this, he donated a considerable amount of money for the cause. This is how a convent appeared on the field, together with the church. Later, Margarita Tuchkova took monastic vows, becoming the convent’s hegumenia, or Mother Superior, after the deaths of her son and brother. Her body rests here, too.
In addition to the architectural site itself, visitors can attend various museum exhibitions on the territory of the Spaso-Borodinsky Convent, such as the house of hegumenia MariaRussian: dom igumeni Marii or дом игуменьи Марии (Tuchkova), the gallery of the Battle of BorodinoRussian: voennaya galereya Borodinskogo polya or военная галерея Бородинского поля displaying the portraits of generals and officers of the Russian army, along with exhibitions entitled Characters of “War and Peace” on Borodino Field” and Borodino during the Great Patriotic War.
Borodino field features another structure that appeared here even before those dire events, the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God constructed in the late 17 and early 18th centuries. Typical of its time (an octagon placed on a quadrangle, with a bell tower), it has become both an architectural and historic monument, and it is from this bell tower that the Russian commanders observed the battle.
BORODINO WAR MUSEUM
Located almost in the centre of the field is the Borodino War Museum and ReserveRussian: Borodinskiy voenno-istoricheskiy muzey or Бородинский военно-исторический музей. The current exhibition entitled Eternal Glory to BorodinoRussian: Slavsya vvek, Borodino! or Славься ввек, Бородино!, displays the original artefacts unearthed as a result of archaeological excavations, including weapons, costumes, and household items of the time. On display is an architectural model representing the battlefield of Borodino as it was in 1812. The museum collection is certainly less extensive than the one on display in the Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812Russian: Muzey voyny 1812 goda or Музей войны 1812 года located on Revolution SquareRussian: Ploschad Revolyutsii or Площадь Революции in Moscow, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with its location as the authentic items on display here were actually found on the site of the Battle of Borodino. The museum is part of the memorial and is much more than just an exhibition on this part of international history.
Wars are tragic periods in the history of any country. Battles like the Battle of Borodino (1812) or that of Moscow (1941) are never to be forgotten. The memory of heroic deeds is alive on Borodino field, where one can better understand just how many lives came to an end here and the supreme sacrifice that Russian soldiers made for their country. Every Russian should come here to honour the memory of the heroes and to begin looking differently at human life and the price of peace.
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