History Files
 

 

Napoleonic Europe

Remains Found in Belarus

Edited from Belarus Today, 27 July 2007

A ceremony has been held in Belarus to rebury the remains of 224 Napoleonic troops which were discovered near to an 1812 battlefield.

Until very late in the day the French embassy did not received permission from the Belarusian authorities for the reburial, said Viktor Shumsky, an official with the Belarusian defence ministry.

Discovery

The remains of the soldiers who served Napoleon Bonaparte were found in Belarus. A Belarusian army search unit found the graves in a rural region of the central Minsk province.

Talks were in progress with representatives of the French government to transfer the graves to the site of the 1812 battlefield, which is also in Belarus, said Viktor Shumsky.

Paris requested that the soldiers be reburied near the Belarusian town of Borisov, by the River Berezina, east of the capital of Minsk. During its retreat from Russia, Napoleon's Grande Armee was ravaged by Cossacks and cold weather during a contested crossing of the river from 26-29 November 1812.

Creation of a formal cemetery for the Napoleonic soldiers was complicated, Shumsky said, by the need to clear its construction with Belarusian ecological and historical protection agencies, as the site already contains a memorial to a forced crossing of the Berezina by Red Army troops in 1944.

The French soldiers' remains would be "fully protected in any case," he said. "There will be no vandal attacks on the remains of these French troops in our country," he stressed.

The ceremony took place on the 194th anniversary of the crossing of the Berezina by Napoleon's troops, as Russian forces shelled them.

Re-enactors, dressed as 1812-era Russian soldiers, fired a cannon in salute. Orthodox and Roman Catholic prayers were offered in the French, Old Slavonic and Belarussian languages.

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