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Napoleonic Europe

Remains Found in Belarus

Edited from Belarus Today, 27 July 2007

A ceremony was held in Belarus in July 2007 to rebury the remains of 224 Napoleonic troops. Their bodies had  been discovered near to an 1812 battlefield.

Until very late in the day the French embassy was still awaiting permission from the Belarusian authorities for the reburial, said Viktor Shumsky, an official with the Belarusian defence ministry.


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

Talks had to be undertaken with representatives of the French government to be able 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, to the east of the capital of Minsk. During its retreat from Russia, Napoleon's Grande Armée was ravaged by Cossacks and cold weather during a contested crossing of the river during 26-29 November 1812.

The creation of a formal cemetery for the Napoleonic soldiers was a complicated process, according to Shumsky. Mainly this was due to the need to clear its construction with Belarusian ecological and historical protection agencies, as the site already contained a memorial to a forced crossing of the Berezina by Red Army troops in 1944.

The remains of the French soldiers would be 'fully protected in any case', he added, stressing the claim that 'There will be no vandal attacks on the remains of these French troops in our country'.

The ceremony took place on the one hundredth and ninety-fifth 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.

Battle of Marengo 1800
One of Napoleon's most brilliant achievements was his Italian campaign, which ended with the Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800 - Austria was ejected from Northern Italy and French power there was now unquestioned - until 1812



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