The remains of Russian and French soldiers who died during Napoleon’s retreat in 1812 from the Grande Armée, which were discovered in Russia two centuries later, will be buried together on Saturday, a foundation behind the project said on Monday.
The remains of around 100 Russian and French soldiers, unearthed in Viazma, a small town in western Russia, were placed there in eight communal coffins on Monday during a ceremony at a local monastery, noted an AFP journalist.
The ceremony took place in the presence of representatives of the French Embassy in Russia and the Foundation for the Development of Franco-Russian Historical Initiatives, at the origin of the excavation operation and the identification of the remains carried out. in 2019.
“On Saturday, all these Russian and French soldiers, formerly enemies, will be buried together, like friends, in the presence of descendants” of participants from both sides in the conflict, Pierre Malinowski, the president of this Foundation, told AFP.
Until their burial on Saturday in a local cemetery, the remains will remain in a small church in the monastery of John the Precursor, founded in 1536 and looted by the Grand Army at the time of its retreat from Russia in 1812.
The remains were discovered ten years ago during a construction site southwest of Viazma, a town of 52,000 inhabitants.
“Local history buffs initially believed that it was a WWII-era pit, but an expert report from the Russian Academy of Sciences established that it was indeed victims. of Napoleon’s campaign, mainly aged 30 to 39, ”anthropologist-expert Tatiana Chvedtchikova told AFP.
“Thanks to the buttons on the uniforms, it became possible to determine more precisely that certain soldiers were part of the 30th and 55th line infantry regiments and the 24th light infantry regiment of Napoleon’s Army”, according to Ms. Chvedchikova.
“We are witnessing here a symbolic event which is part of the common history” of our two countries, commented on Monday Brigadier General Ivan Martin, the military attaché of the French Embassy in Moscow, who took part in ceremony. On Saturday, we will bury these soldiers “with the honors that are due to them”, he told AFP.