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Putin praises patriotic Russians at mock 1812 battle against Napoleon

National Gallery of Art

President Vladimir Putin watched on Sunday as thousands of French and Russian actors recreated the 200-year-old battle which led to the fall of Napoleon, in the town of Borodino just outside Moscow. 

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The Moscow government spent 900,000 euros on the festivities to mark the event, and Russian authorities were told to use the occasion to expand “the patriotic education of youth”.

French former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing joined the 100,000 people who gathered to watch the spectacle, which crowned weeks of celebrations which began when 23 Cossacks began a two-month march on Paris on 12th August.

The September 7 clash between Napoleon’s men and the Russian army at Borodino represents the definitive example of a general winning the battle but losing the war.

Napoleon watched his smaller army of 20,000 soldiers overcome 45,000 foes in a day of carnage and then decided to take time to recover before pushing on to Moscow.

It was a fatal mistake for Napoleon. The Russians had time to regroup in nearby villages and then plot strategy as Napoleon's generals entered Moscow, which had been burned down by its citizens before they left.

They then drove out Napoleon's demoralised soldiers before marching on to Paris.

In a keynote address, Putin praised the patriotism of the Russian people at the time saying "The entire people rose against the invaders. Their unprecedented heroism, spiritual strength and heartfelt love for the land filled our country with a tremendous force that had never been seen before."

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