State Borodino War and History Museum-Reserve

Alexander V. Gorbunov

deputy Director

State Borodino War and History Museum-Reserve

143240 Russia Moskovskaya oblast Mozhajskij raion, selo Borodino

Borodino as the instance of cultural potential of battlefields

Battlefields are in many aspects special heritage sites. As a rule, heritage sites are results of the creative and productive human efforts, while battlefields, on the contrary, are produced by man's destructive activity. Estates, citadels, monuments, architectural sites become attractive for the visitors immediately after their construction, while battlefields do so only decades and centuries later. For majority of the monuments any changes comprise a negative factor, while battlefields need to be transformed to become the sites of the cultural heritage. The best way of preserving a heritage site - the use of it according to initial purpose, is unacceptable for a battlefield since it means continuation of the battle. Governmental bodies pay attention to the battlefield monuments only for their utilization in the formal political events.

Is it possible to regard a battlefield as a cultural landscape? The development of the Borodino battlefield gives a positive answer to the question. The 2007 Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes awarded to Borodino battlefield by UNESCO-Greece became the recognition of it.

Are there any general features characteristic to battlefields of different ages and countries? Trying to answer the question, the author came to the following conclusion.

In all times the battlefields were not created but selected. Territory or area selected by the commanders for the battle is an initial landscape of the battlefield. As a result of the battle - intense but short-term destructive impact upon initial landscape transformed into action space - there is generated a military history landscape. It is changed due to impact of the following factors: by the natural processes, impartially leading to the change and destruction of the material evidences of the battle; a restoration of the landscape peaceful life, its initial land use pattern; the memorialization, includes not only establishing various memorial signs, but also fixing in the people's memory associative connections between the historic event and the locality. Resulting from this transformation the battlefield is changed into memorial museum landscape, i.e. becomes the site of heritage, incorporating monuments of evidence, memorial sites and memorial signs, as well as heritage objects not connected to the main event.

Monuments of evidence are material confirmation of the real event, scale of the battle, they represent important sources for the further scientific reconstruction of the military action. They are the key elements in the cultural landscape of the battlefield including fortifications, burial grounds, archaeological cultural horizon, where all artifacts, connected to the battle actions are found.

Memorial sites and memorial objects - these are the witnesses of the battle, preserved elements of the initial landscape (fields, meadows, wood groves, rivers, brooks, ravines, uplands, roads, historic settlements, etc) occupying practically the entire territory of the battlefield. These are elements that comprise the basis of the memorial museum landscape and carry special informational, scientific and esthetic values.

Memorial signs are designed to fix and localize information on events and their participants. Being secondary in relation to other heritage sites, they emphasize the significance of the monuments of evidence and memorial sites, often they serve as the best guarantee of their conservation.

In various combinations, scales and forms and with different level of preservation these mentioned elements are present at all battlefields.

The initial landscape of the Borodino battlefield (120 km west of Moscow) was the organically evolved rural estate landscape, discovered and identified for the battle. Its spatial structure and visual image has been determined in the second half of 18th century as the typical rural lands in the western Moscow region. By the year of 1812 there were 57 small land estates, 30 settlements, 6 noble estates with gardens and parks. This locality had no particular cultural value, name and entity for nominating it a specific landscape unit.

The reason for it's transformation into the heritage site was the general battle between the Napoleon Grand Army (about 132,000 warriors, 589 canon guns) and Russian troops under the commandment of M. I. Kutuzov (135,000 of personnel, 624 canon guns) that took place here on September 7, 1812. The battle lasted about 15 hours, with 120,000 gunshots and 3 million rifle fires. The losses of killed and wounded were about 40,000 persons from the Russian and about 30,000 persons from the French armies. In spring 1813 there has been buried and burned down over 49,000 dead persons of both armies and about 39,000 dead horses.

Resulting from the short-term (6 days, including the preparations to the battle) intensive destructive impact on approximately 100 sq. km of initial landscapes this site has been transformed into the military history landscape and was named ls"Borodino battlefield'.

In 1839 there began to form the memorial and museum complex. that included land plot (approximately 800 hectares) with the ruined earth fortifications and common graves appropriated by Emperor Nicholas I, symbolic monument to the Russian Army soldiers and the tombstone of General Bagration at the Rayevsky battery, a church witnessing the battle and palace-estate ensemble in the village of Borodino and the first buildings of the Borodino Saviour Convent founded by the widow of General A. Touchkov. In 1912 at the places of Russian troops dislocation there have been constructed 33 monuments in the neoclassic and art nouveau styles. The command posts of Kutuzov and Napoleon were fixed and commemorated by monuments becoming the landscape dominant heights.

There were reconstructed 5 artillery fortifications. The 100th anniversary of the battle may be noted as the relative finalization of the associative cultural landscape fixation.

Its main functional purpose was the same rural activities with the traditional land use pattern. In 1920th some of the monuments were destroyed by Bolsheviks

Second historically significant layer of the Borodino battlefield was formed in 1941 as an outcome of the Mozhaisk defense line works. During 6 days the Red Army soldiers held in check the Nazi advance to Moscow. Numerous pillboxes, communication trenches, anti-tank ditches, common graves with gravestones to the Soviet soldiers are the World War II monuments of evidence.

In 1960-80s there were large restoration works conducted, and all monuments with the ensemble of the Saviour Convent have been reconstructed.

At present, the Borodino battlefield comprises about 250 heritage objects regarded as elements of the cultural landscape

Associative landscape of the Borodino battlefield comprises substantially complete set of authentic monuments-evidences of the historic events that served as a basis for the heritage nomination. Some of them are re-stored from the discovered indigenous materials on the basis of documents and archaeological excavations. Integrity of the battlefield's associative landscape has been basically preserved in the zone of combats and both armies' dislocations. The loss of individual historical features due to ravine reforestation and modern presence of disharmonious objects has negative visual effect on the spatial perception of the battlefield.

The Borodino museum founded in 1839 was granted in 1961 the status of a museum-reserve and renamed the State Borodino War and History Museum-Reserve. The activity of the Museum-Reserve is aimed at the preservation and use of its territory for the tourist service and local excursions. The evidence that this challengeable mission is possible and have some practical solutions is drawn from the Visitors' Reference Book by the Borodino Museum-Reserve in the following remarks: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is impressive and delightful!", "It is really cool here, class!!!", "It was so great!", "Everything is natural and beautiful, now we've got that this museum is better than any history textbook - thanks!"

For the effective management of this territory there has been organized the cultural landscape differentiation, based on the combination of visual indicators as well as context information on military actions. There were distinguished 14 landscape complexes with different cultural value and tourist attractivity, their borders defined, a connection between cultural landscape characteristics and natural network and landscapes established. The landscape images or ls"portraits' have been compiled, including the detailed definition, fixing type of the landscape complex, its functions, natural characteristics, historic and cultural values. Optimal decision for complicated task of the simultaneous provisions for the authenticity preservation and development of modern functions of the battlefield site in the form of memorial landscape expositions was suggested by the author.

Such expositions are organized to provide a visitor an opportunity for individual evaluation of the battle position, maneuvers and actions of opposing armies. The main exposition items in the memorial landscape are not solely monuments, but memorial sites, i.e. rather extensive natural elements of the battlefield landscape restored for exposing the battle actions. Their invisible ties with the actions may become clear through establishment of exposition signs. In contrast to memorial signs the goal of exposition signs is rather informational and visionary expression of the memorial contents in the regular natural objects and sites than memorizing event per se. In memorial landscape exposition there may be restored some of the lost elements of the military history landscape - fortifications or their fragments, bridges, dams, rural roads. Specifically designed trails and sightseeing points, plantings, small architectural forms shall be delicately implanted into the historic landscape. Today, two memorial landscape expositions are being created on the territory of the Borodino battlefield.

Studies of the battlefield by the mentioned system and trends in the museefication have been used by the author in the process of elaboration of the development program for museum-reserve in preparation to the 200th anniversary of the Borodino battle.


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