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On this day: Disastrous failure of Napoleon

The Russian tsar was pacing up and down in his room in the Kremlin while he kept glancing at the blazing Moscow almost every minute. He could not get away from the idea that the burning city represented a sign of great misfortune. The emperor’s suspicion was proved soon.

A week after the Borodino victory, Napoleon’s Grand Army reached the outskirts of Moscow on September 12, 1812. The French hoped that after losing his capital the tsar would be willing to sign a peace agreement. However, nobody received Napoleon in the deserted city. Most of the inhabitants of Moscow, then with a population of nearly 300,000, left the habitat following the retreating Russian army led by Kutuzov.

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Napoleon's army entering Moscow

Napoleon’s army entering Moscow in flames from fires started by retreating Russian troops, 1812, coloured engraving.  

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