A 200 yearlong treasure hunt - new theory about Napoleonís hidden gold

A 200 yearlong treasure hunt - new theory about Napoleonís hidden gold

A new theory has emerged regarding the location of Emperor Napoleon’s stolen treasure, believed to be hidden during the French army’s retreat from Russia after the disastrous campaign of 1812. For over 200 years there have been rumours that Napoleon’s Grande Armée stole 80 tonnes of gold and valuables from Moscow, which had to be hidden and left behind on the difficult retreat to France. Despite treasure hunters’ best efforts, the loot has never been found.

For a long time, the supposed location of the treasure has been accredited to Lake Semlevo, near Smolensk. The site was named by Philippe de Ségur, a member of Napoleon’s staff, and appears credible as large amounts of arms and ammunition were also abandoned in the same area. However, no treasure has been found in the lake.

Some historians believe that de Ségur’s account was a decoy and an attempt to confuse the true location of the treasure. For example, one alternative theory is that it was likely abandoned in the River Berezina, where Napoleon crossed while fighting a bloody battle to hold off the advancing Russian army.

The new theory put forward by Viacheslav Ryzhkov, states that the entire convoy to Lake Semlevo was a decoy, while the real treasure was taken away further south and hidden in Lake Bolshaya Rutavech, near Rudnya, Belarus. There, a walkway was built into the middle of the lake, where the loot was hidden in a mound of silt on the lake bed. Mr Ryzhkov has based his theory on the local accounts of a walkway being built in 1812, which has since eroded away, and the unusually high concentration of silver ion in the water. He has claimed that “with the right equipment and specialists, the treasure can be salvaged from the mound on the lake bed".

However, not everyone agrees with the theory. Vladimir Poryvayev, a treasure hunter and the Russian’s go-to expert on Napoleon’s gold, says that it is ‘pure fantasy’. He argues that it is improbable that the walkway and treasure tomb on the lake bed could have been constructed in the time given and with the equipment and technology available. Lake Semlevo, where he believes the treasure is hidden, also has a high concentration of silver ion.

Amongst the tours we have offered up as potential departures in 2020 was a new Napoleon 1812 & Barbarossa 1941 tour It explores the brutal Russian campaign of 1812, staying in Moscow and Smolensk and visiting the battlefields of Borodino and Krasnoi, including where Marshall Ney crossed the Dneipr, forced to sacrifice his coprs and abandon his own treasure chest.

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Added: 11th January 2019

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