A Russian historian claims to have solved the 200-year-old mystery of where Napoleon’s troops hid 80 tonnes of gold on their retreat from Moscow in 1812.
Viacheslav Ryzhkov claims the French Emperor ordered decoys to be sent to a fictional burial site 40 miles from the actual location.
Ryzhkov says the famed ‘Napoleon Lake’, Semlevo, in the Smolensk region was a fraud, while the real loot was carted off to Lake Bolshaya Rutavech near his hometown of Rudnya.
It was Napoleon himself who accompanied the real bounty and ordered decoy convoys to be sent towards Lake Semlevo to distract Alexander I’s forces.
The historian told the Rabochy Put newspaper he believes unfounded rumours were deliberately disseminated by Napoleon’s men to hide the true location of the treasure close to the Belorussian border.
The French Emperor had the treasure brought close to the historian’s hometown of Rudnya where it was thrown into Lake Bolshaya Rutavech, the Russian paper reports.
The historian claims Napoleon had some of the treasure melted into ingots before it was packed off on 400 wagons accompanied by 500 cavalry and 250 members of Napoleon’s elite Old Guard.
Ryzhkov told Rabochy Put that the Emperor himself went with the treasure to oversee its complicated burial.
A platform was built out into the centre of the lake and the bounty was buried at the bottom of the water.
Ryzhkov claims that due to the elaborate way in which the loot was hidden advanced technology and experts will be needed to salvage the gold.
He also said that studies of the water in the 1980s noted a high concentration of silver particles.
The myth of the stolen treasure dates back to the Grand Armée’s embarrassing retreat from Moscow when they were said to have carried off gold and jewels from the city.
The story goes that during their retreat through bitter December cold the Russian troops decided to bury the load.
According to a member of Napoleon’s staff, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, the loot was hidden in Lake Semlevo in the Smolensk region in western Russia.
Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott added further fuel to the rumour when he mentioned the treasure in his 1825 biography, ‘The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.’
Historians and archaeologists have scoured the area of Lake Semlevo ever since and the legend has been bolstered by huge troves of weapons and ammunition that have been uncovered around the lake.
The Russian paper reported that the Soviet’s made extensive efforts to retrieve the treasure in the 1960s and 1970s to no avail.
But according to the Moskovskij Komsomolets paper, Vladimir Poryvaev who has hunted the treasure for years says Ryzhkov’s story is absurd.
He cited the idea of 400 wagons as particularly outlandish, saying this ‘secret’ convoy would have stretched for miles.
Poryvaev also mocks the idea asking what scuba gear Napoleon’s men had for their complex underwater burial at the the bottom of an icy lake in the middle of winter.