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COVID restrictions in Czech Republic quash Battle of Austerlitz re-enactment

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By Jiri Skacel
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COVID restrictions in Czech Republic quash Battle of Austerlitz re-enactment
Copyright  Sergei Grits/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

On the day of the re-enactment of the "Battle of Austerlitz", it was foggy on the plains around Zuran Hill. In this place over 200 years ago, Napoleon once stood taking in the bloody red sunrise called "le soleil d'Austerlitz".

About 18,000 soldiers lost their lives and over 4,000 were injured during the nine-hour conflict which is often called 'The Battle of the Three Emperors. It is often considered one of Napoleon's most famous victories. The fight took place in Slavkov - Austerlitz on December 2, 1805, in what is now the Czech Republic.

Every year since the 1990s, a commemoration has been held and thousands of people from across the world storm the former battlefield dressed in the military attire of the period. The event attracts history fans and some well-known personalities, like the American actor and Napoleon impersonator, Mark Schneider.

However, for a second year running COVID-19 restrictions have gashed the re-enactment plans. Jakub Samek, the organiser of the event explained that they invited "around a thousand participants from 15 countries across Europe and the world. (...) we were only allowed to invite vaccinated or treated people, but then due to new restrictions we had to cancel all the invitations."

At the end of November, the Czech Republic declared a 30-day state of emergency and imposed additional coronavirus restrictions in a bid to tackle a surge in COVID infections. Therefore, the number of people allowed to attend cultural and sports events in the Czech Republic is now limited to 1,000. The attendees must equally be vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.

Other public gatherings can only be attended by up to 100 visitors. Christmas markets across the country were also banned and bars, restaurants, nightclubs, discotheques and casinos must close by 10 pm.

Yet a small group of hard-core history fans were allowed by current laws to do the re-enactment. They stayed for the iconic sunrise and marched through the battlefield. After an 11 kilometre long march, the soldiers were able to pay tribute to the victims of the battle at the peace burial mound erected nearby.

Organiser and history fans alike hope that next year the iconic commemoration and battle reconstruction will be able to take place in better conditions.