Data viz: a quick cut through Russia

The world hardly needs yet another blog post about this famous data visualisation, but hey, it’s my blog, so in the immortal words of Jerry Springer: “Get your own show.”

Jerry Springer

 “Hey, it’s my show!”

The beauty shown below (click image to enlarge) was hand-drawn by Charles Minard back in 1869, and progressively reveals the disasterous results of Napoleon’s 1812 Russia campaign :

Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 by Charles Joseph Minard
Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 by Charles Joseph Minard

 

Overlaid onto a simplified map, the light brown bar shows the Grand Armee’s march into Russia all the way to Moscow, and the black bar shows their retreat to the Polish-Russian border. The constant attrition due to winter conditions, starvation and conflict is painfully clear – with just 16,000 soldiers returning out of an initial 422,000.

The line chart at the bottom plots the temperature in celsius, and is shown only for the army’s retreat (the black bar) – highlighting the terrible effect of those winter conditions on an army ill-equipped for it.

For me, the most shocking event visualised is the infamous Berezina River massacre, in late November 1812 – visible at bottom centre-left, as the black bar intersects with the Berezina river on the map.

There have been many attempts to revise this famous visualisation, including this English translation (click image to enlarge) by Ward Kaiser and Denis Wood:

English translation of Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 by Ward Kaiser and Denis Wood
English translation of Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l’Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813 by Ward Kaiser and Denis Wood

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