In the green expanses of Esplanade Park, stands a bronze statue that honors Prince Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, a brilliant military strategist and commander-in-chief of the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars.
The original statue, representing a life-sized Barclay de Tolly in uniform, was unveiled in 1913 to mark the 100-year anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat during the Russian Campaign of 1812. The statue was melted for military use during World War I. A replica was installed on the original granite pedestal in 2001.
Tolly was born into a noble Baltic German family, who traced their ancestry to the Clan Barclay of Scotland. During the 17th-century, Peter Barclay, a merchant from Towie, Aberdeenshire emigrated to the Baltic region. It’s believed that the Livonian branch of the Barclays were his descendants.
Following in his father’s footsteps, young Mikhail joined the Imperial Russian Army, steadily rising through the ranks until he was promoted to Field Marshall and Minister of War.
However, despite enjoying royal patronage, he had powerful enemies in St Petersburg. Looked upon as an “outsider” by some and criticized by others for his “scorched earth” policy during the War of 1812, he was relieved of his command. He was subsequently reinstated by Tsar Alexander I and led his army in victories against Napoleon, culminating in the capture of Paris.
Know Before You Go
Esplanade Park in Riga also has monuments commemorating renowned Latvian poet, dramatist, and politician Rainis, and the first commander in chief of the Latvian Army, Oskars Kalpaks.