Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774)
Battle of Larga
Battle of Kagul
Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792)
Battle of Kinburn
Siege of Ochakov
Battle of Rymnik
Siege of Izmail
Battle of Măcin
Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812)
Battle of Rousse
Battle of the Danube
Battle of Dürenstein
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Borodino
Battle of Tarutino
Battle of Maloyaroslavets
Battle of Krasnoi
Battle of Berezina
Duke of Smolensk
1st class Order of St. George
Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (Russian: князь
Голени́щев-Куту́зов; 16 September [O.S. 5
September] 1745 – 28 April [O.S. 16
April] 1813) was a
Field Marshal of the Russian Empire. He served
as one of the finest military officers and diplomats of Russia under
the reign of three Romanov Tsars: Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander
I. His military career was closely associated with the rising period
of Russia from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the
19th century. Kutuzov is considered to have been one of the best
He was born in
Saint Petersburg in 1745 to a family of Novgorod
nobility. His father was a Russian general and senator. Kutuzov began
military schooling at age 12 and joined the
Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army in
1759. Three years later Kutuzov became a company commander in the
Astrakhan Infantry Regiment under Alexander Suvorov. He took part in
crushing the Polish
Bar Confederation rebellion. During the
Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 he served in the staff of Pyotr
Moldova for the battles of Larga and Kagul. In July
1774 at Crimea, Kutuzov was severely wounded by a bullet that went
through his temple and out near his right eye, which became
permanently scarred. He returned to
Crimea in 1776 to assist Suvorov
and conducted negotiations with the last Crimean khan Girey,
convincing him to abdicate and submit to Russia.
After Kutuzov became Governor-General of
Crimea in 1787, the
Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1792 began. He was again severely wounded
in 1788 during the Siege of
Ochakov when a bullet was shot through
both of his temples. Kutuzov came back a year later, taking part in
Battle of Rymnik
Battle of Rymnik and Siege of Izmail. Near the end of the war, he
led a decisive charge at the Battle of Măcin. Kutuzov was on good
Tsar Paul, but had disputes with his successor Tsar
Alexander. In 1805, he led Russian forces alongside Austria during the
Napoleonic Wars. The allied Russo-Austrian army was defeated by
Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. Alexander blamed Kutuzov and
demoted him to
Moldova for the Russo-Turkish War of 1806–1812.
Kutuzov vanquished a four-times larger Turkish army at Rousse and
brought an end to the war with a decisive victory at the Battle of the
Danube. For his achievements, he was awarded the titles of count and
Kutuzov returned at the request of Alexander for the French invasion
of Russia. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief, succeeding Barclay de
Tolly and continuing his scorched earth policy up to Moscow. Under
Kutuzov's command, the Russian army faced the
Grande Armée at the
Battle of Borodino. He allowed
Napoleon to take an abandoned Moscow,
which was set on fire. Kutuzov counter-attacked once Napoleon
retreated from Moscow, pushing the French out of the Russian
homeland. In recognition of this, Kutuzov was awarded the victory
title of Prince Smolensky. He stepped down from command due to
deteriorating health soon after the French left Russia. Kutuzov died
in 1813 at Bunzlau and was buried at the Kazan Cathedral in Saint
Petersburg. Kutuzov was highly regarded in the works of Russian and
1 Early career
2 Napoleonic wars in Europe
3 The Patriotic War (1812)
4 Death and legacy
8 External links and references
Mikhail Kutuzov was born in
Saint Petersburg on 16 September 1745. His
father, Lieutenant-General Illarion Matveevich Kutuzov, had served for
30 years with the Corps of Engineers, had seen action against the
Turks and served under Peter the Great. Mikhail Kutuzov's mother came
from the noble family of Beklemishev. Given his father's distinguished
service and his mother's high birth, Kutuzov had contact with the
imperial Romanov family from an early age.
In 1757, at the age of 12, Kutuzov entered an elite
military-engineering school as a cadet private. He quickly became
popular with his peers and teachers alike, proving himself to be
highly intelligent, and showed bravery in his school's numerous
horse-races. Kutuzov studied military and civil subjects there,
learned to speak French, German and English fluently,
and later studied Polish, Swedish, and Turkish; his language skills
served him well throughout his career. In October 1759, he
became a corporal.
In 1762, Kutuzov, now a captain, became part of the Astrakhan Infantry
Regiment, then under the command of Colonel Alexander Suvorov.
Kutuzov studied Suvorov's style of command and learned how to be a
good commander in battle. Suvorov believed that an effective order
should be simple, direct and concise, and that a commander should care
deeply about the health and training of his soldiers. Kutuzov also
adopted Suvorov's conviction that a commander should lead his troops
from the front (instead of from the rear) to provide an example of
bravery for the troops to follow. Suvorov also taught Kutuzov the
importance of developing close relationships with those under his
command. Kutuzov followed this advice to the benefit of his career.
This advice contributed to Kutuzov's appointment as Commander-in-Chief
In late 1762 Kutuzov became the aide-de-camp to the military-governor
of Reval, the Prince of Holstein-Beck, in which role he proved himself
a capable politician. In 1768 Kutuzov fought in Poland, after the
Polish Szlachta—the Polish noble class—rebelled against Russia.
There he captured a number of strong defensive positions and thereby
proved his skill on the battlefield.
In October 1768 the
Ottoman Empire declared war on the Russian Empress
Catherine the Great. Two years later, Kutuzov, now a major, joined the
army of the soon-to-be-famous Count
Pyotr Rumyantsev in the south to
fight against the Turks. Though Kutuzov served valiantly in this
campaign, he did not receive any medals, as another officer reported
to Rumyantsev that Kutuzov mocked Rumyantsev behind his back.
Rumyantsev had Lieutenant-Colonel Kutuzov transferred into Prince
Vasily Dolgorukov-Krymsky's Russian Second Army fighting the Turks and
the Tatars in the Crimea. During this campaign Kutuzov learned how to
use the deadly Cossack cavalry, another skill which would prove useful
in the defence of Russia against Napoleon's invading armies in 1812.
In 1773 he was ordered to storm the well-defended town of
the southern coast of the Crimean peninsula. When his troops' advance
faltered, Kutuzov grabbed the fallen regimental standard and led the
attack. While charging forward, he was shot in the left temple—an
almost certainly fatal wound at the time. The bullet went right
through his head and exited near the right eye. However, Kutuzov
slowly recovered, though frequently overcome by sharp pains and
dizziness, and his right eye remained permanently twisted. He left the
army later that year due to his wound.
Kutuzov's pain did not subside, and so he decided to travel to Western
Europe for better medical care. He arrived in Berlin in 1774, where he
spent much time with King
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great of Prussia, who took
great interest in Kutuzov. They spent long periods of time discussing
tactics, weaponry, and uniforms. Kutuzov then travelled to Leyden,
Holland and to London in England for further treatment. In London
Kutuzov first learned of the American Revolutionary War. He would
later study the evolution of American general George Washington's
attrition campaign against the British. The American experience
reinforced the lesson that Rumyantsev had already taught Kutuzov; that
one does not need to win battles in order to win a war.
Kutuzov returned to the Russian Army in 1776 and again served under
Suvorov - in the
Crimea - for the next six years. He learned that
letting the common soldier use his natural intellect and initiative
made for a more effective army. Suvorov also taught him how to use
mobility in order to exploit the constantly changing situation on the
battlefield. By 1782 Kutuzov had been promoted to brigadier general as
Suvorov recognised Kutuzov's potential as a shrewd and intelligent
leader. Indeed, Suvorov wrote that he would not even have to tell
Kutuzov what needed to be done in order for him to carry out his
objective. In 1787 Kutuzov was again wounded in the left temple, in
almost exactly the same place as before, and again doctors feared for
his life. However, Kutuzov recovered, though his right eye was even
more twisted than before and he had even worse head-pains.
In 1784 he became a major general, in 1787 governor-general of the
Crimea; and under Suvorov, whose disciple he became, he won
considerable distinction in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792), at
the taking of Ochakov, Odessa, Bender and Izmail, and in the battles
of Rymnik (1789) and Mashin (July 1791). He became a
lieutenant-general (March 1791) and successively occupied the
positions of ambassador at Istanbul, governor-general of
Finland, commandant of the corps of cadets at Saint
Petersburg, ambassador at Berlin, and governor-general of Saint
Kutuzov was a favourite of
Tsar Paul I (reigned 1796-1801), and after
that emperor's murder he was temporarily out of favour with the new
monarch Alexander I, though he remained loyal.
Napoleonic wars in Europe
Battle of Borodino
Battle of Borodino in 1812
In 1805 Kutuzov commanded the Russian corps which opposed Napoleon's
advance on Vienna.
On the eve of Austerlitz, Kutuzov tried to convince the Allied
generals of the necessity of waiting for reinforcements before facing
Napoleon. Alexander believed that waiting to engage Napoleon’s
forces would be seen as cowardly. Kutuzov quickly realised that he no
longer had any power with Alexander and the Austrian chief of staff
General-Major Franz von Weyrother. When he asked Alexander where he
planned to move a unit of troops, he was told "That's none of your
business." Kutuzov pretended to sleep throughout the battle
planning session as he feared that Alexander would blame him for the
inevitable defeat.
Kutuzov was present at the battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805.
Though Alexander’s orders made it clear that the Russians should
move off the strategic Pratzen Plateau, Kutuzov stalled for as long as
possible as he recognised the advantage that
Napoleon would gain from
this high ground. Finally, Alexander forced Kutuzov to abandon the
Napoleon quickly seized the ridge and broke the Allied lines
with his artillery which now commanded the battlefield from the
Pratzen Plateau. The battle was lost, and over 25,000 Russians were
killed. Kutuzov was put in charge of organising the army’s retreat
across Hungary and back into Russia as Alexander was overcome by
He was then put in charge of the Russian army operating against the
Turks in the Russo-Turkish War, 1806–1812. Understanding that his
armies would be badly needed in the upcoming war with the French, he
hastily brought the prolonged war to a victorious end and concluded
the propitious Treaty of Bucharest, which stipulated the incorporation
Bessarabia into the Russian Empire.
Alexander I presented to M. I. Kutuzov his portrait adorned with
diamonds for the successful end of the Rusciuc operation; on October
29, 1811 he was granted the title of Count for “successes in the war
against the Turks”, and on July 29, 1812, he received honorary title
of kniaz (prince) for “contribution to the end of war and Peace
Treaty with the Ottoman Empire.”
The Patriotic War (1812)
Main article: French Invasion of Russia
Kutuzov at the Fili conference decides to open
Moscow to Napoleon.
Painting by Aleksey Kivshenko
Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
(then Minister of War) chose to follow the scorched earth principle
and retreat rather than to risk a major battle. His strategy aroused
grudges from most of the generals and soldiers, notably Prince Pyotr
Bagration. As Alexander had to choose a new general, there was only
one choice: Kutuzov. He found popularity among the troops mainly
because he was Russian (most of the generals commanding Russian troops
at that time were foreign), he was brave, he had proven himself in
battle, strongly believed in the Russian Orthodox Church, and he
looked out for the troops’ well-being. The nobles and clergy also
regarded Kutuzov highly. Therefore, when Kutuzov was appointed
commander-in-chief in late August and he joined the army on 29 August
1812, the nation greeted Kutuzov with delight. Only Alexander,
repulsed by Kutuzov’s physique and irrationally holding him
responsible for the defeat at Austerlitz, did not celebrate
Within two weeks Kutuzov decided to give major battle on the
approaches to Moscow. He withdrew the troops still further to the
east, deploying them for the upcoming battle. Two huge armies
clashed near Borodino on 7 September 1812 in what has been described
as the greatest battle in human history up to that date[citation
needed], involving nearly a quarter of a million soldiers. The result
of the battle was inconclusive, with near a third of both the French
and the Russian army killed or wounded. After a conference at the
village of Fili, Kutuzov fell back on the strategy of his predecessor:
withdraw in order to preserve the Russian army as long as possible.
This came at the price of losing Moscow, whose population was
evacuated. Having retreated along the
Kaluga road and replenished his
munitions, he forced
Napoleon into retreat in the Battle of
Maloyaroslavets and blocked his way through Kaluga. This allowed
Kutuzov to force
Napoleon to retreat via
Mozhaisk and Smolensk, the
devastated route of his advance that
Napoleon had wished to avoid. The
old general's cautious pursuit of the retreating
Grand Army evoked
much criticism, but ultimately only a small remnant (93,000 of the
690,000 men) of the
Grand Army returned to Prussian soil alive. Hence
the Russian general's caution was thoroughly vindicated.
Alexander I awarded Kutuzov the rank of general-field marshal on
August 31, 1812 for his role in the Battle of Borodino. He later
awarded Kutuzov the victory title of His Serene Highness Knyaz
Golenischev-Kutuzov-Smolensky (Светлейший князь
Голенищев-Кутузов-Смоленский) on December 6,
1812, for his victory at the
Battle of Krasnoi
Battle of Krasnoi at
Smolensk in November
Death and legacy
Kutuzov monument in
Saint Petersburg (1837)
Early in 1813, Kutuzov fell ill, and he died on 28 April 1813 at
Bunzlau, Silesia, then in the Kingdom of Prussia, now Bolesławiec,
Poland. Memorials have been erected to him there, at the
Poklonnaya Hill in
Moscow and in front of the Kazan Cathedral, Saint
Petersburg, where he is buried, by Boris Orlovsky. He had five
daughters; his only son died of smallpox as an infant. As he had no
male heir, his estates passed to the Tolstoy family, as his eldest
daughter, Praskovia, had married Matvei Fyodorovich Tolstoy.
Today, Kutuzov is still held in high regard, alongside Barclay and his
Alexander Pushkin addressed the
Field Marshal in the famous elegy on
Kutuzov's sepulchre. The novelist
Leo Tolstoy clearly idolised
Kutuzov. In his influential novel War and Peace, the elderly, sick
Kutuzov plays a major role in the war sections. He is portrayed as a
gentle spiritual man, far removed from the cold arrogance of Napoleon,
but with a much clearer vision of the true nature of warfare.
Great Patriotic War
Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the Soviet government
Order of Kutuzov
Order of Kutuzov which, among several other
decorations, was preserved in Russia upon the dissolution of the
Soviet Union, thus remaining among the highest military awards in
Russia, only second to the Order of Zhukov.
Also, during World War II, one of the key strategic operations of the
Red Army, the Orel Strategic Offensive Operation "Kutuzov" was named
Field Marshal (Russian: Орловская
Операция Кутузов) (12 July – 18 August 1943).
No less than ten Russian towns have been named "Kutuzovo" in honour of
the general. Notable among them is the former German town of
Kutuzovo in the
Krasnoznamensky District of the
Kaliningrad Oblast) - the first town in Germany proper that was
reached by Soviet infantry.
Sverdlov-class cruiser named for Kutuzov was commissioned in the
Soviet Navy in 1954. It is now preserved as a museum ship in
The monument to Kutuzov in the city of
Brody in Western Ukraine was
demolished in February 2014 as part of the Euromaidan
In 1779 Kutuzov was initiated into the German
Masonic lodge "Three
Keys" (Ratisbon). He was a member of the
Moscow lodges "Sphinx" and
"Three Banners." He also participated in the meetings of the Masonic
lodges of St. Petersburg, Frankfurt, Berlin. He had a higher degree of
initiation in the Swedish system. Within the Freemasons he was known
as "evergreen laurel".
Memorial erected in 1819 in Bunzlau (Bolesławiec), where Kutuzov died
Statue of Kutuzov on monument "Millennium of Russia."
Kutuzov's St. Petersburg house, from which he left for the army in
Kutuzov obelisk on the site of Kutuzov's headquarters during the
Battle of Borodino.
Kutuzov Order, established during the Second World War.
Field Marshal Kutuzov (1945).
^ John Hemsley, Soviet troop control—the role of command technology
in the Soviet military system, Brassey's Publishers, 1982, p. 183
^ a b c William T. Worthington, Great military leaders: a bibliography
with vignettes, p. 131
^ a b Christopher Duffy, Borodino and the War of 1812, Scribner, p.
^ Parkinson, 5.
^ a b c d Fremont-Barnes 2006, p. 538.
^ Parkinson, 6.
^ Parkinson, 7–10.
^ Parkinson, 11–12.
^ Parkinson, 11–17.
^ Parkinson, 18–21.
^ Parkinson, 21–26.
^ Troyat, 87.
^ Troyat, 84–91.
^ Parkinson, 76–91.
^ Lieven, 37, 43.
^ a b Mikaberidze 2014, p. 4.
^ Troyat, 149–151.
^ Parkinson, 117–119.
^ Lieven, 188–189.
^ Fremont-Barnes 2006, p. 540.
^ "31 greatest commanders in Russian history". russian7.ru. Retrieved
^ "War and peace: analysis of major characters". SparkNotes. Retrieved
^ "Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July
29, 1942" (in Russian). Legal Library of the USSR. 1942-07-29.
^ Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of December 16,
2011 No 1631
^ "Ukraine: Russia Angry as Another Soviet Hero Statue Toppled".
International Business Times. 25 February 2014.
^ "Ukrainian city demolishes monument to Russian general who beat
Napoleon". 25 February 2014.
^ С. П. Карпачёв Путеводитель по
масонским тайнам. 174 стр. — М.: Центр
гуманитарного образования (ЦГО), 2003.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Kutusov, Mikhail
Larionovich". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press. p. 956.
Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2006). The encyclopedia of the French
revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: a political, social, and military
history, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1851096466.
Lieven, Dominic. Russia Against Napoleon. (New York: Viking, New York,
Mikaberidze, Alexander (2014). The Burning of Moscow: Napoleon's Trail
By Fire 1812. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1781593523.
Parkinson, Roger. The Fox of the North: The Life of Kutuzov, General
of War and Peace. New York: David McKay, 1976
Troyat, Henri. Alexander of Russia. (New York: Grove Great Lives:
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
External links and references
Short biography & painting from the Hermitage Museum
History of the memorial at Kutuzov's place of death
The Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars
Pyotr von der Pahlen
War Governor of
Saint Petersburg Governorate
War Governor of Kiev Governorate
French Invasion of Russia
Confederation of the Rhine
Planned invasion of the United Kingdom
Duc d'Enghien Execution
Coronation of Napoleon
Greater Poland Uprising
Invasion of Portugal
Dos de Mayo
Medina de Rioseco
Armistice of Znaim
Alba de Tormes
Fuentes de Oñoro
Arroyo dos Molinos
Venta del Pozo
Castel di Sangro
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Duke of Wellington
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Prince von Schwarzenberg
Archduke John of Austria
Alexander I of Russia
Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
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Gebhard von Blücher
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