Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov

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Kutuzov, Mikhail Illarionovich


(M. I. Goleni-shchev-Kutuzov). Born Sept. 5(16), 1745, in St. Petersburg; died Apr. 16 (28), 1813, in Bunzlau, now Bolestawiec, Poland; buried in St. Petersburg, in the Kazan Cathedral. Russian military commander; field marshal (Aug. 31, 1812). Son of a lieutenant general of the engineers.

In 1759, Kutuzov graduated with distinction from the Dvo-rianstvo (nobility or gentry) Artillery School and was retained there as a mathematics instructor. In 1761 he was promoted to ensign and appointed a company commander in the Astrakhan Infantry Regiment. In 1762 he became adjutant to the governor-general of Revel. In 1764–65, Kutuzov commanded small detachments in actions against the Polish confederates. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74 he held staff positions and participated in fighting near Riabaia Mogila, Larga, Kagula, and elsewhere. In 1774 near Alushta he was severely wounded in the temple and the right eye. In 1784 he was promoted to major general and was charged with forming the Bug Chasseur Corps, with which he participated in the beginning of the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–91. Kutuzov was a disciple and comradeinarms of A. V. Suvorov. In December 1790, while commanding the Sixth Column, Kutuzov participated in the storming of Izmail and then in the battles of Babadag and Machin.

As head of the Extraordinary Russian Embassy in Constantinople from 1792 to 1794, Kutuzov negotiated several foreign policy and trade agreements favorable to Russia. He was director of the Land Forces Szlachectwo (Polish nobility or gentry) Cadet Corps in 1794 and commander and inspector of the troops in Finland from 1795 to 1799. Kutuzov carried out several diplomatic assignments (negotiations with Prussia and Sweden). He was promoted to general of the infantry in 1798. He served as military governor of Lithuania from 1799 to 1801 and of St. Petersburg from 1801 to 1802.

In 1802, Kutuzov, no longer in favor, resigned from the army and lived in retirement. But in August 1805, during the war involving Russia, Austria, and France, he was appointed commander in chief of a Russian army, which was sent to help the Austrians. When he learned during the march that General K. Mack’s Austrian army had capitulated at Ulm, Kutuzov carried out the famous march maneuver from Braunau to Ol miitz, skillfully withdrew the Russian troops to evade strikes from superior enemy forces, and, while retreating, won victories at Amstetten and Krems. His plan of action against Napoleon was rejected by Alexander I and his Austrian military advisers. Despite the objections of Kutuzov, who was virtually removed from the command of the Russo-Austrian troops, the allied monarchs (Alexander I and Francis I) engaged Napoleon in the general battle of Austerlitz of 1805, which ended in a French victory.

Although Kutuzov managed to save the retreating Russian troops from a complete rout, he fell into disfavor with Alexander I and was appointed to such secondary posts as military governor of Kiev (1806–07), corps commander in the Moldavian Army (1808), and military governor of Lithuania (1809–11). But with a war with Napoleon approaching and with the need to end the protracted war with Turkey (1806–12), the tsar was compelled to appoint Kutuzov on Mar. 7, 1811, commander in chief of the Moldavian Army. Kutuzov rejected the previous system of conducting war, which amounted to capturing and holding fortresses and the deployment of troops in cordons. He created mobile corps and opened the spring campaign of 1811 with aggressive operations. On July 22 the Russian troops won a great victory at Rushchuk, and in October, Kutuzov, executing his strategic plan, encircled and captured the whole Turkish Army at Slobozia. For this victory he was made a count on Oct. 29, 1811. An experienced diplomat, Kutuzov negotiated the Bucharest Treaty of 1812, which was favorable to Russia. He was rewarded for this with the title of most illustrious prince (July 29, 1812).

When the Patriotic War of 1812 broke out, Kutuzov was selected as chief of the St. Petersburg Militia and then of the Moscow Militia. When the Russian Army abandoned Smolensk on August 8, he was appointed commander in chief. Joining the army on August 17, Kutuzov decided to engage Napoleon’s troops in a general battle on August 26 at Borodino. In the battle of Borodino of 1812 the French Army was not victorious, but the strategic situation and a shortage of men prevented Kutuzov from passing to the counteroffensive. Trying to preserve the army, he surrendered Moscow to Napoleon without a fight and, executing a bold flanking maneuver from the Riazan’ road to the Kaluga road, stopped at the Tarutino camp, where he replenished the troops and organized partisan operations. On October 6, Kutuzov defeated J. Murat’s French corps at Tarutino and forced Napoleon to speed up the withdrawal from Moscow. Barring the French Army’s path to the southern Russian provinces at Maloiaroslavets, Kutuzov forced it to retreat west on the ravaged Smolensk road. He then energetically pursued the enemy and, after several battles (at Viaz’ma and Krasnyi), definitively routed its main forces on the Berezina River. Thanks to Kutuzov’s wise and flexible strategy, the Russian Army won a brilliant victory over a strong and experienced enemy. On Dec. 6, 1812, Kutuzov was given the title prince of Smolensk, and on Dec. 12, 1812, he was awarded the highest military order, the Order of George First Class.

In early 1813, Kutuzov commanded military operations in Poland and Prussia to complete the rout of the remnants of Napoleon’s army and to free the peoples of Europe from the Napoleonic yoke; but death interrupted the implementation of his plan. His body was embalmed and brought to St. Petersburg, where he was buried in the Kazan Cathedral.

Kutuzov’s military genius was distinguished by breadth of vision, by a great variety of maneuver in the offense and the defense, and by the ability to make a quick transition from one type of maneuver to another. All his contemporaries, while disagreeing in the appraisal of some of Kutuzov’s secondary traits, held in unanimous esteem his exceptional mind, his brilliant military and diplomatic talents, and his selfless service to the homeland. In the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the USSR instituted the Orders of Kutuzov First and Second Class (July 29, 1942) and the Order of Kutuzov Third Class (Feb. 8, 1943).


M. I. Kutuzov: Sb. dokumentov, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1950–56.
Korobkov, N. M. Kutuzov. Moscow, 1943.
Polkovodets Kutuzov: Sb. st. Moscow, 1955.
Sinel’nikov, F. Zhizn’, voennye i politicheskie deianiia … M. I. Golenishcheva-Kutuzova-Smolenskogo, parts 1–6. St. Petersburg, 1813–14.
Butovskii, I. Fel’dmarshal kn. Kutuzov-Smolenskii pri kontse i nachale svoego boevogo poprishcha. St. Petersburg, 1858.


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