Mikhail Kutuzov was born on September 16, 1745 in St. Petersburg in the family of Lieutenant General Illarion Golenishchev-Kutuzov.

Nowadays, some scientists, referring to the archives, dispute the year of birth of the commander, claiming that he could have been born in 1747.

There is no single point of view on this issue in science.

Under the leadership of Suvorov

Mikhail Kutuzov received his education at the Artillery and Engineering School of the Nobility, from which he graduated in 1761 with the rank of ensign engineer.

For some time he taught mathematics at this educational institution.

In March 1762, Kutuzov became aide-de-camp of Prince Peter Augustus Friedrich of Holstein-Beck, who at that time was Governor General of Revel.

However, he was not with the prince for long.

In August of the same year, Captain Kutuzov became a company commander in the Astrakhan Infantry Regiment, commanded by Alexander Suvorov.

In 1764, Kutuzov was transferred to Poland, where for several months he commanded detachments that fought with the local Confederate rebels.

Three years later, he was seconded to the Commission for drafting a new Code (a set of basic laws of the Russian Empire), but already in 1768 Kutuzov returned to Poland.

In 1770 he was transferred to the Moldavian army and took part in the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774, distinguished himself in a number of battles with the Ottomans and was assigned to the army headquarters.

Then he was sent to the Crimean army as the commander of the grenadier battalion of the Moscow legion.

In 1774, in a battle near the Crimean village of Shumy (nowadays - Verkhnyaya Kutuzovka), he received a serious wound in the head, after which he was treated for two years.

In memory of those events, a fountain-monument named after Kutuzov was erected not far from the place of injury.

For the fighting in the Crimea, Kutuzov was awarded the Order of St. George, 4th class.

Almost forty years later, in 1812, he will become the first complete George Knight in Russian history. 

  • Kutuzov fountain

  • © Wikimedia Commons

After returning to the army after recovering, Kutuzov served for several years on the southern borders of the Russian Empire under the leadership of Suvorov.

He commanded various regiments, and from 1785 - the Bug Jaeger Corps.

In 1788, in the battles near Ochakovo, Kutuzov was again wounded in the head.

In 1789-1791, he took part in several battles and the capture of Turkish fortresses, especially distinguished himself near Izmail, where he commanded one of the columns of Russian troops storming the fortress.

“Demonstrating a personal example of courage and fearlessness, he overcame all the difficulties he encountered under the strong fire of the enemy;

jumped over the palisade, prevented the aspiration of the Turks, quickly flew up to the rampart of the fortress, took possession of the bastion and many batteries, and when the strengthened enemy in excellent numbers forced him to stop, shouted: "God is with us!"

and with these words, courageously and bravely descending upon the enemies, "- this is how Alexander Suvorov described Kutuzov's actions during the capture of Izmail.

When Ishmael fell, Kutuzov became the commandant of the fortress.

In 1791, Kutuzov's actions played a decisive role in the defeat of the Turks at Babadag and in the Battle of Machin.

"In the Russian-Turkish wars, Kutuzov at first acted as the right hand of Suvorov and therefore was to a certain extent obscured by the figure of Alexander Vasilyevich," Leonid Lyashenko, professor of the Department of Russian History at Moscow State Pedagogical University, told RT.

Diplomat and military leader

In 1792, Kutuzov was sent as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire.

According to historians, skillfully influencing the Sultan's entourage, he was able to prevent the creation of an alliance between Turkey and France and achieved the conclusion of a number of agreements beneficial to Russia.

Returning to his homeland, Kutuzov for several years led the Land Gentry Cadet Corps and troops in Finland.

In 1798, he successfully coped with a new diplomatic mission - he attracted Prussia to the side of Russia in the fight against France.

In 1799, Kutuzov was appointed governor-general of Lithuania, and in 1801 - military governor of the St. Petersburg province.

“Kutuzov was a real courtier, a clever and diplomatic person who knew how to support someone in time or keep silent,” stressed Leonid Lyashenko.

However, despite all the diplomacy, Kutuzov's character, according to historians, was difficult.

He managed to find a common language with Catherine II and Paul I, but relations with Alexander I did not work out for him.

After Alexander came to power, the commander asked for a sick leave and retired to his estate in Goroshki (today it is the territory of the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine).

At the same time, he formally remained in military service as chief of the Pskov Musketeer Regiment.

After the outbreak of the Russo-Austro-French War of 1805, Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian troops that opposed Napoleon.

Despite the fact that the French defeated the Austrians allied to Russia, Kutuzov, according to historians, skillfully maneuvered and inflicted several painful defeats on Napoleon's generals.

In the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Russian troops, contrary to Kutuzov's opinion, without completing the concentration of forces, together with the Austrians, attacked the French and suffered a serious defeat.

"Alexander I believed that Kutuzov did not insist on his own, but how could he insist if two emperors demanded an offensive at once?"

- says Leonid Lyashenko.

After Austerlitz, relations between the emperor and Kutuzov, according to the historian, became even more tense.

In 1806-1810, the commander held the posts of military governor and governor-general in various regions of the Russian Empire, for some time he commanded a corps in the Moldavian army.

In 1811, Kutuzov was appointed to the post of commander-in-chief of the Moldavian army.

In the Ruschuk and Slobodzeya battles, he defeated the Turkish troops, thereby exerting a decisive influence on the outcome of the entire war.

Thanks to the military and diplomatic efforts of Kutuzov, the Ottoman authorities agreed to make peace with Russia, having ceded Bessarabia.

“Considering the approaching war with Napoleon, Kutuzov, having stopped hostilities with Turkey, did a very useful deed.

But Alexander I was still dissatisfied with him, believing that it was possible to bargain more from the Turks, although this is very doubtful, "Leonid Lyashenko noted.

  • Kutuzov before the battle of Borodino

  • © N. S. Samokish (1912)

After Napoleon's attack on Russia, Kutuzov commanded the Narva corps, the Petersburg militia, and then all the troops in St. Petersburg, Kronstadt and Finland.

In August 1812, Alexander I, under pressure from his entourage, appointed Kutuzov commander-in-chief of the entire army in the field.

“For some time Kutuzov continued the strategy that existed before his appointment - he lured the enemy deep into his territory, stretched his communications.

At the same time, the French military lost their fighting spirit and deserted, ”Lyashenko noted.

As a result of the Borodino battle, the Russian army did not manage to defeat the French, but it was not defeated either.

Russian troops withdrew from the Borodino field and from Moscow in order to preserve their strength and move on to a war to exhaust the enemy.

“The Tarutinsky maneuver carried out after the Battle of Borodino was an ingenious decision of Kutuzov.

It was a perfect operation in which Russian troops with a flanking movement cut off Napoleon's path to the Russian grain south.

The result of these events was the loss of Napoleon's main forces.

As a result, Kutuzov went down in history as the winner of Napoleon, ”Lyashenko said.

According to the historian, Kutuzov himself believed that it was not necessary to destroy Napoleon personally, since he could be valuable to Russia in Europe as a counterweight to England.

However, historians are not sure that such a plan could be implemented in practice.

  • Attack of the Shevardinsky Redoubt

  • © Samokish (1910)

At the beginning of his overseas campaign, Kutuzov fell seriously ill.

On April 28, 1813, he died in the Silesian town of Bunzlau (today Boleslawiec, Poland).

The body of the general was embalmed and buried in St. Petersburg in the Kazan Cathedral.

Alexander Pushkin, Gabriel Derzhavin, Vasily Zhukovsky and other Russian writers dedicated their works to the great commander.

Monuments in memory of him have been installed in several countries of the world.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Order of Kutuzov of three degrees was established in the USSR.

“The glory of Kutuzov is inextricably linked with the glory of Russia, with the memory of the greatest event in recent history.

His title: Savior of Russia;

his monument: the rock of St. Helena, ”wrote Alexander Pushkin about Kutuzov.

According to a specialist in the field of studying the Patriotic War of 1812, Lydia Ivchenko, there is no single view of Kutuzov's activities in history.

But over time, the strategy of attrition, which he used against Napoleon, received more and more high marks from military historians.

“In 1812, Kutuzov won two major military campaigns with a crushing score.

This makes him the most productive commander of his time, ”Ivchenko summed up.