Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov is one of the most famous military leaders in Russian history. It was this Field Marshal who commanded the Russian army during the Patriotic War of 1812. It is believed that the wisdom and cunning of Kutuzov helped to defeat Napoleon.
The future hero was born in the family of the lieutenant general in 1745. Already at the age of 14, Kutuzov entered the Artillery Engineering School for noble children. In 1762, the young officer became the company commander of the Astrakhan infantry regiment, commanded by Suvorov himself.
The formation of Kutuzov as a military leader took place during the Russian-Turkish wars. At the beginning of World War II, the general became the head of the Petersburg, and then the Moscow militia.
But due to failures at the front, Alexander I was forced to appoint the authoritative Kutuzov as the commander-in-chief of the Russian army. We will debunk the most popular myths about him.
In alliance with the Austrians, against their background, Kutuzov showed himself to be a talented commander. Domestic historians write that fighting together with the Austrians against Napoleon, Kutuzov showed all his best qualities. But for some reason he constantly retreated. After another withdrawal, covered by Bagration's forces, Kutuzov reunited with the Austrians. The allies outnumbered Napoleon, but the Battle of Austerlitz was lost. And again historians blame the mediocre Austrians for this, Tsar Alexander I, who intervened in the course of the battle. This is how a myth is created that tries to protect Kutuzov. However, French and Austrian historians believe that it was he who commanded the Russian army. Kutuzov is blamed for the choice of an unsuccessful disposition of troops and a lack of readiness for defense. As a result of the battle, an army of one hundred thousand people was utterly defeated. The Russians lost 15 thousand killed, while the French only 2 thousand. From this side, the resignation of Kutuzov does not look like the result of palace intrigues, but the result of the absence of high-profile victories.
There were many glorious victories in the biography of Kutuzov. In fact, there was only one independent victory. But even she was questioned. Moreover, Kutuzov was even punished for her. In 1811, his army surrounded the Turks near Ruschuk, together with their commander, Akhmet-bey. However, at the same time, the commander circled for days and weeks, retreated and waited for reinforcements. The victory was tortured. Domestic historians believe that Kutuzov did everything prudently and wisely. But the contemporaries themselves saw many mistakes in the activities of the Russian commander in that long confrontation. A quick decisive victory in the style of Suvorov did not work out.
Kutuzov came up with a tactic to avoid head-on collisions with Napoleon. The Scythian plan, which involved avoiding head-on collisions with Napoleon, was invented by Barclay de Tolly back in 1807. The general believed that the French themselves would leave Russia with the onset of winter and a shortage of provisions. However, the plan was thwarted by the appointment of Kutuzov to the post. The tsar was convinced that the army should be headed by a Russian patriot who would stop the French. Kutuzov promised to give Napoleon a general battle, which just could not be done. Barclay de Tolly believed that it was possible to leave Moscow and go further east and wait out the winter. The actions of the partisans and the French blockade in the city will speed up their withdrawal. However, Kutuzov believed that the battle was necessary in order not to let Napoleon into Moscow. With the loss of the city, the commander saw defeat in the entire war. Soviet films show the conflict with Barclay de Tolly, who, being non-Russian, did not understand what it meant to leave Moscow. In fact, Kutuzov was forced to retreat after the battle at Borodino, while losing 44 thousand killed. And in Moscow he left another 15 thousand wounded. Instead of a competent withdrawal, Kutuzov preferred to fight for the sake of his image, having lost half of his army. Here I had to follow the Scythian plan. But soon the commander again could not restrain himself and got involved in the battle of Maloyaroslavets. The city was never captured by the Russian army, and the losses were twice as high as the French.
Kutuzov was one-eyed. Kutuzov received a head wound during the siege of Ochakov in August 1788. For a long time, this made it possible to preserve vision. And only 17 years later, during the 1805 campaign, Kutuzov began to notice that his right eye was beginning to close. In his letters to his wife in 1799-1800, Mikhail Illarionovich said that he was healthy, but his eyes hurt from frequent writing and work.
Kutuzov went blind after being wounded near Alushta. Kutuzov received his first serious injury in 1774 near Alushta. The Turks landed there with an assault force, who were met by a three thousandth Russian detachment. Kutuzov commanded the grenadiers of the Moscow Legion. During the battle, the bullet pierced the left temple and exited the right eye. But at the same time, Kutuzov retained his vision. But Crimean guides tell gullible tourists that it was here that Kutuzov lost his eye. And there are several such places near Alushta at once.
Kutuzov is a brilliant commander. Kutuzov's talent in this regard should not be exaggerated. On the one hand, he can be compared in this regard with Saltykov or Barclay de Tolly. But Kutuzov was far from Rumyantsev and even more so from Suvorov. He showed himself only in battles with weak Turkey, while his victories were not loud. And Suvorov himself saw in Kutuzov more of a military manager than a commander. He managed to prove himself in the diplomatic field. In 1812, Kutuzov held negotiations with the Turks, which ended with the signing of the Bucharest Peace. Some believe that this is the highest example of diplomatic art. True, there are opinions that the conditions were unfavorable for Russia, and Kutuzov hastened, fearing his replacement with Admiral Chichagov.
Kutuzov was a prominent military theorist. In the 17th century, such theoretical works on the art of war as Rumyantsev's Rite of Service and Thoughts, Science to Win and Suvorov's Regimental Institution stood out in Russia. The only military theoretical work of Kutuzov was created by him in 1786 and bore the title "Notes on the infantry service in general and especially on the jaeger." The information there contains relevant for that time, but insignificant in terms of theory. Even Barclay de Tolly's papers were much more significant. Soviet historians tried to identify the military-theoretical legacy of Kutuzov, but could not find anything intelligible. The idea of preserving the reserves of the revolutionary cannot be considered, especially the commander himself at Borodino did not follow his own advice.
Kutuzov wanted to see the army smart. Even Suvorov said that every soldier must understand his maneuver. But Kutuzov believed that subordinates must blindly obey their commanders: "Not the one who is truly brave who rushes into danger at will, but the one who obeys." In this regard, the position of the general was closer to Tsar Alexander I than the opinion of Barclay de Tolly. He proposed to reduce the cruelty of discipline so that it does not extinguish patriotism.
By 1812, Kutuzov was the best and most authoritative Russian general. At that moment, he victoriously and on time ended the war with Turkey. But Kutuzov had nothing to do with the preparation for the war of 1812, or with its beginning. If he had not been appointed commander-in-chief, then he would have remained in the history of the country as one of the many generals in the first row, not even field marshals. Immediately after the expulsion of the French from Russia, Kutuzov himself told Ermolov that he would spit in the face of someone who, two or three years ago, would have predicted the glory of the winner of Napoleon. Ermolov himself emphasized the absence of such talents in Kutuzov that would justify his occasional celebrity.
Kutuzov was glorified during his lifetime. The commander managed to taste his lifetime glory only in the last six months of his life. The first biographers of Kutuzov began to praise him as the savior of the fatherland, hushing up the unfavorable facts of his career. In 1813, five books appeared at once about the life of the commander, he was called the greatest, Perun of the North. The Battle of Borodino was described as a complete victory that put the French to flight. A new campaign to glorify Kutuzov started on the tenth anniversary of his death. And in Soviet times, with the approval of Stalin, the cult of the commander, who drove the enemy out of the country, began to form.
Kutuzov wore an eye patch. This is the most famous myth about the general. In fact, he never wore any bandages. There was no evidence of his contemporaries about such an accessory, and in his lifetime portraits, Kutuzov was depicted without bandages. Yes, she was not needed, because vision was not lost. And the same bandage appeared in 1943 in the film "Kutuzov". The viewer had to show that even after a serious injury, one can remain in the ranks and defend the Motherland. This was followed by the film "Hussar Ballad", which established in the mass consciousness the image of a field marshal with an eye patch.
Kutuzov was lazy and weak of character. Some historians and journalists, considering the personality of Kutuzov, openly call him lazy. It is believed that the commander was indecisive, never inspected the places where his troops were stationed, and signed only part of the documents. There are memoirs of contemporaries who saw Kutuzov openly dozing during the meetings. But the army at that moment did not need a decisive lion. Reasonable, calm and slow Kutuzov could slowly wait for the collapse of the conqueror, without rushing into battle with him. Napoleon needed a decisive battle, after the victory in which conditions could be dictated. So it is worth focusing not on Kutuzov's apathy and laziness, but on his caution and cunning.
Kutuzov was a Freemason. It is known that in 1776 Kutuzov entered the box "To the Three Keys". But then, under Catherine, it was a craze. Kutuzov became a member of the lodges in Frankfurt, Berlin. But the further activity of the military leader, as a freemason, remains a mystery. Some believe that with the ban on Freemasonry in Russia, Kutuzov left the organization. Others, on the contrary, call him almost the most important Freemason in Russia in those years. Kutuzov is accused of having escaped at Austerlitz and repaid his colleague-Mason Napoleon with salvation at Maloyaroslavets and Berezina. In any case, the mysterious organization of freemasons knows how to keep its secrets. How influential Kutuzov-Freemason was, we do not seem to know.
Kutuzov's heart was buried in Prussia. There is a legend that Kutuzov asked to take his ashes home, and to bury his heart near the Saxon road. The Russian soldiers should have known that the commander stayed with them. The myth was debunked in 1930. In the Kazan Cathedral, the Kutuzov crypt was opened. The body decayed, and a silver vessel was found near the head. In it, in a transparent liquid, Kutuzov's heart turned out to be.
Kutuzov was a clever courtier. Suvorov said that where he bows once, Kutuzov will do it ten. On the one hand, Kutuzov was one of the few favorites of Catherine, left at the court of Paul I. But the general himself did not consider that the legal heir, which he wrote to his wife. Yes, and relations with Alexander I were cool, as well as with his entourage. In 1802, Kutuzov generally fell into disgrace and was sent to his estate.
Kutuzov took part in the conspiracy against Paul I. Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov was indeed present at the last supper of Emperor Paul I. Perhaps this happened thanks to his daughter-maid of honor. But the general did not participate in the conspiracy. The confusion arose because a namesake, P. Kutuzov, was among the organizers of the murder.
Kutuzov was a pedophile. Critics of the commander accuse him of using the services of young girls in the war. On the one hand, there really is a lot of evidence that 13-14-year-old girls entertained Kutuzov. But how immoral it was for that time? Then the noblewomen got married at the age of 16, and the peasant women in general at 11-12. The same Yermolov cohabited with several women of Caucasian nationality, having legitimate children from them. Yes, and Rumyantsev carried five young mistresses with him. This definitely has nothing to do with the leadership talents.
When appointing Kutuzov to the post of commander-in-chief, he had to face serious competition. At that time, five people applied for this post: Emperor Alexander I himself, Kutuzov, Bennigsen, Barclay de Tolly and Bagration. The last two fell away because of irreconcilable enmity with each other. The emperor was afraid to take responsibility, and Bennigsen fell away due to his origin. In addition, Kutuzov was nominated by influential noblemen of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the army wanted to see its own, Russian man in this post. The choice of the commander-in-chief was handled by the Extraordinary Committee of 6 people. It was unanimously decided to appoint Kutuzov to this post.
Kutuzov was Catherine's favorite. Almost all the years of the empress's reign, Kutuzov spent either on the battlefields, or in the nearby wilderness, or abroad. At court, he practically did not appear, so that he could not become a pleaser or a favorite of Catherine, with all his desire. In 1793, Kutuzov asked for a salary not from the Empress, but from Zubov. This suggests that the general did not have any proximity to Catherine. She appreciated his merits, but no more. Under Catherine, Kutuzov received his ranks and orders for deeds, and not thanks to intrigues and someone's patronage.
Kutuzov was against the foreign campaign of the Russian army. This legend is replicated by many historians. It is believed that Kutuzov did not consider it necessary to save Europe and help England. Russia is saved, the army is exhausted. According to Kutuzov, a new war would be dangerous, and the Germans are not certain that they will rise up against Napoleon. Allegedly, the commander called on Emperor Alexander to fulfill his vow and lay down his arms. There is no documentary evidence of this, as well as Kutuzov's dying words that Russia will not forgive the tsar. It meant the continuation of the war. Rather, Kutuzov did not oppose a foreign campaign, but simply was against a lightning rush to the West. He, being true to himself, wanted a slow and cautious advance towards Paris. In the correspondence of Kutuzov, there is not even a trace of a fundamental objection to such a campaign, but operational issues of the further conduct of the war are discussed. In any case, the strategic decision was made by Alexander I. The experienced courtier Kutuzov simply could not speak openly against it.