Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (September 16, 1745 – April 28, 1813 (n.s.), or 5th September 1745 - 16th April 1813 (o.s.)) was the one-eyed Russian Field Marshal popularly credited with saving his country from Napoleon's invasion.
Golenishchev-Kutuzov (usually shortened as Kutuzov), born at Saint Petersburg, entered the Russian army in 1759 or 1760. He saw active service in Poland (1764 – 1769), and against the Turks (1770 – 1774); lost an eye in action in the latter year; and after that travelled for some years in central and western Europe.
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 of 1787 - 1792, at the taking of Ochakov, Odessa, Benda and Ismail, and the battles of Rimnik and Mashin. He was now (1791) a lieutenant-general, and successively occupied the positions of ambassador at Constantinople, governor-general of Finland, commandant of the corps of cadets at Saint Petersburg, ambassador at Berlin, and governor-general of Saint Petersburg.
Napoleonic wars in Europe
In 1805 he commanded the Russian corps which opposed Napoleon's advance on Vienna, and won the hard-fought action of Dürrenstein on 11 November 1805.
On the eve of Austerlitz Kutuzov tried to prevent the Allied generals from fighting a battle, and, being overruled by the Austrians, took so little interest in the event that he fell asleep during the reading of the orders. He was, however, present at the battle itself (2 December 1805), and was wounded.
Kutuzov at the Fili conference decides to surrender Moscow to Napoleon.
From 1806 to 1811 Kutuzov served as governor-general of Lithuania and Kiev. He was then put in charge of the Russian army operating against the Turks. Understanding that his armies would be needed badly in the upcoming fight with the French, he hastily concluded the propitious Treaty of Bucharest, which stipulated for incorporation of Bessarabia into the Russian Empire. For this success he was made a prince.
The Patriotic War (1812)
When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (then Minister of War) wisely 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 Petr Bagration. Therefore, when Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief and arrived to the army on August 17, he was greeted with delight.
Within two weeks Kutuzov decided to give major battle on approaches to Moscow. Two huge armies clashed near Borodino on 26 August 1812 in what has been described as the greatest battle in human history up to that date, involving nearly quarter a million soldiers. Result of the battle was undecisive, and after the famous conference at the village of Fili he fell back on the strategy of his predecessor: withdraw in order to save the Russian army as long as possible.
This came at the price of losing Moscow, whose population was evacuated. Having retreated to the Kaluga road and replenished his ammunitions, he forced Napoleon into retreat in the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. The old general's cautious pursuit evoked much criticism, but at any rate he allowed only a remnant of the Grand Army to regain Prussian soil.
Kutuzov now held the rank of Field Marshal and had been awarded the title of His Serene Highness Prince Smolensky - having achieved this title for a victory over part of the French army at Smolensk in November 1812.
Early in 1813 Kutuzov fell ill and died on 28 April 1813 at Bunzlau. Memorials have been erected to him at that place, at the Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow and in front of the Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg, where he is buried. As he had no male issue, his estates passed to the Tolstoy family. Among Russian generals Kutuzov has been held second only to his teacher Suvorov. Alexander Pushkin addressed the Field Marshal in the famous elegy on Kutuzov's sepulchre, and he also figures as a wise and popular leader in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the Soviet government established the Order of Kutuzov.
- Kutuzov's military career (http://www.100megsfree4.com/rusgeneral/kutuzov.htm)
- Short biography & painting from the Hermitage Museum (http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/12/b2003/hm12_3_2_5_2_0.html)
- History of the memorial at Kutuzov's place of death (http://www.xenophongi.org/rusarmy/artymuseum/kutuz.htm)
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.