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Aleksandr Suvorov

Aleksandr Vasilievich Suvorov (sometimes transliterated Suvarov), Count Suvorov Rimniksky, Prince Italysky (24 November 1729 - 18 May 1800), Russian generalissimo, born in Moscow, descended from a Swede named Suvor who emigrated to Russia in 1622. He entered the army as a boy, served against the Swedess in Finland and against the Prussians during the Seven Years' War (1756 - 1763). After repeatedly distinguishing himself in battle he became a colonel in 1762.

Suvorov next served in Poland during the Polish Civil War, dispersed the Polish forces under Pulaski, stormed Kraków (1768) and reached the rank of major-general. The Russo-Turkish War of 1768 - 1774 saw his first campaigns against the Turkss in 1773 - 1774, and particularly in the battle of Kozludji in the latter year, he laid the foundations of his reputation.

In 1775 Suvorov was dispatched to suppress the rebellion of Pugachev but arrived at the scene only in time to conduct the first interrogation of the rebel leader who had been betrayed by his fellow Cossacks and later on suffered decapitation in Moscow. From 1777 to 1783 Suvorov served in the Crimea and in the Caucasus, becoming a lieutenant-general in 1780, and general of infantry in 1783, on the conclusion of his work there. From 1787 to 1791 he again fought the Turks during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787 - 1792 and won many victories; he was wounded twice at Kinburn (1787), took part in the siege of Ochakov, and in 1788 won two great victories at Focsani and by the river Rimnik. In both these battles an Austrian corps under Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg participated but at Rimnik Suvorov was in command of the whole allied forces. For the latter victory Catherine II the Great made Suvorov a count with the name "Rimniksky" in addition to his own name, and the Emperor Joseph II created him a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

On 22 December 1790 Suvorov stormed the fortress of Ismail in Bessarabia. Turkish forces inside the fortress had the orders to stand their ground to the end and declined Russian ultimatum. The massacre that followed horrified the Ottoman empire. Suvorov next led the army which subdued the Poles, and repeated the triumph of Ismail at Warsaw. He now became a field marshal, and remained in Poland until 1795, when he returned to Saint Petersburg. But his sovereign and friend Catherine died in 1796, and her successor Paul dismissed the veteran in disgrace.

Suvorov then lived for some years in retirement on his estate of Konchauskoy, near Moscow. He criticised the new military tactics and dress introduced by the emperor, and some of his caustic verse reached the ears of Paul. His conduct therefore came under surveillance and his correspondence with his wife, who had remained at Moscow - for his marriage relations had not been happy - was tampered with. On Sundays he tolled the bell for church and sang among the rustics in the village choir. On week days he worked among them in a smock frock. But in February 1799 the Emperor Paul I of Russia summoned him to take the field again, this time against the French Revolutionary armies in Italy.

The campaign (see French Revolutionary Wars) opened with a series of victories (Cassano, Trebbia, Novi (15 August 1799) which reduced the French government to desperate straits and drove every French soldier from Italy, save for the handful under Moreau, which maintained a foothold in the Maritime Alps and around Genoa. Suvorov himself gained the rank of kniaz (prince). But the later events of the eventful year went uniformly against the Russians. General Korsakov's force was defeated by Masséna at Zürich, so the old field marshal, seeking to make his way over the Swiss passes to the Upper Rhine, had to retreat to the Vorarlberg, where the army, much shattered and almost destitute of horses and artillery, went into winter quarters. When Suvorov battled his way through the snow-capped Alps his army was checked but never defeated. For this marvel of strategic retreat Suvorov was officially declared to be given the military triumph in Russia but the court intrigues lead the Emperor Paul to cancel the triumph.

Early in 1800 Suvorov returned to Saint Petersburg in disgrace. Paul refused to give him an audience, and, worn out and ill, he died a few days afterwards on 18 May 1800, at Saint Petersburg. Lord Whitworth, the English ambassador, was the only person of distinction present at the funeral.

Suvorov lies buried in the church of the Annunciation in the Alexandro-Nevskii monastery, the simple inscription on his grave stating, according to his own direction, "Here lies Suvorov". But within a year of his death the tsar Alexander I erected a statue to his memory in the Field of Mars, Saint Petersburg.

His full name and titles (according to Russian pronounciation), ranks and awards are the following:Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov, Prince of Italy (Kniaz Italyiskiy), Count of Rimnik (Graf Rimnikskiy), Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Sardinia, Generalissimo of Russia's Ground and Naval forces, Field Marshal of the Austrian and Sardinian Armies; seriously wounded six times, he was the recipient of the Order of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle, Order of St. George the Triumphant First Class, Order of St. Vladimir First Class, Order of St. Aleksandr Nevskiy, Order of St. Anna First Class, Grand Cross of the Order of St. Joan of Jerusalem, (Austria) Order of Maria Teresia First Class, (Prussia) Order of the Black Eagle, Order of the Red Eagle, the Pour le Merite, (Sardinia) Order of the Revered Saints Maurice and Lazarus, (Bavaria) Order of St. Gubert, the Golden Lionness, (France) Order of the Carmelite Virgin Mary, St. Lasara, (Poland) Order of the White Eagle, the Order of St. Stanislaus.

Suvorov's son Arkadi (1783 - 1811) served as a general officer in the Russian army during the Napoleonic and Turkish wars of the early 19th century, and drowned in the river Rimnik in 1811. His grandson Alexander Arkadievich (1804 - 1882) also became a Russian general.

The Russians long cherished the memory of Suvorov. A great captain, viewed from the standpoint of any age of military history, he functions specially as the great captain of the Russian nation, for the character of his leadership responded to the character of the Russian soldier. In an age when war had become an act of diplomacy he restored its true significance as an act of force. He had a great simplicity of manner, and while on a campaign lived as a private soldier, sleeping on straw and contenting himself with the humblest fare. But he had himself passed through all the gradations of military service.

His gibes procured him many enemies. He had all the contempt of a man of ability and action for ignorant favourites and ornamental carpet-knights. But his drolleries served sometimes to hide, more often to express, a soldierly genius, the effect of which the Russian army did not soon outgrow. If the tactics of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905 reflected too literally some of the maxims of Suvorov’s Turkish wars, the spirit of self-sacrifice, resolution and indifference to losses there shown formed a precious legacy from those wars. Mikhail Ivanovich Dragomirov declared that he based his teaching on Suvorov's practice, which he held representative of the fundamental truths of war and of the military qualities of the Russian nation.

Suvorov's quote: Wigs aren't the gunpowder, pony-tail isn't a broadsword, and I'm not a German, I'm of Rus nature stock.

See: Anthing, Versuch einer Kriegsgeschichte des Grafen Suworow (Gotha, 1796 - 1799); F. von Smut, Suworows Leben und Heerzüge (Vilna, 1833—1834) and Suworow and Polens Untergang (Leipzig, 1858,); Von Reding-Biberegg, Der Zug Suworows durch die Schweiz (Zürich 1896); Lieut.-Colonel Spalding, Suvórof (London, 1890); G. von Fuchs, Suworows Korrespondenz, 1799 (Glogau, 1835); Souvorov en Italie by Gachot, Masséna’s biographer (Paris, 1903); and the standard Russian biographies of Polevoi (1853; Ger. trans., Mitau, 1853); Rybkin (Moscow, 1874) and Vasiliev (Vilna, 1899).

Original text from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica with the editorial corrections by G.N.Boiko-Slastion.