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 constant companion 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. 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 when he was overruled 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.
From 1806 to 1811 Kutusov served as governor-general of Lithuania and Kiev, and in 1811, being then commander-in-chief in the war against the Turks, he became a prince. Shortly after this he was called by the unanimous voice of the army and the people to command the army that was retreating before Napoleon's advance.
Kutuzov gave battle at Borodino (7 September 1812), and after fierce fighting stood his ground, yet calculated the full strategic withdrawal in order to save the Russian army from possible defeat. This came at the price of losing Moscow, its population evacuated. After retreating to the south-west of Moscow and reorganization of the Russian army, he forced Napoleon into retreat following the battle at 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 become Prince of Smolensk - having achieved this title for a victory over part of the French army at that place in November 1812.
Early in 1813 Kutuzov carried the war into Germany, took command of the allied Russians and Prussians, and prepared to raise all central Europe in arms against Napoleon's domination, but before the opening of the campaign he fell ill and died on 28 March 1813 at Bunzlau. Memorials have been erected to him at that place and at Saint Petersburg.
Mikhailovsky-Danilevski's life of Kutzuov (St Petersburg, 1850) has a French translation by A. Fizelier (Paris, 1850).
Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica