Alexander Suvorov

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Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov
Александр Васильевич Суворов
Suvorov Alex V.jpg
Alexander Suvorov, shown here in a painting by George Dawe. Suvorov is depicted in his uniform of the Preobrazhensky Regiment worn during the reign of Paul I of Russia.
Born (1730-11-24)24 November 1730
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 18 May 1800(1800-05-18) (aged 69)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Allegiance  Holy Roman Empire
 Russian Empire
Service/branch Imperial Russian Army
Years of service 1746–1800
Rank Generalissimo
Battles/wars War of the Bar Confederation

Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (Алекса́ндр Васи́льевич Суво́ров, r Aleksandr Vasil‘evich Suvorov; 24 November [O.S. 13 November] 1729 or 1730 – 18 May [O.S. 6 May] 1800), Count Suvorov of Rymnik (граф Рымникский), Prince of Italy (князь Италийский), Count of the Holy Roman Empire, national hero of Russia, was the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire.

Suvorov is one of the few generals in history who never lost a battle, being undefeated in over 60 large battles while frequently having numerical disadvantage.[1] He was famed for his military manual The Science of Victory and noted for several of his sayings, including "What is difficult in training will become easy in a battle," "The bullet is a mad thing; only the bayonet knows what it is about," and "Perish yourself but rescue your comrade!" He taught his soldiers to attack instantly and decisively: "Attack with the cold steel! Push hard with the bayonet!" He joked with the men, calling common soldiers "brother," and shrewdly presented the results of detailed planning and careful strategy as the work of inspiration.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Suvorov was born into a noble family originating from Novgorod at the Moscow mansion of his maternal grandfather Fedosey Manukov (Manukyan), an Armenian landowner from Oryol Governate and an official of Peter I. Fedosey Semyonovich Manukov is the first Armenian to have been officially conferred the highest officer’s title of general.[3][better source needed] According to another version, Fedosey Manukov was Belarusian merchant from Manuki village.[4][5]

His father, Vasiliy Suvorov, was a general-in-chief and a senator in the Governing Senate, and was credited with translating Vauban's works into Russian.[6] His paternal ancestors had emigrated from Sweden in 1622.[6] His mother, Avdotya Fyodorovna née Manukova, was the daughter of Fedosey Manukov and part of an Armenian noble family[7] from Artsakh.[8] She is buried in Moscow in the Armenian Vagankovo Cemetery.[9] The inscription on her tombstone says: "Manukova-Suvorova Avdotia."[10] There is other version that states she is buried in Minsk, Belarus, in the Kalvaryja Catholic cemetery.[11]

He told the Swedish ambassador to Russia in 1791 that his paternal family came from Sweden, which in those days included Finland, and that their surname Suvorov comes from the Finnish, or Karelian, words "sywe" and "wara," syvä meaning "deep" and vaara meaning "hill" or "danger."[12] His maternal family surname Manukov was the Russified version of Manukyan, originating from the common Armenian first name "Manuk," meaning "child" or "young."[8] Also in Armenian, the word suser means "sword," indicating possible paternal Armenian lineage as well.[13] Actually, the surname Manukov is the Russified version of Belarusian word manuka which means liar.[14] Also in Belarusian, the word suvo means "scroll," indicating possible paternal Belarusian origin as well.[15][16]

Prince Grigory Potemkin humorously remarked on Suvorov's Armenian ancestry, "Alexander Suvorov's barracks-type jokes are obviously redolent of Caucasian clownery."[7]

Suvorov speaking with General Gannibal

As a boy, Suvorov was a sickly child and his father assumed he would work in civil service as an adult. However, he learned to read French, German, Polish, and Italian, and devoted himself to intense study of several military authors including Plutarch, Quintus Curtius, Cornelius Nepos, Julius Caesar, and Charles XII. He tried to overcome his physical ailments through rigorous exercise and exposure to hardship. His father, however, insisted that he was not fit for the military. When Alexander was 12, General Gannibal, who lived in the neighborhood, overheard his father complaining about Alexander and asked to speak to the child. Gannibal was so impressed with the boy that he persuaded the father to allow him to pursue the career of his choice.[6] Suvorov entered the army in 1748 and served in the Semyonovsky Life Guard Regiment for six years. During this period he continued his studies attending classes at Cadet Corps of Land Forces. He gained his first battle experience fighting against the Prussians during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). After repeatedly distinguishing himself in battle Suvorov became a colonel in 1762, aged around 33.

As battle-tested as he was, Suvorov next served in Poland during the Confederation of Bar, dispersed the Polish forces under Pułaski, and captured Kraków (1768), paving the way for the first partition of Poland between Austria, Prussia and Russia,[17] and reached the rank of major-general.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 saw his first successful campaigns against the Turks in 1773–1774, and particularly in the Battle of Kozluca, he laid the foundations of his reputation, becoming a lieutenant-general in 1774. His later earned victories against the Ottomans bolstered the morale of his soldiers who were usually outnumbered. His astuteness in war was uncanny.

In 1774, Suvorov was dispatched to suppress the rebellion of Pugachev, who claimed to be the assassinated Tsar Peter III, 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 was eventually beheaded in Moscow.

Battles against the Ottoman Empire[edit]

Monument to Suvorov as youthful Mars, the Roman god of war, by Mikhail Kozlovsky (1801).

From 1777 to 1783 Suvorov served in the Crimea and in the Caucasus, general of infantry in 1786, upon completion of his tour of duty there. He commanded the Russian troops in the Crimea from 1782 to 1784 and, on behalf of Empress Catherine II, organized the resettlement of Armenian migrants displaced from Crimea and gave them permission to establish a new city, named Nor Nakhichevan by the Armenians. Suvorov is considered one of the historical founders of the city.[8][18] Earlier, in 1780, on behalf of Prince Grigory Potemkin, Suvorov participated in a meeting together with fellow prominent Russian Armenians Ivan Lazarev and Osip Argutinsky for drafting the rehabilitation of the Armenian statehood and was even appointed the Commander of Astrakhan by Russian troops, who were supposed to carry out the liberation of Armenia. However, the movement of Russian troops into the south Caucasus was not carried out.[8]

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 1789 won two great victories at Focşani and by the river Rymnik.

In both these battles an Austrian corps under Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg participated, but at the battle of Rymnik, Suvorov was in command of the whole allied forces.

For the latter victory, Catherine the Great made Suvorov a count with the name "Rymniksky" in addition to his own name, and the Emperor Joseph II made him a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

On 22 December 1790 Suvorov successfully stormed the reputedly impregnable fortress of Ismail in Bessarabia. Turkish forces inside the fortress had the orders to stand their ground to the end and haughtily declined the Russian ultimatum. Their defeat was seen as a major catastrophe in the Ottoman empire, but in Russia it was glorified in the first national anthem, Let the thunder of victory sound!

Suvorov announced the capture of Ismail in 1791 to the Tsarina Catherine in a doggerel couplet.[19]

Battles against Polish uprising[edit]

Suvorov established a fearsome reputation in operations against the Turks and Poles before the wars with Revolutionary France. He performed well on the Italian and Swiss fronts in 1799.

Immediately after the peace with the Ottoman Empire was signed, Suvorov was again transferred to Poland, where he assumed the command of one of the corps and took part in the Battle of Maciejowice, in which he captured the Polish commander-in-chief Tadeusz Kościuszko. On November 4, 1794, Suvorov's forces stormed Warsaw and captured Praga, one of its boroughs.

The massacre of approximately 20,000 civilians in Praga[20] broke the spirits of the defenders and soon put an end to the Kościuszko Uprising. According to some sources [21] the massacre was the deed of Cossacks who were semi-independent and were not directly subordinate to Suvorov. The Russian general was supposedly trying to stop the massacre and even went to the extent of ordering the destruction of the bridge to Warsaw over the Vistula River [22] with the purpose of preventing the spread of violence to Warsaw from its suburb. Other historians dispute this,[23] but most sources make no reference to Suvorov either deliberately encouraging or attempting to prevent the massacre.[24][25]

Suvorov sent a report to his sovereign consisting of only three words: "Hurrah, Warsaw's ours!" (Ура, Варшава наша!). Catherine replied in two words: "Hurrah, Field-Marshal!" (rus. Ура, фельдмаршал!—that is, awarding him this title). The newly appointed field marshal remained in Poland until 1795, when he returned to Saint Petersburg. But his sovereign and friend Catherine died in 1796, and her son and successor Paul I dismissed the veteran in disgrace.

Suvorov's Italian campaign[edit]

Exiled Suvorov receiving the Emperor's order to lead the Russian army against Napoleon.

Suvorov spent the next few years in retirement on his estate Konchanskoye near Borovichi. He criticized 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.

It is recorded that 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. However, in February 1799 Paul summoned him to take the field again, this time against the French Revolutionary armies in Italy.

The campaign opened with a series of Suvorov's victories (Cassano d'Adda, Trebbia, and Novi). French troops were driven from Italy, save for a handful in the Maritime Alps and around Genoa. Suvorov himself gained the rank of "Prince of the House of Savoy" from the King of Sardinia.

Suvorov in Milan, April 1799
Russian troops under Generalissimo Suvorov crossing the Alps in 1799.

But the later events of the eventful year went uniformly against the Russians. General Korsakov's force was defeated by Masséna at Zürich. Betrayed by the Austrians, the old field marshal, seeking to make his way over the Swiss passes to the Upper Rhine, had to retreat to 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, unheard of since the time of Hannibal, Suvorov became the fourth Generalissimo of Russia.[citation needed] He was officially promised a military triumph in Russia but court intrigues led Emperor Paul to cancel the ceremony.

Early in 1800 Suvorov returned to Saint Petersburg. Paul refused to give him an audience, and, worn out and ill, the old veteran died a few days afterwards on 18 May 1800, at Saint Petersburg. Lord Whitworth, the British ambassador, and the poet Gavrila Derzhavin were the only persons of distinction present at the funeral.

Suvorov lies buried in the Church of the Annunciation in the Alexander Nevsky 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.

Progeny and titles[edit]

In 1792, Suvorov founded Tiraspol, today the capital city of Transnistria. An equestrian statue of Suvorov sits in the central square of the city.

Suvorov's full name and titles (according to Russian pronunciation), ranks and awards are the following: Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov, Prince of Italy, Count of Rymnik, 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 Bringer of Victory First Class, Order of St. Vladimir First Class, Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, Order of St. Anna First Class, Grand Cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, (Austria) Order of Maria Teresa 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 Lioness, (France) United Orders of the Carmelite Virgin Mary and St. Lazarus (on 20. April 1800), (Poland) Order of the White Eagle, the Order of Saint Stanislaus.

Suvorov's son, Arkadi Suvorov (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 same river Rymnik that had brought his father so much fame. His grandson Alexander Arkadievich (1804–1882) served as Governor General of Riga in 1848–61 and Saint Petersburg in 1861–66. Suvorov's daughter Natalia Alexandrovna (1775–1844) known under her name Suvorochka married count Nikolay Zubov.


Alexander Suvorov

Suvorov was buried in Saint Petersburg in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. His grave stone states simply: "Here lies Suvorov".

Suvorov's tomb at Alexander Nevsky Lavra

Russians have long cherished the memory of Suvorov as a great captain of the Russian nation, and for the character of his leadership. In an age when war had become an act of diplomacy, he restored its 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.[citation needed].[26]

Suvorov won more than 60 battles and never lost one.[27]

According to D.S. Mirsky, Suvorov "gave much attention to the form of his correspondence, and especially of his orders of the day. These latter are highly original, deliberately aiming at unexpected and striking effects. Their style is a succession of nervous staccato sentences, which produce the effect of blow and flashes. Suvorov's official reports often assume a memorable and striking form. His writings are as different from the common run of classical prose as his tactics were from those of Frederick or Marlborough."[28]

Suvorov monument in the Swiss Alps

His gibes procured him many enemies. He had all the contempt of a man of ability and action for ignorant favorites 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 (1830-1905) declared that he based his teaching on Suvorov's practice, which he held as representative of the fundamental truths of war and of the military qualities of the Russian nation.[citation needed]

The Suvorov Museum opened in Saint Petersburg in 1900 to commemorate the centenary of the general's death. Apart from in St. Petersburg, other Suvorov monuments have feature in Focşani, Ochakov (1907), Sevastopol, Izmail, Tulchin, Kobrin, Novaya Ladoga, Kherson, Timanovka, Simferopol, Kaliningrad, Konchanskoye, Rymnik, Elm, Switzerland and in the Swiss Alps.

On July 29, 1942, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established the Order of Suvorov, awarded for successful offensive actions against superior enemy forces.

The town of Suvorovo in Varna Province, Bulgaria, was named after Suvorov, as was the Russian ship which discovered Suwarrow Island in the Pacific in 1814.

Various currency notes of the Transnistrian ruble depict Suvorov.

He was famous for his military manual The Science of Victory and noted for several of his sayings, including "What is difficult in training will become easy in a battle," "The bullet is a mad thing; only the bayonet knows what it is about," and "Perish yourself but rescue your comrade!" He taught his soldiers to attack instantly and decisively: "Attack with the cold steel! Push hard with the bayonet!" He joked with the men, calling common soldiers "brother," and shrewdly presented the results of detailed planning and careful strategy as the work of inspiration.[29]

His prowess, military wisdom, and daring remain in high regard. Another of his many utterances, "Achieve victory not by numbers, but by knowing how" is well known in the Russian military.

A bust of the Generalissimo is prominently displayed in the office of the Russian Minister of Defense.[citation needed]

A military school after Alexander Suvorov and Valerian Madatov is currently being constructed in the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh Republic under a national security program. Like Suvorov, Madatov is a Russian Armenian prince and general with roots to Nagorno-Karabakh. The school is going to be the most up-to-date in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its architecture, technical equipment and education methods.[30] There is also a military school in Minsk, Belarus, named after Suvorov to commemorate his Belarusian origin.[31]


  1. ^ А. В. Шишов. Генералиссимус Суворов. ОЛМА Медиа Групп, 2003. С. 4.
  2. ^ Goodwin, J. Lords of the Horizons, p. 244. Henry Holt and Company, 1998.
  3. ^ "SUVOROV’S ARMENIAN ANCESTORS". Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Манюки hamlet". Retrieved 18 Dec 2014. 
  5. ^ Dec 2014 "Suvorov and Muraviov are the heroes of Belarus". 
  6. ^ a b c Spalding (1888). "Suvóroff". Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine VII: 328–340. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Soiuz Pisatelei (1990). Soviet Literature - Issues 1-6. Foreign Languages Publishing House. pp. xc. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Авдотья Федосеевна Манукова (Суворова)". Archived from the original on 2014-04-18. 
  9. ^ "Remembering the Armenians at Borodino". The Armenian Weekly. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Nubar Ter-Mikaelian. Nshanavor Hayazki Martig (Prominent Armenians). Beirut, 1988, p.73.
  11. ^ Anatol Klyshka. Vydatnyja Asoby Belarusi (Notable Belarusian people). Jerusalem, 1975, p.67.
  12. ^ "Suvorovin arvoituksellinen identiteetti". Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Old Armenian – Armenian Contemporary Glossary, Printing House "St. Lazarus", Venice, 1859, p. 145.
  14. ^ "манюка". Retrieved 18 Dec 2014. 
  15. ^ "суво". Retrieved 18 Dec 2014. 
  16. ^ Belarusian Dictionary, Printing House "Narodnaya Asveta," Minsk, 1993, p. 51. ISBN 5-341-00918-5
  17. ^ Cowley, Robert; Parker, Geoffrey, ed. (July 10, 2001). The Reader's Companion to Military History. Houghton Mifflin Books. p. 457. ISBN 978-0-618-12742-9. Retrieved 2006-09-10. 
  18. ^ "The Proletarskiy District". Official portal of Rostov-on-Don. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  19. ^ J. Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons, p. 244, 1998, Henry Holt and Company, ISBN 978-0-8050-6342-4
  20. ^ : Ledonne, 2003, p.144 Google Print and Alexander, 1989, p.317 Google Print
  21. ^ (Russian) Alexander Bushkov Russia that never existed, cites Adam Jerzy Czartoryski's memoirs that Suvorov was trying to prevent the massacre Archived February 16, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ (Russian)A. F. Petrushevsky. "Generalissimo Prince Suvorov", chapter "Polish war: Praga, 1794", originally published 1884, reprinted 2005, ISBN 978-5-98447-010-0 Archived October 29, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ (Polish) Janusz Tazbir, Polacy na Kremlu i inne historyje (Poles on Kreml and other stories), Iskry, 2005, ISBN 978-83-207-1795-2, fragment online Archived March 25, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
  25. ^ John Leslie Howard, Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874, Keep, Oxford University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-19-822575-1, Google Print, p.216
  26. ^ Ross, Steven T.; Ross, P. Stewart Michael (2010). The A to Z of the Wars of the French Revolution (Volume 203 of The A to Z Guide Series). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 159. ISBN 0810876329. 
  27. ^ Osipov, K.; Edith Bone (1944). Alexander Suvorov. Hutchinson. ASIN B0006DBYU6. 
  28. ^ Mirsky, D.S. (1999). A History of Russian Literature. Northwestern University Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-8101-1679-5. 
  29. ^ Goodwin, J. Lords of the Horizons, p. 244. Henry Holt and Company, 1998.
  30. ^ "Construction of Alexander Suvorov and Valerian Madatov military school on in Nagorno-Karabakh". 28 January 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  31. ^ "Minsk Suvorov Military School". Retrieved 18 Dec 2014. 
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Ledonne, John P. (2003). The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-516100-7. 
  • Alexander, John T. (1990). Catherine the Great: Life and Legend. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-506162-8. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Longworth, Philip. 1965. The Art of Victory. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston
  • J.F. 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, Suvorof (London, 1890)
  • G. von Fuchs, Suworows Korrespondenz, 1799 (Glogau, 1835)
  • Souvorov en Italie by Gachot, Masséna's biographer (Paris, 1903)
  • The standard Russian biographies of Polevoi (1853; Ger. trans., Mitau, 1853); Rybkin (Moscow, 1874), Vasiliev (Vilna, 1899), Meshcheryakov and Beskrovnyi (Moscow, 1946), and Osipov (Moscow, 1955).
  • The Russian examinations of his martial art, by Bogolyubov (Moscow, 1939) and Nikolsky (Moscow, 1949).
  • "1799 le baionette sagge" by Marco Galandra and Marco Baratto (Pavia, 1999).
  • "SUVOROV – La Campagna Italo-Svizzera e la liberazione di Torino nel 1799" by Maria Fedotova ed. Pintore (Torino, 2004).

External links[edit]