Aleksandr Suvorov

Aleksandr Suvorov

(1729-1800)

Russia’s great 18th-century commander was born in Moscow, four years after the death of Czar Peter the Great (see no. 56). Aleksandr Suvorov enrolled in the Semenovskii Life Guards in 1742 as a private. He worked his way up to sergeant (1751) and was commissioned an officer in 1754 at the age of 24.

Suvorov became a captain at the start of the Seven Years’War (1756) and rose to lieutenant colonel by 1758. He played a prominent role in the dramatic capture of Berlin in 1760 and distinguished him¬ self in small cavalry actions in the fol¬ lowing year. After Russia changed sides in 1762 (fol¬ lowing the death of Czarina Elizabeth),Suvorov fought the Poles as colonel of the Astrakhan infantry regiment.

Switching military fronts, Suvorov then fought with Russias Danubian army against the Turks (1768-1774). Russia had little success against the Turks until Suvorov arrived and took command. He won great victories at Hirsov and Kozludji, and at last the Turks sued for peace on terms acceptable to Czarina Catherine the Great (who had replaced Czar Peter III in 1762).

Even more important was Suvorov’s cam¬ paign within Russia itself. Emeleyan Pugachev, a disaffected Cossack, led a full-scale revolt against Czarina Catherine, and it was Suvorov who brought the rebel back to Moscow in an iron cage. (Pugachev was tor¬ tured and killed at the czarina’s order.)

To the Poles of his day, Suvorov was noth¬ ing less than a conqueror. When Poland fought against Russia, Suvorov captured Krakow (1772). He returned later and captured Warsaw (1794), thereby putting down the revolution¬ ary and patriotic movement led by Thaddeus Kosciuszko.

Suvorov served with distinction in the second Russo- Turkish War. He won great victories at Focsani and Rymnik and cap¬ tured the key Turkish fortress of Izmail, located on the Danube River. He was, by this time, the most experienced and successful military commander in all Europe. During a brief period of peace, he wrote The Science ofVictory.

Suvorov had served four rulers (Elizabeth, Peter III, Catherine the Great and Paul I) during his remark¬ able career. He longed for an opportunity to meet Napoleon on the battlefield, but such was not to be the case. He died in 1800. His fame in Russia was later used for propaganda by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. During World War II, ghostly images of Suvorov appeared on recruitment posters, inciting Russians to strike at their foes once more.