Russian Army : Napoleonic Wars : History : Recruitment : Organization : Discipline Russian flag from Russian flag from
Russian Army of the Napoleonic Wars

"... tell the Emperor that I am facing Russians.
If they had been Prussians, I'd have taken the
position long ago."
- French Marshal Ney in 1813
"The whole appearance of a Russian army denotes hardihood
and bravery, inured to any privations. They subsist well on
black bread: few cattle are seen following the army.
Their commissaries have little to do; and the great burden of
managing the commissariat, which is so irksome to a British
commander on service, seems perfectly light to a Russian chief."
- British General Sir Charles Stewart

1. Introduction: Brief History of
- - Russian Empire and Russian Army.

2. Army's Supply System.
3. Medical Services.
4. Organization.
5. Recruitment.
6. Discipline.
7. Officers.
8. General Kutuzov
- - The Man Who Defeated Napoleon

Picture: Russian army on the move.
"War and Peace" (1968) is an 8-hour epic film based on the famous book by Leo Tolstoy.
The production design and set pieces were delivered on a massive scale,
with battle scenes that are basically re-enactments of history.

"If the French had the firmness
and the docility of the Russians
the world would not be great enough for me."
- Emperor Napoleon

Brief History of Russian Empire and Army.
"Russia, as much by her position
as by her inexhaustible resources,
is and must be the first power in the world."
- Russian Chancellor Rostopchin

Catherine the Great During the XVIII and XIX century Russia's diplomats and army made it one of the most powerful states in the world. Catherine the Great worked hard at organising the state, involved herself in the affairs of Europe, and initiated an aggressive foreign policy which over few decades was to add the whole of Finland, ( what are now Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, ( most of Poland, the Crimea, some of what is now Romania, the Kuban, Georgia, Kabardia, Azerbaidijan, part of Siberia and Kamchatka to her dominions, as well as part of Alaska ( and a military settlement north of San Francisco (
"This not only increased the size of Russia, it also brought her frontiers 600 km further into Europe... By 1799 Russian armies were operating in Switzerland and Italy." (Zamoyski - "Moscow 1812" p 17)

Russian Chancellor Rostopchin wrote: "Russia, as much by her position as by her inexhaustible resources, is and must be the first power in the world." Many in Europe were alarmed at this seemingly inexorable onward march of Russian power. There was talk of ravening Asiatic hordes and some fear, that Russia might engulf the whole of Europe as the barbarians had done with ancient Rome.

When Revolution in France erupted Russia promised that the rule of mobs in France would soon end and true order of matters would be restored. Russian aristocrats were shocked when the citizens in France proclaimed "liberté, egalité, fraternité" and the country of high culture, the language of which was spoken in salons from Madrid and London to Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna and Rome found itself in the hands of the revolutionaries. This drew Russia into a series of wars against France and her neighbors, which had far-reaching consequences for Europe.

Russia was torn between Asia and Europe and only sparsely settled. The vast land together with the long winters produced the melancholy and mystery not felt in any other country. According to Paul Austin when in 1812 Napoleon's army entered Russia, the troops were "a bit frightened at the sight of so sparsely populated and poverty-stricken a countryside. Dedem finds himself in 'a desert' ... Bonnet of the 18th Line, Ney's III Corps ... is shocked to see how the peasants' clothing consists of only "a shirt, a pair of coarse cloth trousers, a hooded cloak of sheepskin and some kind of a fur cap." ...
As for their villages, they're even more squalid than the Polish ones. ... General Claparede, writes home to his young bride: 'The inhabitants and their houses are very ugly and extremely dirty, and the latter only differ from the peasants' log cabins in possessing a chimney or two.' ... Although General Compans, commanding Davout's crack 5th Division, is finding the countryside 'quite attractive' ..." (Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 59)

The city of Vitebsk made poor impression on the French "From the outside the houses, all higgledy-piggledy, small, low and built of wood, have the most wretched appearance" according to General Berthezene.
But the road to Moscow is a masterpiece - according to Captain Breaut des Marlots "you can march along in 10 vehicles abreast." Moscow made impression on the enemy: "The sun was reflected on all the domes, the spires and gilded palaces. The many capitals I'd seen - such as Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Vienna and Madrid - had only produced an ordinary impression on me. But this was quite different !" - wrote Bourgogne. Griois writes: "In no way did it resemble any cities I'd seen in Europe."

Moscow, the beautiful city. Moscow and St.Petersburg were the largest Russian cities. St.Petersburg was a planned city of canals and straight streets, reflecting the rationalizm of Peter the Great.
By contrast, Moscow had grown more spontaneously, and its many large gardens and old churches made it seem more rural, religious, and 'Russian' than St.Petersburg.
Richard Rhein writes: "Moscow in 1812 was a sprawling city of about 250,000 inhabitants during the fall. Throughout the winter months, when the nobles and their serfs returned from their country estates, the populationwould increase by about 100,000."
The inhabitants of St.Petersburg were more open to foreign ideas
and less slothful and superstitious than those of Moscow.

Serfdom was not the original status of the Russian peasant. It was one of the consequences of the Tartar devastation during the 13th century when peasants became homeless and settled on the land of wealthy Russians. By the end of the 16th century the Russian peasant came under the complete control of the landowner and during the middle of the 17th century serfdom became hereditary. Their situation became comparable to that of slaves in USA and they could be sold to another landowner in families or singly.

Russian peasants in 1812.
Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev. By the 19th century it was estimated that about 50 per cent of Russian peasants were serfs. Willian Napier calls it "the most formidable and brutal, the most swinish tyranny that has ever menaced and disgraced European civilization." (Napier - "History of the War in the Peninsula 1807-1814" Vol IV, p 167)

The peasants and serfs were engaged in agricultural work on fields and farms and with herding the livestock. From May through October they commonly worked barefoot. In colder times they had their feet wrapped in clothes over which was fitted a basketwork affair. They wore rough shirts and trousers made from canvas and often slept on straw or dry hay.

By 1800, the nobles of the empire made up more than 2 % of the population. The nobles measured their wealth primarily by the number of male serfs they owned. Most young nobles were forced by economic need to serve in the military.

From Mongol Yoke to the "Time of Troubles."
Polish troops captured Moscow in 1610.

Picture by Sergei Ivanov The invading Mongols accelerated the fragmentation of the Ancient Rus'. Although a Russian army defeated the Golden Horde at Kulikovo Pole in 1380, Tatar domination of the Russian-inhabited territories, along with demands of tribute from Russian princes, continued until about 1480.
Ivan IV, the Terrible, ( first Muscovite tsar, is considered to have founded the Russian state. Death of Ivan's childless son Feodor I was followed by a period of civil wars and foreign intervention known as the Time of Troubles. It was a period of Russian history comprising the years o interregnum between the death of the last of Moscow Rurukids Dynasty, Tsar Feodor I, in 1598 and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613.
The succession disputes during the Time of Troubles caused the loss of much territory to the Poles and Swedes. In the battle of Orsha 25.000 Poles and Lithuanians routed 40,000-80,000 Russians with 300 guns.
In 1610 in Klushino 7,000 Poles mauled 40,000 Russians and Allies. Muscovy lost control over western territories and even Moscow itself was captured by Polish troops in 1610. ( The Time of Troubles was brought to an end when a patriotic volunteer army expelled the Poles from the Moscow Kremlin and anational assembly, elected to the throne Michael Romanov. The Romanov Dynasty ruled Russia until 1917.

Peter the Great and "Progress Through Coercion."
One new item after another was taxed, from beards to watermelons.
Most revenue went for military needs, for as Peter stated:
"Money is the artery of war."

Troops of Peter the Great:
grenadier, fusilier, dragoon, 
and bombardier of the artillery. Tzar Peter the Great achieved Russia's expansion and its transformation into the Russian Empire through several major initiatives. He established Russia's naval forces, reorganized the army according to European models, streamlined the government, and mobilized Russia's financial and human resources.
The army was new and huge.
By 1725, Russia had an army of about 200,000 regular troops and about 100,000 Cossacks. Army recruits were sometimes chained together on their way to military service. Beginning in 1712, recruits were branded on their left arms, thereby facilitating the apprehension of runaways. By the time of his death in 1725 Peter the Great had placed Russia among the foremost European powers, and had created a military system that has infuenced the European balance of power until the present day.
The reformed Russian army won a major victory at Poltava and have anded Sweden's role as a Great Power. It the most famous of the battles of the Great Northern War (45,000 Russians defeated 17,000 Swedes + 8,000 sieging Poltava). Several thousand prisoners were were put to work building the new city of St. Petersburg. Swedish King Charles managed to escape and spent five years in exile there before he was able to return to Sweden.

Palace Coups.
Peter III changed the army's uniform
to look like Prussia's,
insulting the soldiers greatly

The third of a century between the reigns of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great was an era of palace coups, court favorites, heightened noble privileges, and several distinctly nongreat monarchs. During the rule of Peter's successors, Russia took a more active role in European statecraft. Russia's greatest reach into Europe was during the Seven Years' War. In 1760 Russian forces were at the gates of Berlin. Fortunately for Prussia, Russian monarch Elizabeth died and her successor, Peter III, allied Russia with Prussia. Although he was tolerant of Catherine the Great's marital indiscretions, he was little worried about bastard children eventually following in his footsteps to the Russian throne. At one point, he exclaimed, "God knows where my wife gets her pregnancies!" :-))
Although he was a grandson of Peter the Great, his father was the duke of Holstein-Gottorp, so Peter III was raised in a German environment. Russians therefore considered him a foreigner. Making no secret of his contempt for all things Russian, he went so far as to have a ring made with a picture of Prussian king Frederick the Great set in it which Troyat claims, "he would kiss fervently at every opportunity."
Peter III changed the army's uniform to look like Prussia's, insulting the soldiers greatly - the Russian army had been fighting the Prussians for almost a decade, and were fairly indignant about suddenly having to look like them: "The hearts of the greater number of them were filled with grief, and with hatred and contempt for their future Emperor."

Russia and the army under Tzar Paul.
Paul ordered more than 20,000 Cossacks
to cross Central Asia and invade British India.

Russian military parade 
under Tsar Paul.
Picture by Benois. Tzar Paul was determined that the soldiers should be treated well. The monarch increased the pay for ordinary soldier and intended to curb the drunkenness of the officers, their gambling and the frauds they perpetrated at the expense of the soldiers. The monarch dismissed 340 generals and 2,261 officers. Approx. 3,500 officers resigned.
Tzar Paul however failed to grasp the difference between mechanical drills amd what was really practicable in combat. In 1796-98 were issued 'The Infantry Codes.' General Suvorov dismissed them as a rat-chewed package found in a castle and made no attempt to enforce them among his troops.
Polish revolutionary leader Tedd Kosciuszko fought the Russian on several occassions, and wrote: "When they are on the offensive they are fortified by copious distributions of alcohol, and they attack with a courage which verges on a frenzy, and would rather get killed than fall back. The only way to make them desist is to kill a great number of their officers ...The Russian infantry withstand fire fearlessly, but their own fire is badly directed ... they are machines which are actuated only by the orders of their officers."
"Paul hated revolutionary France and feared its advances in the eastern Mediterranean. ... Russian forces fought on both land and sea. Most notable were Gedneral Suvorov's victories against the French in Italy and Switzerland. ... But discord among coalition members led to Russia's withdrawal from the Second Coalition in 1799. ... Hoping, with Napoleon's backing, to gain Constantinopole and Balkan territories, Paul agreed to support France against England. Shortly before his overthrow, Paul ordered more than 20,000 Cossacks to cross Central Asia and invade British India." (Moss - "A History of Russia" Vol I, pp 338-9)

General Alexander Suvorov.
He was reckoned one of a few generals in history
who never lost a single battle.


Russia against Napoleonic France.
As a major European power, Russia could not escape the wars
involving revolutionary and imperial France.

Tsar of Russia, Alexander I Russia during the Napoleonic Wars was ruled by Tsar Alexander I. He succeeded to the throne after his father was murdered. Young Alexander sympathised with French and Polish revolutionaries (Kosciuszko Uprising), however, his father seems to have taught him to combine a theoretical love of mankind with a practical contempt for men. These contradictory tendencies remained with him through life and are observed in his dualism in domestic and military and foreign policy.
Napoleon thought him a "shifty Byzantine".
Castlereagh of Britain gives him credit for "grand qualities", but adds that he is "suspicious and undecided". Alexander however was the most influential person in Allies headquarters in 1813-1814.
The first ten years of Alexander's reign witnessed even longer periods of war in the south against Persia, Caucassian peoples and especially against Turkey. As a major European power, Russia could not escape the wars involving revolutionary and imperial France.

These campaigns began in late 1790s and ended in 1814-1815 and were ones of the most intensive fightings in Russia's history. It was a long and rocky period with many changes in the army. When Tzar Alexander came to power he halted the germanization of the army and in 1802 many Prussian distinctions were abolished.

Tzar and Buonaparte. Fearing expansionist ambitions of Napoleon, Alexander joined Great Britain and Austria against Napoleon. Meanwhile mutual suspicion between Great Britain and Rusia eased in the face of several French political mistakes.

In 1805 Britain and Russia signed an offensive alliance directed against France. They were joined by Austria and Sweden. The Orthodox Church in Russia designated “ Napoleon as the anti-christ and the enemy of God for having founded a new Hebrew Sanhedrin, which is the same tribunal that once dared to condemn the Lord Jesus to the cross.”

The Russian army had many characteristics of ancien regime, senior officers were largely recruited from aristocratic circles, and the Russian soldier was regularly beaten and punished to instill discipline. Furthermore, many lower-level officers were poorly trained. Austrian army invaded and occupied Bavaria; French troops crossed the Rhine River. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Ulm and then occupied Vienna. In December Napoleon decisively defeated an Austro-Russian army in the battle of Austerlitz.

Russian musketeers. 
Movie War and Peace, Russia. In 1806 the outdated system of dividing the army into columns and brigades of various strength was abandoned. Also most of the inspections were abolished and replaced by numbered divisions.
Average division consisted of:

  • 4-6 infantry regiments
  • 2-4 cavalry regiments
  • Cossacks
  • strong artillery

    In 1806, Prussia joined the Fourth Coalition fearing the rise in French power after the defeat of Austria. Prussia and Russia mobilized for a fresh campaign. After Napoleon’s humiliation of Prussia at Jena, the French Emperor turned his attention to subduing his Russian foe and marched into Poland in the winter of 1806. Six months later, the Russians had been beaten in Eylau, Heilsberg and Fredland and brought to the peace table and Napoleon was at the height of his power. The French drove Russian forces out of Poland and created a new Duchy of Warsaw.

    Napoleon and Alexander at Tilsit
determine the future of Europe. Few days after the battle of Friedland, Napoleon and Tzar Alexander met at Tilsit on a raft in the middle of the Nemunas. The treaty ended war between Russia and France and began an alliance between the two empires which rendered the rest of Europe almost powerless. However, Napoleon's matrimonial plans to marry the tsar's sister were stymied by Russian royalty.
    France and Russia secretly agreed to aid each other in disputes - France pledged to aid Russia against Turkey, while Russia agreed to join the Continental System against Britain. Napoleon also convinced Alexander to instigate the Finnish War against Sweden in order to force Sweden to join the Continental System. Russia agreed to evacuate Wallachia and Moldavia, which had been occupied by Russian troops. The Ionian Islands, which had been captured by Russian navy, were to be handed over to the French.

    Map of Europe in 1810 In 1810 General de Tolly introduced military attaches. These were military agents who collected information and were attached to Russian political missions in Paris, Warsaw and Vienna.

    In 1810-1812 de Tolly, Volkonskii and others analyzed the French army, its organization, structure and methods of combat. They introduced many changes, including brigades and divisions with permanent structure and staff, infantry and cavalry corps etc.

    The influence of modern military ideas from France was a gust of fresh air. "Napoleon had many admirers in Russia particularly among the young - some of whom would be drinking his health even after the war with France had began." (- Adam Zamoyski)

    The Russo-French alliance gradually became strained. France was concerned about Russia's intentions in the strategically vital Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. At the same time, Alexander viewed the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, the French-controlled reconstituted Polish state, with suspicion. The requirement of joining France's Continental Blockade against Great Britain was a serious disruption of Russian commerce, and in 1810 Alexander repudiated the obligation. In June 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with a force twice as large as the Russian army facing him. He hoped to inflict a major defeat on the Russians and force Alexandr to sue for peace.

    Russians preparations for war in 1812.
Picture by Argutinski Dolgorukov. Refusing to be cowed by the monstrous international army on his borders, the Russian monarch made crystal clear to Napoleon’s messenger Narbonne: “All Europe’s bayonets on my frontier won’t make me alter my language.”
    Reformed Russian army performed well in 1812 and ended up as the winners. By the way, many battles were fought with the Russians being weaker in numbers than the French.
    - Smolensk: French 50,000 - Russians 30,000
    - Shevardino: French 30,000 - Russians 18,000
    - Valutina Gora: French 42,000 - Russians 21,000
    - Mohilev: French 27 000 - Russians 21 000

    Article: Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812

    Generally the Russian victories in 1812-1815 are little known as the western authors used mainly French sources. Only recently more balanced books were written. The battles of Borisov, Jakubovo, Jonkovo, Krasnoi, Liakhovo, Mir, Romanov, Polotzk 2nd, Smoliany, Viazma (French losses 8,000 - Russian losses 2,100), Vinkovo (French losses 3,600-4,000, Russian losses 500-1,800), - these are Russian victories.
    After the battle at Valutina Gora, Napoleon made remark that he likes when there are 3 enemy to 1 dead Frenchman. According to Gelder however, Marshal Murat "had the corpses of the French dead stripped. He wanted to make Napoleon believe all those he saw were Russians." (Austin - "1812: The March on Moscow")

    Russian victory at Vyazma In Vyazma, approx. 25,000 Russians defeated 35,000 French, Poles and Italians. Kutuzov was unable to hold back his troops in their anxiety to catch up with the fleeing French. Davout's highly trained I Army Corps was cut off from Napoleon's army. Eugene's and Ney's corps and Poniatowski's Poles turned back to free Davout. The fighting was hard. The French at the cost of 8,000 killed, wounded and prisoners managed to break through. The Russians suffered only 2,100 casualties. Davout's corps was rescued although was in total disarray. There is not a single book in the west devoted to this battle.

    Prussians and Russians 
in 1813. Picture by Parkhaiev In 1813 Russia had opened the campaign single-handed, and in which was afterwards joined by Prussia and Austria. The driving and decisive force was the Russian army. Without it the Prussians wouldn't even dream to move their finger against Napoleon. Witnesses described the King of Prussia as Tsar's aide-de-camp or lackey. Since 1815 the Prussian uniform was modeled on Russian design as Russian military enjoyed great reputation after the Napoleonic Wars. The Austrians were repeatedly beaten by Napoleon and were so well behaving that they even supported Napoleon in 1812. Russian victory in 1812 encouraged them to stand up and fight in 1813. Without Russia, the Austrians would be under French boot for long.
    Below: allied armies in the battle of Leipzig in 1813.

    infantry battalions cavalry squadrons

    Allies enter Paris in 1814.
In the lead the Lifeguard Cossacks. The Tzar was determined to defeat Napoleon and 'liberate Europe'. He said "I shall not make peace as long as Napoleon is on the throne." And so he did.
    In 1813 the Aliies defeated Napoleon's troops in Germany and again in 1814 in France. Tzar Alexander triumphantly entered Paris and the Russians camped in front of Napoleon's palace. Napoleon made remark: "The Russians learned [how to win]."
    The wars were over and the period of nine consecutive campaigns in which the Russian troops participated came to an end; Finland was captured, Sweden was defeated, war with Turkey was won, Caucassus and Poland were taken, Germany and Prussia were liberated, Paris captured and the mighty Napoleon was crushed.

    Battle of Heilsberg 1807 ~ Battle of Borodino 1812
    Battle of Dresden 1813 ~ Battle of Leipzig 1813
    Battle of La Rothiere 1814 ~ Battle of Paris 1814
  • ~

    In 1807 the Russian troops had neither bread nor salt,
    the dry crackers were rotten and in small quantities.
    Soldiers were so hungry they ate oxen skins.
    The soldiers were like shadows. … they fell ill
    and died from famine.” - S. G. Volkonski

    Supply System and Administration of the Army.
    The Russian armies were plagued with lack of bakers
    The Russians were never as effective in foraging
    as were the French.

    The distances to cover for the horse or ox drawn heavy wagons were incredible, for example from central Russia to central Germany was 1.000 miles. Sometimes along with the rolling wagons moved cattle - sort of fast food McDonalds on the hoof. In 1810, the regiments began their march from winter quarters towards the Danube River, accompanied by a mass of oxen, mules and camels.

    During campaign in Austria in 1805, the Russian troops much relied upon Austrian magazines, transportation and supply system. When the system crushed down, they simply took what they needed from the local populace. After 1805 the situation didn’t improve. S. G. Volkonski wrote “All winter 1805-1806 Bennigsen’s soldiers were fed on potato without salt. They were like shadows, … they fell ill and died from famine.” (“Otechestvennaia Voina I Russkoie Obschestvo 1812-1912” 1911, Vol III , part “Vozhdi armii”)

    In the beginning of 1813 campaign, the Russian and Prussian armies quartered in Silesia and greatly burdened the local population. The Russian supply wagons were empty and the magazines were far behind in ruined by war country. The Russians were aided by the Prussian supplies and by requisitions in occupied Duchy of Warsaw, Napoleon’s ally. The requisitions were collected in bigger cities like Warsaw and Krakow and then sent westward toward Odra (Oder) River. Other big transports went from the city of Torun by the Vistula River. Flour was delivered by the Silesians from the city of Wroclaw (then Breslau).

    The problems with supplies continued during the campaign in 1814 in France, where according to general Paskevich even the grenadiers were “hardly getting a crust of bread….” Tzar Alexander punished the commissariat and provision services by depriving the officials the right to wear the army uniform for enrichment from money trusted to them.
    In 1814 in France, General Pahlen’s hussars arrived at Brienne but found this place already packed with Vasilchikov’s cavalry and Sacken’s infantry. The food was scarce, most common were half baked potatos and brandy. Brienne was partially devastated and presented a sad sight even for the Russians. The next day the hussars ate nothing at all and slept on the ground wrapped in their greatcoats. There were no arrangements made to find quarters, there was no food delivered to the troops. The entire battle at Brienne was fought by the Soumy Hussar Regiment with empty and growling stomachs.

    The Russian infantrymen carried small amount of food in their backpacks, larger amounts were delivered by transports from magazines in Russia. Additionally the troops could either purchase more foods from foreign sources or take it by force if stationed in occupied country.

    Russian infantry before battle,
picture by Chagadayev. Usually the privates drank water or whatever they found at civilians. If a place was not healthy then instead of using local water they drunk diluted wine or kvas and snacked on bread or suhary. Their officers drunk tea with rum, and in winter a better quality wine.

    The soldiers carried tools, which helped them during foraging and preparing the food. In 1802 was ordered that each cuirassier squadron has to carry 16 kettles, 16 scythes, 8 axes, and 8 spades. The dragoons carried the same tools as the cuirassiers with additional 7 more axes and 4 hoes. Each hussar squadron however had to carry only kettles (20) and scythes (16).

    During campaign, almost every day each squadron sent his foraging group. Löwenstern describes how during the 1806-1807 campaign he was sent with 50 men for foraging for the entire squadron. They treated the Polish population as enemy and everything they took was by force. If the civilians protested entire villages were plundered, individual houses were burned and women and girls were raped. The Soumy Hussar Regiment marched through Goldap, Augustowo (Augustow ?) and Olecko. Everywhere they went they created havoc and earned the dreadful name Pahlens wilde Jagd casting a shadow on good name of their commander, general Pahlen. On their coming to Olecko the entire village fled with their belongings to the forest. (Löwenstern - “Mit Graf Pahlens Reiterei gegen Napoleon” 1910, p 25)

    Sometimes the situation with foods was so bad that the Russians seized bread from the Austrian civilians by force, and even carried off Austrian NCOs' and officers' baggage. In 1812 in Russia the dragoons and horse gunners from Tarutino Camp paid visits to villages nearby. In Orehovka the dragoons broke locks and got into houses taking all valuable goods.
    In 1813 after the battle of Leipzig General Paskevich could not sleep for the noise made by soldiers “fishing” corpses of killed soldiers out of the river and robbing them of money and watches. (In similar way the French in Egypt were “fishing” for killed Mamelukes.)

    According to Muraviev-Karski in 1813 at Otendorf the Russian soldiers lost patience and attacked armed Czech peasants and the Austrian troops. Then the guardsmen (!) robbed everything without mercy: food, drink and money. The situation with food was always troublesome in the Russian army. There were cases when Russian soldiers were without food for 7 days, had nothing to eat but a piece of a hide, steeped in water that they might be enabled to chew it when softened. But then they remained under arms and then on the field of battle for 18 hours.

    The numerous wars were a heavy burden on the finances and the economy of the state, which affected the supply system for the army. According to a report by General de Tolly to the Tzar the cost of the war with France between 1812 and 1815 was more than £23 million. The issue of assignats amounted to more than £43 milion and debts in consequence of loans, etc. were above £22 million. (Bloch - “Modern Weapons and Modern War” 1900)
    There were only few countries that could match or surpass the Russian financial and economical efforts. For example Great Britain, “the paymaster” of coalitions against France, paid horrendous sums. Between 1811 and 1815 Great Britain averaged £120 million per annum in war expenditures! (Norman J. Silberling - "Financial and Monetary Policy of Great Britain During the Napoleonic Wars." Quarterly Review of Economics. 1924)
    In 1813 the British subsidies and % share in total Russian military expenditure increased
    from 1 % in 1805 to 19 % ! For Austria the subsidies in 1813 reached 3 % of total military
    expenditure. Large shipments were sent to Prussia.

    Besides the economical and financial problems, the bureaucracy, corruption and mismanagement affected the army life. The governor of Moscow, Rostopchin, wrote that the corruption in army hospitals “makes one groan.” When Prince Viazemski visited Paris he was asked how is the life in Russia? Viazemski replied; “They are stealing.”

    Many Russian generals, officers and the administration officials stole as much as they could and whenever was an opportunity. They for example made false reports giving inflated number of soldiers to get more food and money and then stole it or sold for own profit. The legend of Russian light cavalry, Kulniev, used to get more horses than his squadrons needed, only afterwards the superfluous mounts disappearing without a trace. According to Löwenstern during the 1806-1807-campaign people responsible for supplying the fighting army, Meierovich, Arbusov and Konsorten, were stealing. They deserved gallows, as their tables in Königsberg were heavy from foods while the hussars starved. (Löwenstern - “Mit Graf Pahlens Reiterei gegen Napoleon” 1910, p 19)

    In 1807 - according to Yermolov - the troops had neither bread nor salt, the dry crackers were rotten and in small quantities. Soldiers were so hungry they ate oxen skins and the number of deserters and runaways increased. Bagration asked Yermolov to report about this tragic situation. Yermolov did what was asked for, strict orders were soon issued and ... everything remained the same. It was not until Grand Duke Constantine and the Imperial Guard joined the army the situation changed for the better.
    The first transport with provisions was sent but unfortunately it was halted by other troops and never arrived to its destination. The second transport was send under escort and reached Bagration’s troops.
    Soon it was announced that the monarch want to see the troops. Before the Tzar and King of Prussia arrived the better dressed and fed men were selected and gathered. The sick, weak and dressed in tatters were hidden in a forest on a remote outpost. S. Volkonski wrote that there were shortages of food even in the headquarters. For example for 10 days after the battle at Pultusk there was lack of bread. Even the guardsmen had to eat potatoes while those in non-guard troops were without food for several days.
    An unknown from name officer of Azovski Musketier Regiment wrote: “I am so numbed, mentally and physically, by hunger, cold, and exertion, that I hardly have the strength or the desire left to write this down. No army could suffer more than ours has done in these days. It is no exaggerated calculation to say that for every mile between Jonkerdorf and this place the army has lost 1.000 men who have not come within sight of the enemy... The poor soldiers glide about like ghosts."

    How messy the supply system was show the case of two huge transports that reached the army in Silesia. One of them consisted of 3.000 peasants’ carts and wagons and was in previous year destined for the Russian army in Moldavia. This transport was “somehow” separated from the troops and slowly wandered westward. These wagons and carts and their drivers spent part of the winter in Duchy of Warsaw and then joined the westward moving armies in Silesia in 1813!
    These transports consisted of dry-bread and very dry suhary, which were issued to the troops within the following months and even in 1814. (Bogdanovich - “Istoriya Voiny 1813 Goda” 1863 Vol. 1, pp 439-440, after Kankrin -“Ueber die Militärökonomie im Frieden und Krieg” I , pp 87-88)

    In 1813 and 1814, a lot of food was purchased in Germany.


    In 1814 and 1815 the Russian troops in France
    suffered from venereal diseases that thinned
    their ranks.

    Medical Services.
    "Before the battle at Austerlitz
    the Russian army lost 12.000 soldiers
    to disease."

    Generally the Russian troops, and especially the Cossacks, cared about higiene. Before every march the men had to wash their faces, necks and hands with a cold water. During longer breaks in marching the troopers had to wash their feet. This however helped little if there was no food and they slept on snow.

    Friant's and Tolstoy's troops 
facing each other. There were also wounded in combat. In a single battle could easily be wounded five or ten thousands men. When the wounded reached a hospital after journeying for several days their condition was pitiable. The wounded had their shirts torn up and black from dirtiness, which resulted in epidemics and horrifying loss of men. It was given example when from one transport out of 1.015 wounded and ill men only 85 returned ! (“Otechestvennaia Voina I Russkoie Obschestvo 1812-1912” 1911, Vol III , part “Vozhdi armii”)
    They suffered in pain, trembled in fever and some even called for death to relieve them. Others bore pain with astonishing fortitude and when they were asked if it hurts, they would say only one word: Nichevo! (It’s nothing !)

    The wounded required immediate and professional medical care, but there were only 422 doctors (the best of them were Germans) and 9 hospitals with 5,700 beds for almost half million army. In such situation the priests and barbers helped with some sort of medical assistance. The hospital were cramped, dirty, primitive, where bandages were scarce, equipment was infected and the care-takers often got rich from the wounded and dieying.

    Each regiment had a wagon with apothecary boxes, which contained medicines, bandaging material and surgical instruments. The army train had wagons for injured and wounded, each carried from 4 to 6 men. It was not enough and peasants’ vehicles were used.

    Without numerous acts of compassion the situation would be catastrophic. For example in 1812 General Vorontsov took 350 wounded to his estate where they were taken care at his own cost. During the parting he gave clothes and 10 roubles in cash for every one.

    Largest hospitals in 1811:
    - - - - - - St.Petersbourg - 4.390 sick in two hospitals
    - - - - - - Special Mobile Hospital (with the Army of Moldavia) - 3.000
    - - - - - - Jassy - 3,000
    - - - - - - Brailov - 3.000
    - - - - - - Moscow - 1.840
    - - - - - - Riga - 1.220
    - - - - - - Slonim - 1.220
    - - - - - - Bucharest - 1.000
    - - - - - - Fokshani - 700
    - - - - - - Grodno - 610
    - - - - - - Vilnius - 610
    - - - - - - Azov - 610
    - - - - - - Kamieniec Podolski - 610


    Organization of Russian Army.

    The basic block of the army was regiment. Russian infantry regiment had 2-3 battalions, each with 4 companies. Cavalry regiment had 4-10 squadrons. On administrative level until 1808 the regiments were grouped in so called "inspections." These were the areas from which the regiment was raised. The role of inspections during peacetime was administrative, especially important during mobilization for war.

    3.5 guard regiments
    13 grenadier regiments
    84 musketier regiments
    22 jager regiments

    6 guard regiments
    14 grenadier regiments
    97 musketier regiments
    50 jager regiments

    8 guard regiments
    14 grenadier regiments
    7 carabinier regiments
    97 musketier regiments
    50 jager regiments

    For more details click here

    Guard Cavalry: 4 regiments
    Army Cavalry: 40 regiments

    Guard Cavalry: 6 regiments
    Army Cavalry: 60 regiments

    Guard Cavalry: 8 regiments
    Army Cavalry: 60 regiments

    For more details click here

    Two or three regiments formed brigade, two or three brigades formed division. In the first phase of Napoleonic wars (for example in 1806-1807 campaign) most of the Russian divisions were mix of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers. In the second phase (campaigns in 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815) there were formed infantry divisions and cavalry divisions. Infantry division had infantry and foot artillery, while cavalry division had cavalry and horse artillery.

    Russian division in 1807:
    - - - - - Infantry Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [3 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [3 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [3 battalions]
    - - - - - Infantry Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [3 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [3 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Jager Regiment [2-3 battalions]
    - - - - - Cavalry Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Dragoon Regiment [5 squadrons]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Hussar Regiment [10 squadrons]
    - - - - - Artillery

    For detailed Russian order of battle in Heilsberg 1807 click here >>

    Russian division in 1812-15:
    - - - - - Infantry Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - Infantry Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Musketier Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - Jager Brigade
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Jager Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - Jager Regiment [2 battalions]
    - - - - - Artillery

    For detailed Russian order of battle in Leipzig 1813 click here >>

    Two or three divisions formed corps. Several corps made an army.
    For example in June 1812 the First Western Army comprised of:
    I Infantry Corps
    II Infantry Corps
    III Infantry Corps
    IV Infantry Corps
    V Infantry Corps
    VI Infantry Corps
    I Cavalry Corps
    II Cavalry Corps
    III Cavalry Corps
    Cossacks Corps

    The Second Western Army consisted of :
    VII Infantry Corps
    VIII Infantry Corps
    IV Cavalry Corps
    several Cossack regiments
    27th Infantry Division

    Russian armies and independent corps in June 1812
    General Barclay de Tolly

    General Bagration

    General Tormasov

    Admiral Chichagov

    Corps (in Riga, Baltic Sea)
    General Essen

    Corps (in Finland, Baltic Sea)
    General Steingel

    I Reserve Corps (in Toropetz)
    General Meller-Zakomelski

    II Reserve Corps (in Mozyr)
    General Ertel

    110,000 [1] - 130,000 men [2]

    35,000 [1] - 50,000 men [2]

    45,000 - 60,000 men

    55,000 - 60,000 men

    35,000 - 40,000 men

    15,000 - 20,000 men

    25,000 - 30,000 men

    35,000 - 40,000 men

    [1] - according to A. Levitski
    [2] - according to L. Beskrovnyi

    [1] - according to E.Tarle
    [2] - according to A. Levitski









    The recruits no longer had their hands
    marked with tattoo-like cross.

    The educated man serves in artillery
    The dandy in the cavalry
    The idler in the navy
    The fool serves in the infantry.
    - a Russian saying

    Fathers and mothers of recruits were not happy when their sons were called up to arms, as there was little chance to see them again. Usually in the moment as the young men were about to leave their homes for the recruiting post a tearful discord of mournful wailing mingled with cries. The women were making the sign of the cross and calling out their blessing on the departing ones. It was a very sad moment for the family. Until 1793-1805 the term of service in the army had been "so long as one's strength and health allow", that meant for life. Later on was shortened to 25 years. In 1810-1811 was even considered shortening this term to 12 years but the growing possibility of war against France halted this discussion.

    Janet Hartley writes: "Once a soldier was conscripted, he was in practice - as symbolised by the loss of his beard - separated forever from village, family and peasant society, and, in effect, regarded as dead. Most Russian veterans ended up in garrison regiments or were cared for by monasteries, as an obligation imposed on them by the state. The few who returned to their village were generally old, sick or maimed, and found themselves outcasts, who were unwanted, unwelcomed and uable to contribute to the economic life of the village." (Janet Hartley, chapter "The Patriotism of the Russian army in 1812" in Charles Esdaile's “Popular Resistance in the French Wars”)

    Avoidance of being taken into army was a serious problem in Russia. Big forests, sparsely populated land, horrible corruption in administration and in the army made this problem very difficult to fight. Often large number of young men hid in the woods at the first rumor of a levy. Others bribed the authorities or self-mutilated their bodies to avoid service. For many decades those who self-mutilated were harshly punished until Tsar Alexandr lightened the sentences.

    Approximately 20 % of male population (clergy, Jews) were not subject to call up. The Finns were exempted from the horrors of being recruited for most of the period, though there were volunteers.

    Recruitment "out of every 500 souls":

  • 1811 - 4 recruits, minnimum height of 2 arshin and 3 vershok
  • 1812 - 20 recruits, 18-40 year-old, height of 2 arshin 2 vershok
  • 1813 - 8 recruits
  • 1814 - 1 recruit

    A recruit had to satisfy three physical requirements:

  • age
  • height
  • fitness

    The doctors also looked closely for those who had physical or mental problems, were squinted or without front teeth. Bald men were accepted although some considered baldness as sign of weaker health or other problem. The recruits no longer had their hands marked with tattoo-like cross; neither they were kept in chains to make difficult any runaway.

    In the army also served the nobles. They could enter the service as private, NCO or as an officer. Those who were illiterate were accepted but only in the rank of private. (War Ministry Centennial 1802-1902. General Staff. Book I, Section III (pages 1-30). St. Petersburg 1912)

    In 1809 Tsar Alexandr raised the minimum age of acceptance to 19, which to some degree improved the physical strength and stamina of the troopers. But when the threat of a new war against Napoleon put a shadow over Russia, the need for bigger army was such that in 1811 it was lowered to 18, and officers accepted even under-age boys.
    The maximum limit of age was extended in 1806 from 30 to 36 and in 1808 even 37-years old were accepted. In 1815 the wars ended and it was again lowered to 35, at least theoretically. But during the dramatic campaign in 1812 the maximum age was set up at 40. Generally the officers interpreted the regulations and requirements quite flexibly and even much older men were accepted.

    In the first phases of the Napoleonic Wars the authorities in the Russian army considered the height of recruits as a general criterion of good health, martial looks and strength. Generally the official height requirements in Russian army were similar to other European armies. In 1812, when was a dramatic need to increase the army, the minimum was set at as low as 4 feet and 11 ½ inches. In 1815, when the wars ended, it was heightened to as much as 5 feet and 3 inches.

    No height requirements were applied when a vagabond was captured by police and turned over to the army.

    Tsar Alexandr also heightened the fitness requirements.

    The soldier spent his time on training, drilling and in the monotony of garrison life. In the summer the air was thick with flies and fleas. There was lack of decent food, and the NCOs could turn the life of privates into a living hell. During winter the sound of coughing in the morning could drown out the sound of officers’ orders. But as it seems though, there were not many better choices for young men at this time.
    Being a soldier meant being fed and clothed in state’s expense. Being a soldier also meant that their social status changed. The private was reminded time after time that he is not a peasant, he is a soldier. The private also received money, for example in 1801 the cavalryman annual pay was 12 roubles. (Keep - “Soldier of the Tsar - Army and Society in Russia 1462-1874” 1985, p 184)

  • ~

    Gen. Arakcheyev when angry would tear soldiers’ mustaches.
    On the first night of his honeymoon, Grand Duke Constantine
    abandoned his nuptial duties in order to drill his troops.

    "Recruit three, beat to death two, train one."
    (Private Moskalev who deserted three times
    received sentence; 15,000 blows !)

    For the serfs and peasants the brutality of landlords was a common thing in life and there was not much to surprise the soldiers in this aspect. The majority of officers considered the best soldiers to be a humble and unthinking serf. Even during the Crimean War the world known writer Lev Tolstoy was struck by the difference between the confident bearing of the French and English prisoners and the servility and unmurmuringly submitting to officers of the Russian troops. By the way, Cossacks were not serfs, they were free and had own land.)

    Officer’s behaviour toward his subordinates supposed to be caring and patient - as father does toward his children. Such officer was nicknamed “father" by his happy troops. Unfortunately not every officer represented this attitude, and although the saying “recruit three, beat to death two, train one” is an exaggeration, many officers indeed mistreated their subordinates, abused them verbally and physically, and the punishment was swift and tough. Tzar Alexander abolished cruel punishment and torture in the army, but the brute General Arakcheyev when angry would tear soldiers’ mustaches and Konstantin would use his fists freely.

    The paternalistic principle was compatible with beating as such. One of the major punishments was running the gauntlet (from Prussian shpitzruten). The victim was subjected to the humiliation of a public beating by his peers. The privates were lined up in two opposing ranks to form a "street" through which the fellow, stripped to the waist, staggered along while the men on either side struck him with switches or thongs. To prevent him from moving too fast a NCO who held a musket with the bayonet fixed and pointed to the rear preceded him. An officer rode alongside on horseback to ensure that the blows were properly administered. Drummers beat their drums loudly drowned victim's mad cries.

    The gauntlet was also applied in other European countries where it was on the statue-book, Russia was not alone. Discipline in the Prussian army was harsh and in the British armed forces was flogging.
    The only exception in corporal punishment was France. No other country however surpassed Russia in the number of blows and passes. Private Moskalev who deserted three times received sentence; 15,000 blows.

    Generals Barclay de Tolly, Volkonski, Kutusov and few others advised moderation in discipline.

    In 1814-15 during occupation of France the Russians tasted the free-loving spirit of the “godless French” and some prefered it over return to the Holy Russia. Artillery officer Baranovich wrote that up to 40.000 privates and NCOs deserted the army and stayed in France.
    In 1814 Rostopchin wrote to wife that even in the Guard Cavalry Regiment (Chevalier Garde) 60 men with weapons deserted only in one night ! He added that the French farmers liked the robust guardsmen, paid them well and offered their daughters to marry. The army set special detachments of police who were sent from Russia to Paris to catch the deserters.

    Today thousands of Frenchmen has Russian ancestors. One of the XX century French detective writers, George Simenon, the author of “Inspector Maigret”, said with pride that his ancestor was a Russian soldier Semenov. His name was altered to French Simenon. (Baliazin Woldemar - “Barklai de Tolli. Vernost i terpenie.” 1998, p 502)


    The NCOs were professional and brave
    but the junior officers were especially
    ill qualified. Grand Duke Constantine
    used to say: "An officer must never use
    his common sense or intelligence.”

    "They [officers] usually spent their time
    drinking, gambling or sleeping"
    - Sir Wilson

    Russian officers in 1813, 
Vinkhuijzen Collection The goals and general format of the Russian officer corps was the same as in the rest of Europe. However the low level of professionalism and education in Russian society and hence in the officer corps, little regard for individual, system of supression, bureaucratic corruption, court intrigues and camarilla, made them inferior in some aspects (but not in bravery) to officers from western European armies.

    British Colonel Sir Neil Campbell writes: "The officers who possess education are so few in proportion to the whole number in the army that they are to be found only in the Guards, on the Staff and in a few of the favourite regiments of cavalry.
    The staff officers are generally ten times as numerous as those attached to the generals of other nations; and the whole of them, excepting the chief, spend their days for the most part in eating and drinking, gambling and sleeping - all these operations too being performed in the same room, and by parties relieving each other !"

    The famous Russian Fieldmarhal Suvorov rated the staff officers and generals very lowly. "As long as the two armies [Russian and Austrian] were together in Italy, Suvorov never consulted the Russian generals, 'making no scruple of saying to them openly before the Austrians ... that they were too ignorant to be consulted upon anything ... " (Duffy - "Eagles over the Alps" p 27)

    Most infantry officers applied to the regiment of choice and served as privileged lower ranks (with the NCO ranks of sub-ensign [podpraporshchik]) until they were commissioned. The term “bourbon” in army slang meant an officer who was promoted from NCO or private.

    According to Petre the infantry officers were not worthy of the rank and file and NCOs. The lower officer ranks were especially ill qualified, especially in infantry. The best situation was in the artillery and in the Guard.

    Many officers were corrupted to the bone, embezzling army funds, and wasting their time and money on gambling. Many ran up huge debts. For example Major Löwenstern won and lost about half a million roubles in 1810 !

    In 1811-1812 Tzar Alexander increased the pay for all officers. For example colonel got increase from 900 to 1.040-1.250 roubles.

    Officer of jagers 
in Germany 1813, 
by Oleg Parhaiev. Rather than working through the problems, Russian officers often retreated to hanging around together smoking and drinking late into the night, perpetuating the irresponsibility. The drinking was probably the worst among cavalry officers. When several hussar regiments quartered in one place their officers gathered and got drunk. They liked to drink as they called it “in Polish style”, from very big glasses.

    The Soumy Hussar Regiment had its own customs. A wooden bracket was brought, and big quantity of brandy, champaigne and wine were poured into it. Then a horseshoe was heated until it became red and was thrown into the bracket with alcohol. The horseshoe had to protect against thiefs. The hussars gathered around the bracket and drank. Hay was brought into the room and scattered all around on the floor to protect against “bad accidents”. The thick layer of hay also served as a bed when they drank too much and passed out. Several privates were posted on guard looking for accidental fires from drunk officers smoking their pipes.

    But not all gambled and got drunk, some had an interest in the finer things of life. De Tolly’s house was a kind of regimental club for officers where they could read books and discuss their problems or military matters. There were also officers who carried their books on campaign in their knapsacks and had disputes about the culture and arts. Popular were French poet Jean Jacques Rousseau and English writer Jonathan Swift.
    Especially those in the Guard as being better educated were interested with the western culture and many were no strangers to European life-style. These bright and open minds studied in German and French universities and often spoke several languages. After the Napoleonic Wars they returned home with the intention of transplanting France into Russia. They also formed Masonic lodges and secret societies, which had the goal of obtaining a constitutional system for Russia.

    The self-esteem and confidence of Russian officer was much heightened after the long stretch of victorious campaigns over the Swedes, Poles, Persians, Turks, and especially over Napoleon himself in 1812, 1813 and 1814, including the parade-marches in Paris.
    Eduard von Löwenstern of Soumy Hussar Regiment described how proud he was in 1813 when Tzar Alexander and the Russian and Austrian troops entered Leipzig and how all balconies, roofs and windows in the city were full of people waving their white flags of surrender. Another officer described how the crowds in Berlin enthusiastically greeted Russian troops.

    In 1812 officers who came from aristocrats, gentry, and landowners with or without serfs consisted of 78 % of all officers. From officers' families who were noblemen and landowners were 9.6 %, and from clergy families came 2.6 % of officers. In comparison in France only approx. 25 % of officers came from nobility and landowners.

    The majority of Russian officers (64.3 %) were between ages of 20 and 30 years.
    The vast majority (90.4 %) among majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels were between 25 and 45.
    (Tzelorungo - "Kapitan N. Portret russkogo ofitzera 1812 goda" in "Rodina" #6/7 1992 pp 10-11)
    For comparison the French senior officers were in similar age, the colonel was on average in his early 40s, and the battalion commander in late 30s. (Sokolov - "Kapitan N. Portret frantzuskogo ofitzera 1812 goda" in "Rodina" #6/7 1992 pp 14-15)

    Officers who came from Russia, Ukraine and White Russia (Belarus) made of 87 % of officers, Lithuanians, Fins, Georgians, Tatars and others consisted of 7 %, and those who came from Poland 4 %. The foreigners who came from Western Europe consisted in fact only 2 % of all officers.

    The foreigners were volunteers, political emigrants, or simply were career and adventure seekers. During the reign of Tzar Paul the number of “Germans” in officer corps notably increased. The monarch hoped for western influence and new ideas on Russian military and he feared the hostile toward him nobles and native generals. Russia embraced them all. Below only few names of the long list of "foreigners".
    - Madatov and Zhevahov, commanders of hussars, came from the Caucasus region.
    - Ilia M. Duka (1768-1830) from the cuirassiers was a Serb.
    - Ivan Shevich, the commander of Guard Cavalry Division, was a Serb.
    - Kutaisov, commander of artillery at Borodino, was son of captured Turk.
    - Nikolai I. Depreradovich (1767-1843), commander of 1st Cuirassier Division, was also a Serb.
    - Emmanuel, the commander of dragoon brigade, was born in Serbia.
    - General Bennigsen, the commander of Russian army, was a German.
    - Anastasi Yurkovski (1755-1831) came from Hungary. He had a long history of fighting against the Turks.
    - Wintzingerode (1761-1818) came from the Hessian army.
    - Orurk (O’Rourke) had Irish and French ancestors.
    - General Diebich came from Prussia.
    - Friedrich Tettenborn came from the Austrian army.
    - Chaplitz (Czaplic) was a Pole.
    - de Lambert was a French royalist.
    - Anton Chalikov, commander of Lifeguard Uhlans, came from Georgian nobles.
    - Andrei Zass had ancestors from Westphalia.
    - Zukatto (Zuccato) was a descendand from an old Venetian family.

    The presence of “foreigners” annoyed those of Russians with nationalistic orientation. The fiery fighter General Petr I. Bagration complained that “there were so many Germans that a Russian could not breathe.” But Bagration himself was not native Russian, he came from Georgia. The “real Russians” called the officers who used French language instead of Russian as fagots. (Begunova - “Povsednevnaya zhizn russkogo gusara v tsarstvovanie Alexandra I” 2000, p 283)

    The Prussian and Russian officers respected but didn't like each other. Prussian pedantery and seriousness made no friends among the easygoing Russians. The Russians felt as they were very needed by the Nemtzy (German speaking people) to restore their might and prestige but there was no comradeship.


    "Although it has been fashionable for many historians
    to discount Kutuzov's showing as a commander,
    there is little doubt that he was a general of great ability.
    ... He was a cunning and able strategist ..."
    - David Chandler, British historian

    Kutuzov - The Man Who Defeated Napoleon
    "The glory of Russia is inseparable from you."
    - Tzar Alexander I, 1813

    Kutuzov. Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was born in 1745 in St Petersburg as the son of a lieutenant-general, military engineer, retired general Illarion Matveevich Kutuzov who had served Tzar Peter the Great. Chandler writes: "Kutuzov received a commission in the Russian artillery under Tsarina Catherine II. He later transferred into the newly raised Jager or light infantry corps, which in due course he rose to command." (Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars" pp 229-230)

      Kutuzov military career:
      1757 - sent to engineering and artillery school.
      He became one of the best students.
      1764-69 as junior officer he participated in the campaign against Poland
      1770 - requested to be posted to the Turkish front
      1770-74 in the war against the Turks Kutuzov lost an eye in combat
      1777 - colonel
      1784 - general major
      1787-92 Kutuzov distinguished himself in the campaign against Turkey. He participated in the capture of Ochakov and Izmail, and in the battle of Rimnik. Kutuzov was promoted to the rank of general-leutenant.
      1793-98 ambassador at Constantinopole and then in Berlin. He was also a governor-general of Finland and governor-general of Saint Petersburg.
      1805 - Kutuzov was appointed to command the Russian army sent to aid Austria. Arriving in the theater too late to prevent the Austrian disaster at Ulm, he fought an effective rear-guard action against the French, eluded one trap after another, and thanks in no small measure to Murat's errors of judgement, succeeded both in moving his army back to the north bank of the Danube and thereafter linking up with Buxhovden's reinforcements around Olmutz. Burdened by the presence of both Tsar Alexander and Kaiser Francis at his headquarters, he allowed himself to be forced into what he considered to be premature and ill-considered action at Austerlitz.
      1806-11 Kutuzov served as governor-general of Lithuania
      1811-12 Kutuzov again took command against the Ottomans and defeated them in a brilliant campaign that brought Bessarabia to Russia. His army however was needed in the upcoming war with the French, so Kutuzov concluded the Treaty of Bucharest, which stipulated for annexation of Bessarabia into Russia For this success he was made a prince.

    Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was a well-educated multilingual man. He didn't not like showy uniforms for himself, he scorned his officers who favored them. The pomp and circumstance of 19th Century armies, meant nothing to him. The aristocrats didn’t like Kutuzov, they thought that he was too simple minded and his lifestyle was too close to a lifestyle of a peasant. He was certainly a colourful character not above heavy drinking and fond of young women.

    Kutuzov was a cautious and calculating general, known for shrewdness. In 1805 he announced armistice between Russia and France to French Marshal Murat, who had been hotly pursuing him. The flamboyant and perfumed Murat was convinced. Napoleon was furious, and exclaimed to Murat that he had been duped. Some Prussian generals considered Kutuzov as the most cunning of all allied generals.

    Kutuzov had a broad knowledge of the infantry and jagers. Kutuzov wrote several notes about their tactics and recommended wider use of skirmishers. He cared about the morale of his troops by doing the religious mass before Borodino and giving short personal speeches to every regiment. It was far more effective than any of the eloquent proclamations issued by other generals.

    Kutuzov was against Russian involvement in the war of 1805 believing it should have been solely an Austrian problem. When the war began, he advised delaying an all out campaign until the following year when Prussia would join them.

    Kutuzov in 1812 When in 1812 Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief and arrived to the army he was greeted by the entire army with great joy. Within two weeks he decided to give major battle near Borodino in what has been described as the bloodiest battle in human history up to that date.

    Battle of Borodino, 1812.

    Kutuzov was not fixed on defending geographical objects like many other generals, he even abandoned Moscow. He said: "As long as the Russian army exists, and is in a condtition to oppose the French, we preserve the hope of winning the war."

    Kutuzov supervising 
preparations at Borodino Kutuzov realized that the Russian army would not survive another such battle and ordered to leave Moscow and retreat. They have crossed the Moskva River, turned to the west and pitched camp in Tarutino. At the same time Cossacks and hussars continued moving along the Ryazan Road misleading Murat's French cavalry. When Murat discovered his error he did not retreat but made camp not far from the Russians in order to keep his eye on them. Kutuzov ordered Bennigsen and Miloradovich to attack Murat with two battle groups stealthily crossing the forest in the night. In the darkness most of the Russian troops got lost. By the morning only Cossacks reached the original destination, suddenly attacked the French troops and captured the French camp with transports and cannons. Since other Russian units came late the French were able to recover. When the Russians emerged from the forest they forced Murat to retreat. The French suffered 4,500 killed, wounded and prisoners, the Russians lost 1,200 dead.

    The historians consider that, next to the battle of Borodino and the occupation of Moscow by the French, the most important episode of the war of 1812 was the movement of the Russian army from the Ryazan to the Kaluga Road and to the Tarutino camp- the so-called flank march across the Krasnaya Pakhra River. Kutuzov's new position was very good. He was closer to region rich in food and supplies and could threaten the flank and communication lines of Napoleon's army. Napoleon was brilliantly outmaneuvered by Kutuzov. Kutuzov set up a military camp at Tarutino where he received reinforcements and had time to train new recruits.

    Kutuzov sent energetic officers with fast moving detachments to join the guerillas in their fight against the French occupants. They set Russia on fire.

    Kutuzov at Borodino The Russian army attacked the French at Malo-Yaroslavetz, this battle discouraged Napoleon from continuing his march on the southern road to Smolensk. Napoleon unwillingly returned on the route from which he came, a road now totally devastated. All the decisions of Kutuzov earned him the title of "Old Fox" by Napoleon himself.

    The old general's cautious pursuit evoked criticism, but at any rate he allowed only a remnant of Napoleon's half million army to escape. His wise strategy let the hunger, winter, and the Cossacks take its toll on the invaders.

    Russian and Prussian generals and Sir Wilson of Britain urged Kutuzov to more energetic pursuit. Kutuzov however thought Russia had been bleeding far more than Britain, Austria and Prussia and there was no need to bleed even more. Kutuzov disappointed the Prussians too because he was reluctant to continue his pursuit across the Vistula River in Poland. Kutuzov's death gave birth to new hopes for the Prussians.

    Kutuzov was promoted to the rank of fieldmarshal and had been awarded the title of His Serene Highness Prince of Smolensk. The Tzar wrote him: "The Glory of Russia is inseparable from you." Early in 1813 the old Kutuzov fell ill and died. Memorials have been erected to him in Moscow and in St. Petersbourg where he is buried. Among Russian generals Kutuzov has been held second only to his teacher Suvorov.

    If you speak Russian please visit this webpage where you will find a very interesting discussion for and against Kutuzov.

    Statue of Kutuzov in Moscow.

    Sources and Links.
    Recommended Reading.

    Anenkov - "Istoriya Konnogo Polka 1731-1848" 1849
    Austin, Paul Britten- "1812: The March on Moscow"' 1993
    Begunova - "Povsednevnaya zhizn russkogo gusara v tsarstvovanie Alexandra I" 2000
    Beskrovny - "Borodinskoie srazhenie" 1971
    Bezotosnyi, Vasiliev, Gorshman, Parhaiev, Smirnov - "Russkaia armiia 1812-1814" 2000
    Bogdanovich - "Istoriya Otechestvennoy Voiny 1812 Goda" 1859-1860
    Bogdanovich - "Istoriya Voiny 1813 Goda" 1863 Vol. 1
    Bondarenko - "Kavalergardy: istoriia, biografii, memuary" 1997
    Bowden - "Napoleon and Austerlitz" 1997
    Bulgarin - "Vospominania" Part 3 and 4
    Clausewitz - "The Campaign of 1812 in Russia" 1992
    Curtis Cate - "The War of The Two Emperors" 1985
    Davydov - "In the Service of the Tsar against Napoleon: the memoirs of Denis Davidov, 1806-1814" 1999
    Duffy - "Austerlitz 1805" 1977
    Elting Esposito - "A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars" 1964
    Glinka - "Ocherki Borodinskogo Srazhenia" Part I and II
    Glinka - "Pisma russkogo ofitzera" Part I-V
    Hatov - "Obshchii opyt taktiki" 1807
    Heath P. P. H. - "Brienne" 1987
    Houssaye - "Napoleon and the Campaign of 1814" 1994
    Höpfner - "Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807" vol 3, 1991
    Keep - "Soldier of the Tsar- Army and Society in Russia 1462-1874" 1985
    Kersnovski - "Istoriya russkoi armii", 4 volumes
    Kukiel - "Wojna 1812" 1937
    Löwenstern - "Mit Graf Pahlens Reiterei gegen Napoleon" 1910
    Mikhailovskii-Danilevski - "Relation de la Campagne de 1805" 1846
    Mikhailofsky-Danilefsky - "History of the Campaign in France" 1839
    Moss - "A History of Russia" Vol I, 2002
    Parquin - "Napoleon's Victories: From the Personal Memories of Capt. C. Parquin ..." 1893
    Petre - "Napoleon's Campaign in Poland, 1806-1807"
    Petre - "Napoleon at Bay, 1814" London
    Plotho - "Der Krieg in Deutschland und Frankreich in den Jahren 1813 und 1814" 1817
    Plotho - "Relation de la Bataille de Leipzig"
    Podmazo - " Shefy i Komandiry Reguliarnykh Polkov Russkoi Armii (1796-1815)"
    Riehn - "1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign" 1991
    Seaton - "The Russian Army of the Napoleonic Wars" 1973
    Schubert - "Unter dem Doppeladler. Erinnerungen eines Deutschen in russischem Offiziersdienst 1789-1814"
    Slovak - "La bataille d'Austerlitz d'apres des documents inedits" 1908
    Shepelev - "Chinovnyi mir Rossii XVIII-nachalo XX v" 1999
    Shikanov - "Pervaia Polskaia Kampania 1806-1807" 2002
    Soltyk - "Napoleon en 1812. Memoires Historiques et Militaires sur la Campagne de Russie." 1836
    Sporschil - "Die Grosse Chronik. Geschichte des Krieges des Verbundeten Europa gegen Napoleon Bonaparte in den Jahren 1813, 1814 und 1815" 1844
    Stein - "Geschichte des Russischen Heeres" 1885
    Tolstoy L. - "War and Peace", New York 1994
    Viskovatov - "Historical Description of the Uniforms and Armaments of the Russian Army"
    Viskovatov - "Hronika Rossiyskoy Imperatorskoy Armii" 1852
    Wilson - "Narrative of Events during the Invasion of Russia"
    Zweguintzov - "L'Armee Russe" 1973
    Zvegintsov - "Russkaia armiia. Chast' 4-ya, 1801-1825." 1973
    Yermolov - "Zapiski A.P. Yermolova 1798-1826"
    History of Russia.
    Mark Conrad's "Russian Military History" . 2
    Russian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars
    Proyekt 1812

    Russian Infantry - - - - - Russian Cavalry and Cossacks - - - - - Russian Artillery

    Russian Imperial Guard

    Battle of Heilsberg 1807
    Bennigsen vs Napoleon
    Battle of Borodino 1812
    The bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic wars
    Battle of Dresden, 1813
    Russians, Austrians and Prussians
    crushed by Napoleon
    Battle of Leipzig, 1813
    The Battle of the Nations,
    the largest conflict until World War One.
    Battle of La Rothiere 1814
    Russians under Blucher defeated Napoleon.

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies