Having defeated Napoleon, General Mikhail Ilarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was called “the conqueror of the conqueror of the world.” Almost immediately after his death in 1813, his first biographer proclaimed him a general “who had accomplished more than Caesar, Hannibal, and Scipio combined.” Poets competed in eulogies. Russia’s greatest, Alexander Pushkin, stood solemnly “with lowered head” before the “sacred sepulchre” in which Kutuzov was buried: “[There] Sleeps that potentate,/ That idol of the northern hosts,/ The honored guardian of a sovereign land,/ Subduer of its enemies all.”

In his fascinating new biography of Kutuzov, the historian Alexander Mikaberidze, an expert on the Napoleonic Wars, explains that Kutuzov’s victory over Napoleon restored Russia’s pride, indeed “its very sense of national...

 

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Alexander Mikaberidze
Kutuzov
Oxford University Press, 816 pages, $34.95
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