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Someone once defined military talent as the ability to make error-free judgments in conditions of precious little time and an acute lack of accurate information. Judging by the strict standards of the art of war, Alexander Vasilyevich SUVOROV (1730–1800), one of Russia's greatest military leaders, was perhaps not a genius like Alexander the Great, Caesar or Napoleon. He was more than a genius! Russia will never have another Suvorov. He embodied the best of the Russian people – everything bright and original. He was so beloved by his contemporaries during his lifetime that not even Pushkin could compare up to his glory. His soldiers, officers and generals were ready to die to carry out his orders, and consequently could defeat any opponent. If it were not for his victories near Ramnic and at Izmail, in the Crimea, Poland, Italy and Switzerland – who knows how Russia’s history would have unfolded? Suvorov not only won those major battles, he raised, educated, trained, nurtured and tutored many great military leaders, from Bagration to Kutuzov, who went on to defend Russia in the War of 1812. He was his Tsar’s obedient servant, his soldiers’ caring father; he never lost a single battle as an army commander. A true defender of his Fatherland, he once said: “Let all of Europe try and conquer Russia; if she should try, she’ll find here her hermopylae, Leonidas and her coffin.” A true patriot, he viewed Russia as a unique country, as expressed when he said: “Nature has produced just one Russia; she will have no rivals.” He suffered tremendously from the unfairness of life in Russia: “I’ve been to the Tsar’s court, not as a courtier but as Aesop or La Fontaine: my jokes and my animal parables have helped me tell the truth.” Suvorov has remained forever in the grateful memory of the Russian people. Every military theory textbook credits him as an unsurpassed example of patriotism and military art. He remains our role model and our teacher, as beloved today as always.

Al e x an d e r Va sily e v i ch

SU V O R OV 1730 –1800

Alexander Vasilyevich



Moscow EKSMO

Translated by EGO Translating Company Book series design and layout by I. Osipov Biography by Adj.-Gen. M. I. Dragomirov, Cavalier of the Order of Apostle Andrew the First-Called Foreword by A.N. Lukirsky


Suvorov, A. V. he Science of Victory / Alexander Suvorov – Moscow, Eksmo, 2013 – 480 p. With illustrations. ISBN 978-5-699-68200-3 he Science of Victory is a collection of the most fascinating and important texts written by Russia's foremost military commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (1730–1800), and includes unique memoirs by his contemporaries and witnesses to the events described. his publication debuts a new series by Eksmo Publishers: Great Military Commanders. his collection of orders and reports, letters and memoirs, diaries and theoretical studies creates a detailed mosaic of Russian military history of the last third of the 18th century. Maps, pictures, drawings and portraits have been especially collected for this publication to allow readers to gain a visual appreciation of Suvorov's era – the great era of great Russian victories.

ISBN 978-5-699-68200-3

© Text, illustrations, layout and design by Artnet Media Publishers, 2011 © OOO Eksmo Publishers, 2012 © Agency of Children's Sports Development, 2013 © Foreword by A.N. Lukirsky, 2013 © Translated by EGO Translating Company, 2013

As far as we are aware, this is the first-ever publication of he Science of Victory, written by the greatest military leader of all time, Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov (1729–1800). Suvorov wrote this book in 1795. Suvorov is indeed the primus inter pares of military commanders, a figure who occupies a separate chapter in the book of achievements by Russia’s greatest military leaders, and a man who made a vital contribution to transforming Russia into a country that continues to span 1/9 of the Earth’s surface. his publication is dedicated to a great man and coach, one of the most distinguished sons of Anglo-Saxon civilisation, and one of the greatest Gunslingers in the world – Bob Brett. For many decades, he has served as an example of a real man with high honour, boundless perseverance and benevolence for many people worldwide. We are hopeful that this book will help everyone searching for a path to courage, victory and God find their way. Sincerely, Denis Kornilov, Project Coordinator 2013



lexander Vasilyevich Suvorov gained international fame after his brilliant Italian campaign of 1799, during which he defeated two armies of the French Republic headed by the best military leaders of their time. Suvorov was the only military leader of the Enlightenment who managed to achieve such success. Before he was able to achieve these highs, however, he spent more than 50 years in military service. He began serving as a 12-year-old, a private of the Guards, and completed his service at the age of 70, a Field Marshal and commander of allied armies. he geography of his military campaigns is expansive, stretching from Finland in the north to Astrakhan, Crimea and the southern mountain slopes in the south, from Prussia in the west to the Volga steppes in the east. Suvorov took part in almost every war fought by the Russian empire: the Seven Years’ War, campaigns against the Poles and the Turks. His last campaign was the war of the Second Coalition against France. His victories in Italy and Switzerland transformed Suvorov into a military giant on par with such titans as Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Friedrich II the Great and Napoleon. In 1798, the Russian Empire joined the Second Anti-French Coalition with Great Britain, Austria, Turkey and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. By order of Emperor Pavel I, in September 1798, Suvorov planned a war against France. Upon the insistence of the Allies, first and foremost, the royal court of Vienna, in February 1799 Pavel I appointed Suvorov as commander-in-chief of the allied Russian-Austrian army in Northern Italy. While passing through Mitau, Suvorov was introduced to the French King in exile, Louis XVIII. By that time, Suvorov had already earned all of the highest Russian military orders and the rank of Austrian General Field Marshal. In the Italian campaign of 1799, Suvorov’s armies were victorious over the French in the battles of Adda, Trebbia and Novi. He defeated three French 6

Suvorov and the Science of Victory

armies, all headed by famous generals – Moreau, MacDonald and Joubert. In each of these battles, Suvorov demonstrated his unrivaled dominance in the military arts, attacking his enemy relentlessly and swiftly with much fewer men. He liberated two Italian capital cities – Milan (of Lombardy) and Turin (of Piedmont). he allied armies defeated the fortresses of Breccia, Bergamo, Torton, Cuneo, Alexandria, Serravalle and Mantua. Within a short period of time, Northern Italy was liberated from all French armies, and Emperor Pavel I made Suvorov a Prince of Italy. During a pause in the campaign, he intended to undertake an excursion to France. However, he was ordered to leave the allied Austrian troops in Italy and proceed to Switzerland to merge with the Russian army commanded by General A. M. Rimsky-Korsakov. he Allied armies had planned to concentrate all Russian troops in Switzerland, so that they could invade France from the southeast at a later date. he famous Swiss campaign started in September. he Russians fought a number of fierce battles as they made their way across the Swiss Alps. heir road lay high in the mountains, deep in snow, at high altitudes. All heavy cargo had to be abandoned, and nearly all of the horses perished. Suvorov led his “miracle men” into relentless battles at Saint Gotthard, Teufelsbrucke, and Panixer Pass – clashes that went on to be heralded as model examples of selfless heroism in combat. Although suffering heavy losses, the Russian armies made it across the Alps and through Switzerland. But once he had crossed the Alps, Suvorov found that the corps commanded by General Rimsky-Korsakov had been defeated by the French, and the Austrian armies had retreated. After the campaign, the Russian troops spent their winter in Bavaria. It was from there in November 1799 that the Russian troops returned to Russia. For his Swiss campaign, Suvorov was awarded the highest military rank of Generalissimo of all Russian armies. he Emperor ordered that the Prince of Italy be commemorated as the Russian Mars. he monument to Suvorov as the God of War was unveiled in St. Petersburg one year after Suvorov’s death. he strenuous campaign had a bad effect on the Generalissimo’s health. He died on 6 (18) May 1800 in St. Petersburg and was buried in the Church of Annunciation at Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Suvorov had always attracted the attention of the public in general and military men in particular, with many anxious to learn the secret behind his victories. However, Suvorov left no major writings on his theory of war. His only piece of writing is a short essay entitled he Science of Victory, the quintessence of his many years of military service and his thoughts on the essence of military science combined with his immense practical experience. his work was completed in the 1790s, when Suvorov was commanding the Yekaterinoslav Division in the southern Russia. he Science of Victory was circulated among his subordinates as handwritten copies of his direct reports. Up until the last days of his life, Suvorov continued adding to his life’s work and developing his ideas. In his letter to F. Grimm on 7 March, 1800 he wrote: “Here are my tactics: valour, courage, astuteness, prudence, order, moderation, 7


knowledge of all rules, a good eye, swiftness, onslaught, humaneness, conciliation, oblivion.” When he trained his soldiers, Suvorov insisted on dynamism, flexibility, initiative and swiftness. His concept of war rested on the triad of swiftness, a good eye and onslaught. He wanted his soldiers and officers to advance briskly, assess the situation quickly and precisely, and attack swiftly. Just as another military genius of the 18th Century, Maurice de Saxe, Suvorov believed that victory depended on the strong legs and perseverance of his soldiers – their ability to march and manoeuvre on the battlefield. he Italian campaign supported this thesis brilliantly. During the hot summer of 1799, the Russian troops commanded by Suvorov completed an 85-mile march with full munitions in just 36 hours, and without any rest entered into a three-day battle. Suvorov focused on rapid action, once remarking: “One minute decides the battle, one hour decides the campaign; one day decides the fate of the Empire; I live by minutes – not hours.” Swiftness, perseverance, and a good eye – all the skills so critical to victory were developed by Suvorov in his men through on-going, strictly-supervised training. He trained his troops to fight in any circumstances, in any weather. He also wanted them to master what they would need to know in battle. It is thus with good reason that he Science of Victory has been published again and again, and remains popular among the reading public to this day. A.N. Lukirsky, Deputy Director, Suvorov State Memorial Museum


I “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46


uvorov had no predecessors, nor did he have followers; none was his equal, and we will probably be a long time waiting for someone to even compare to him. here is never continuity when it comes to greatness of spirit. hose who believe that Suvorov was the product of his time are, of course, wrong, simply repeating the old and overused false claim that “great men are not creators; they just express new forms and common aspirations”. his might be a progressive and interesting claim, but it is not always true: it sometimes happens, but often quite to the contrary, as in Suvorov’s case, it is no more than a repetition of a logical fallacy, which has long been known and expressed by the maxim: post hoc ergo propter hoc.** He was born in 1730, i.e., after the preceding years (post hoc); but when he was born, all military affairs in Russia had been in decline, no matter what researchers with their rose-tinted glasses might say. His father was a former

* his article was written by the general and military theorist Mikhail Ivanovich Dragomirov (1830–1905) as an introduction to a single volume by A.F. Petrushevsky Generalissimo Prince Suvorov, “so as once again to reflect on this Field Marshal soldier, who had no heroic appearance but remained immortal for what he embodied and what he did”. ** his Latin saying, which means “after the event, therefore due to it”, is a classical logical fallacy whereby two events that follow each other in time are perceived as having a causeand-effect relationship.



military man in name only; how then could he be the embodiment of that supposed continuity, which some researchers have sought to claim with a zeal better applied elsewhere? From the point of view of eternity, there is no doubt about it, “in the midst of all public and military activities, the role of any particular individual is almost negligible”, and that “no matter how great a genius may be, he cannot change the overall progression of events in one direction or another, if society is not ready for such new events”. he thing is, however, it is these same notions that illustrate that Suvorov was an exceptional and sporadic phenomenon of his time. Firstly, he had not the slightest influence on what followed, although he did do a multitude of great things. Secondly, it is a well-known fact that he had no predecessors before him or disciples after him and that for as long as sixty years after his death, his legacy remained almost completely forgotten. His system of training the troops would have been completely lost, had he not left for future generations his immortal he Science of Victory and his orders issued to the Austrians in 1799. Some may object that he was often remembered during the military disasters of 1805 and 1807 – not only remembered, but honoured with a monument in the Greek tradition. But just remembering his name without following his system, without being inspired by his victories, does mean forgetting. And not only that: as if in mockery of his legacy, to this day soldiers are being taught to respond left, right and centre saying “I cannot know” to questions asked of them, an expression Suvorov hated with a passion. He wanted his soldiers to be living and breathing people, the more receptive to his messages the better. After he was gone, new military leaders wanted to do away with “this mischievous spirit” as soon as possible and depersonalize their soldiers, turning them into machines. Sitting on a bench is easier and safer than on a hot war-horse. It is also true that on a bench you will not go far. Even his contemporaries did not borrow much from him, although his record of victories would presumably mean that there was much that he could share. His descendants had done even worse. hey opted for the so-called “general movement”, the style of the King of Prussia, despite the fact that the King of Prussia had been beaten while Suvorov had not. Suvorov himself complained bitterly about it during his lifetime. herefore, had any post hoc existed, propter hoc had not, and Petrushevsky is quite right when he says that among “Catherine’s Eagles”, Suvorov was a unique phenomenon with unparalleled military talent in terms of the originality of the art of war he preached and the military theory he advocated, and therefore he could not be called either a natural product of his age, nor a logical step in the development of Russian military history. Nature never follows the moods of a particular era; there is no law governing how people are incorporated into their time. Some are born ahead of their time and they remain alone – even in the face of striking evidence that the true nature of things is on their side and that they’d better be followed; as Scripture says, “stones will cry out that there is no faith in them.” Suvorov was 10


S. Cardelli. Suvorov at the Battle of Novi, 4 August, 1799. Early 19th century.

one such person born ahead of his time. Others lag behind; they are born late, and they always revert to the practices of old. Finally, most others become a part of the “human herd”, they are products of their time, vocal proclaimers of “new (!) forms and general aspirations”. As new as the old saying: “he same cabbage soup but thinner (at times thicker)”. In this case, the soup was started by Emperor Peter III, and cooked by Emperor Pavel I. Suvorov took no part in the military reforms of his day, it was not his thing; and I would even suggest that he was indifferent to them; he was filled with the ideal spirit of a great battle, he was convinced that organization did not matter if people were bold enough to face danger and die if need be. he art of war is distinct in that it is the only part of life that proves the progress theory wrong like no other. Warfare is an affair of spirit, so it is understood that if no energetic willpower is exercised in everyday life, the military art will decline in terms of will, the main component. he greater the decline, the more pronounced is the effect of self-preservation; then, even the slightest improvements in the sphere of the mind, i.e. self-preservation are assessed considerably higher than their actual significance. You hear many stories of how new theories of the supposed progress of military art deny some of Suvorov’s principles and the principles of other great commanders of the past – precisely which theories, these progressive new scholars do not say in their modesty. Although it is not difficult to understand that if, in the complex product sum (human being x ammunition (swords and firearms) x location x random element), only one part of each component 11


changes to a considerable degree for the particular component but negligibly overall, the product will not change; however, I repeat, it is easy to understand but few people do understand because the mind is a servant of self-preservation and counteracts it. he evolution of Roman life is convincing proof: just take the Republican period and compare it with the Byzantine period. During the latter period, the weaponry, military science, machinery and fortifications had certainly been more refined than during the former, but victory was still on the side of the barbarians. hey may not have had the equipment, but they had the courage and self-sacrifice of their warriors that the Byzantines did not. So, their obvious progress was in fact regression. It’s just like this in real life. After the reign of Peter the Great, who paid much attention to military aff airs, subsequent victories were recorded as well, as history tells us. But these victories were achieved not by soldiers but by the Russian integrity of the individuals involved, that is, not because of their training but in spite of it. To win, they did not have to be strong, just a little stronger than their opponent. There was definite progress during the period of Catherine the Great, then further refinement during the period leading up to the Crimean War, which therefore could hardly be called progressive. he General-in-Chief Abram Petrovich Gannibal Caucasus affair demonstrated that some(1669–1781) thing else was needed, not what was being done in European Russia; examples of great valour, extraordinary feats confirmed “the theory of the impossible” and were recorded in the history of the Caucasian Army, but still no one was convinced; to the contrary: parade units had always considered this army as suspiciously dissolute. What am I driving at? I mean that the vast majority of the military in times of peace cannot bring themselves to refrain from demanding what they do not need in wartime, and forget what they actually do need. Only a few concern themselves with the question of what to teach and how to teach, and just continue teaching by the books from the good old days, those of their parents and grandparents. I apologise for my digression but I will explain later. II Let’s return now to Suvorov and recall that the boy’s father had intended him for civil service because he thought that his son was small, frail, skinny and homely. he boy, meanwhile, learned his ABCs taking lessons for copper pennies, and read all of Plutarch’s works and every single military and history 12


book that he could find in his father’s library; even before he turned ten, lively, jovial and agile by nature, the young Suvorov spent hours reading or riding horses in bad weather, returning home tired, wet, and wind-beaten. Obviously, it was a strange habit for someone of his health, but if fate had sent him a brilliant teacher who could see the boy’s future clearly, he could have recommended no better medicine to improve and strengthen a skinny, frail boy. It was, of course, a method that was rather Spartan and could cost him his life. Here, we can clearly see Suvorov’s natural disposition, as often happens when someone is driven to a certain walk of life, sometimes in spite of himself, and most definitely against the wishes of all others. I understand that getting wet and cold once or twice might seem like fun to any boy, but to adopt and adhere to this regimen methodically and persistently at age ten is definitely a mark of being chosen to achieve great things. His father was, of course, somewhat alarmed, but, fortunately, did not stop his son from pursuing his regimen, due in particular to General Gannibal, who advised him not to interfere with the 11-year-old’s self-education on his path to his dream future. So, Suvorov immersed himself in the study of Plutarch, Cornelius Nepos, the feats of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, Charles XII, Montecuccoli, Condé, de Turenne, and Prince Eugene, later Marshal of Saxony, sticking to it for nearly seven years as a soldier, and then for his service as an officer. He did not neglect his general education either, studying history, geography and even elementary philosophy. His father taught him elementary mathematics, artillery, and fortification. his training programme provided ample nourishment for his young mind; the aspirations of his heart, however, were chiefly affected by Plutarch, whose work was known to inspire people of certain predispositions. I will show below how Plutarch played a significant role in shaping Suvorov’s spiritual self. III So what did Suvorov learn from his service and divine from his books? He enrolled in the Semenovsky Lifeguard Regiment, a regiment known for “doing the right thing”, although quite diverse in composition. Some regiment soldiers had had up to 17 servants to assist them, while others went AWOL, taking money from the prisoners they guarded. Suvorov had just two servants, and therefore belonged neither to the former nor especially the latter, and quickly established a reputation as someone who could always be relied on. Service in the Semenovsky Regiment could teach a young soldier the regimen of garrison service, but was hardly beneficial in terms of military training. he closest they came to combat was doing parade drills that had nothing to do with actual fighting: they twirled their rifles, marched in various formations and practiced for parades, sometimes too much. hey would sometimes hold cannon and rifle exercises (but without aiming). In times of peace back then, soldiers were taught things they did not need. he longer the peace, the more refined these trifles became, the more complex techniques they invented, with classes on bleaching their uniforms and powdering their hair. It was necessary to occupy the soldiers with some kind of work during their life-long or 25-year 13


long service, so they kept on repeating year after year what they had learned during their first or second year of service. And every year, it all began anew with the same old routine as for the new recruits. he problem was that commanding officers wanted to drive their soldiers into the habit of unquestioning obedience and make them follow orders instinctively and fast, without thinking. hey thought of this as the primary goal of military education. herefore, all these trivial exercises achieved that goal, but gave the soldiers no idea of their combat duties; over time the soldiers grew to dread the idea of combat. As one of the aphorisms of the time held, “nothing ruins the troops more than a war.” And, clearly, all this powdering and bleaching, rifle-twirling, etc. became things in-and-of-themselves, something very remote from the actual art of war. Understandably, all Suvorov could gain from such schooling was the habit of duty and order, which is certainly important and necessary in any kind of activity, but one thing was nevertheless lacking: he needed to learn the kind of soldierly duty that ceases to exist without practice; when a soldier lacks practice in this area, he is no longer a soldier but a doll for beautiful and pointless shows. It would seem simple to conclude that you can teach your troops obedience and order by training them in combat and not on the parade grounds, which have nothing in common except for the fact that in both cases it was the soldiers who were being trained. What could be simpler? Before Suvorov, the idea hadn’t occurred to anyone; but even when Suvorov made this great discovery and began using it (with much success, as is well-known), he could not find any followers. When he arrived in the army, Suvorov experienced something sadder still: “he Russian army in Suvorov’s younger years was going through a transitional stage, and the transition was difficult. Most of the officers either knew only the alphabet or were illiterate; regimental commanders routinely abused their vast powers; regimental headquarters adopted collegial decisions, and all service assignments were done only when absolutely necessary and unavoidable. Suvorov’s first years as soldier and then officer could not provide him with any good examples. In the army he saw ignorance, confusion, lethargy, and a lack of ability; troop movements were slow, often no more than eight miles a day, and discipline was lax. “After my own honest service,” Suvorov wrote about himself, “for three years I was good for nothing. hey (colonels) infuse their officers with indifference, they are Sybarites, not Spartans. hen they become generals, and nothing changes.” he same problem affected the tactical training of troops. During the Seven Years’ War, attack and regrouping was performed so slowly that an infantry regiment needed a full hour, and the army – a whole day to just get ready.” Neither in the Guards nor in the army did Suvorov find the kind of Spartan way of life to which he subjected himself afterwards and to which he remained faithful until the very end of his career. His military education was also fragmentary, with many negative examples. To appreciate this negativity, a contemporary set of criteria was needed: hundreds, even thousands of participants in these negative examples thought that everything was just fine and could not be 14


Petition submitted by a twelve-year-old A.V. Suvorov requesting enrollment in the Semenovsky Lifeguard Regiment, 1742

otherwise. It is a mark of extraordinary character to see harmful and dangerous things where others see nothing in particular or even notice only good things. IV Nonetheless, he had learned a lot from his books, in terms of quality, not quantity, and in the process of reading, had learned what hundreds and even thousands of those who had read the same books had overlooked. In other words, he had discovered some “open secrets”. He was original, if not exceptional in this way. Yes, he had had many teachers, which was nothing unusual; and his teachers were often so unoriginal that it seemed as if they copied from one another. he real surprise was that the clear and obvious open secret that he extracted from those books remained invisible and incomprehensible to others, even if they faithfully reproduced the text word for word. A terrifying aspect of military theory is the seeming ease with which it can be studied, and the considerable – even insurmountable, for some  – complexity of its practical implementation, since learning depends on intelligence, and practical application – on willpower. For clarity’s sake, let me give you an example from a different field, which is similar to military examples in terms of personal danger playing an important role: tightrope walking. It is quite simple in theory: your feet must be placed so that the line of the body’s centre of gravity passes exactly between the soles and falls onto the axis of the rope, but go ahead and try doing it! his open secret is in fact so easy that you can teach the words even to a parrot; but most people will have problems with the text because in any book, especially a book on warfare, readers find what they expect to find for themselves, i.e. pause and remember what corresponds to their inherent traits, reading habits and skills. 15

Science of victory