In 1812 and 1813 Kutuzov was openly accused of blundering. The Emperor wa_issatisfied with him. And in a history recently written by order of th_ighest Authorities it is said that Kutuzov was a cunning court liar,
frightened of the name of Napoleon, and that by his blunders at Krasnoe an_he Berezina he deprived the Russian army of the glory of complete victor_ver the French.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_128) Such is the fate not o_reat men (grands hommes) whom the Russian mind does not acknowledge, but o_hose rare and always solitary individuals who, discerning the will o_rovidence, submit their personal will to it. The hatred and contempt of th_rowd punish such men for discerning the higher laws. For Russian historians,
strange and terrible to say, Napoleon- that most insignificant tool of histor_ho never anywhere, even in exile, showed human dignity—Napoleon is the objec_f adulation and enthusiasm; he is grand. But Kutuzov—the man who from th_eginning to the end of his activity in 1812, never once swerving by word o_eed from Borodino to Vilna, presented an example exceptional in history o_elf-sacrifice and a present consciousness of the future importance of wha_as happening—Kutuzov seems to them something indefinite and pitiful, and whe_peaking of him and of the year 1812 they always seem a little ashamed. An_et it is difficult to imagine an historical character whose activity was s_nswervingly directed to a single aim; and it would be difficult to imagin_ny aim more worthy or more consonant with the will of the whole people. Stil_ore difficult would it be to find an instance in history of the aim of a_istorical personage being so completely accomplished as that to which al_utuzov's efforts were directed in 1812. Kutuzov never talked of "fort_enturies looking down from the Pyramids," of the sacrifices he offered fo_he fatherland, or of what he intended to accomplish or had accomplished; i_eneral he said nothing about himself, adopted no prose, always appeared to b_he simplest and most ordinary of men, and said the simplest and most ordinar_hings. He wrote letters to his daughters and to Madame de Stael, read novels,
liked the society of pretty women, jested with generals, officers, an_oldiers, and never contradicted those who tried to prove anything to him.
When Count Rostopchin at the Yauza bridge galloped up to Kutuzov with persona_eproaches for having caused the destruction of Moscow, and said: "How was i_ou promised not to abandon Moscow without a battle?" Kutuzov replied: "And _hall not abandon Moscow without a battle," though Moscow was then alread_bandoned. When Arakcheev, coming to him from the Emperor, said that Ermolo_ught to be appointed chief of the artillery, Kutuzov replied: "Yes, I wa_ust saying so myself," though a moment before he had said quite the contrary.
What did it matter to him—who then alone amid a senseless crowd understood th_hole tremendous significance of what was happening—what did it matter to hi_hether Rostopchin attributed the calamities of Moscow to him or to himself?
Still less could it matter to him who was appointed chief of the artillery.
Not merely in these cases but continually did that old man—who by experienc_f life had reached the conviction that thoughts and the words serving a_heir expression are not what move people—use quite meaningless words tha_appened to enter his head. But that man, so heedless of his words, did no_nce during the whole time of his activity utter one word inconsistent wit_he single aim toward which he moved throughout the whole war. Obviously i_pite of himself, in very diverse circumstances, he repeatedly expressed hi_eal thoughts with the bitter conviction that he would not be understood.
Beginning with the battle of Borodino, from which time his disagreement wit_hose about him began, he alone said that the battle of Borodino was _ictory, and repeated this both verbally and in his dispatches and reports u_o the time of his death. He alone said that the loss of Moscow is not th_oss of Russia. In reply to Lauriston's proposal of peace, he said: There ca_e no peace, for such is the people's will. He alone during the retreat of th_rench said that all our maneuvers are useless, everything is bein_ccomplished of itself better than we could desire; that the enemy must b_ffered "a golden bridge"; that neither the Tarutino, the Vyazma, nor th_rasnoe battles were necessary; that we must keep some force to reach th_rontier with, and that he would not sacrifice a single Russian for te_renchmen. And this courtier, as he is described to us, who lies to Arakchee_o please the Emperor, he alone—incurring thereby the Emperor'_ispleasure—said in Vilna that to carry the war beyond the frontier is useles_nd harmful. Nor do words alone prove that only he understood the meaning o_he events. His actions—without the smallest deviation—were all directed t_ne and the same threefold end: (1) to brace all his strength for conflic_ith the French, (2) to defeat them, and (3) to drive them out of Russia,
minimizing as far as possible the sufferings of our people and of our army.
This procrastinator Kutuzov, whose motto was "Patience and Time," this enem_f decisive action, gave battle at Borodino, investing the preparations for i_ith unparalleled solemnity. This Kutuzov who before the battle of Austerlit_egan said that it would be lost, he alone, in contradiction to everyone else,
declared till his death that Borodino was a victory, despite the assurance o_enerals that the battle was lost and despite the fact that for an army t_ave to retire after winning a battle was unprecedented. He alone during th_hole retreat insisted that battles, which were useless then, should not b_ought, and that a new war should not be begun nor the frontiers of Russi_rossed. It is easy now to understand the significance of these events—if onl_e abstain from attributing to the activity of the mass aims that existed onl_n the heads of a dozen individuals—for the events and results now lie befor_s. But how did that old man, alone, in opposition to the general opinion, s_ruly discern the importance of the people's view of the events that in al_is activity he was never once untrue to it? The source of that extraordinar_ower of penetrating the meaning of the events then occuring lay in th_ational feeling which he possessed in full purity and strength. Only th_ecognition of the fact that he possessed this feeling caused the people in s_trange a manner, contrary to the Tsar's wish, to select him—an old man i_isfavor—to be their representative in the national war. And only that feelin_laced him on that highest human pedestal from which he, the commander i_hief, devoted all his powers not to slaying and destroying men but to savin_nd showing pity on them. That simple, modest, and therefore truly great,
figure could not be cast in the false mold of a European hero—the suppose_uler of men—that history has invented. To a lackey no man can be great, for _ackey has his own conception of greatness.