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Chapter 5

  • 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.[[128]](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.