“To surprise – to win!” The beginning of Suvorov’s military career


V.I.Surikov. Suvorov’s crossing over the Alps.

The greatest Russian commander, genius of military art Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov was born 290 years ago. The commander has not lost a single battle. Repeatedly smashed the superior forces of the enemy. He became famous for his “Science of Victory” and his concern for the soldiers. Than he won the endless trust and love of the army.

Russian military historian Bogdanovich noted:

“Suvorov was and always will be a representative of our army. Many years will pass, other great leaders will appear among the Russian people and will show our regiments new ways to victory and glory. But every time when the steel wall of Russian bayonets has to fall on our enemies, we will remember Suvorov. “

Youth and the beginning of the service

Alexander was born on November 13 (24), 1730 in the family of General-in-Chief Vasily Ivanovich Suvorov and Avdotya Fedoseevna. His father began serving as an orderly for Tsar Peter the Great, served in the Secret Chancellery, during the Seven Years War for some time was Governor-General of East Prussia. He was the author of the first Russian military dictionary, collected an extensive library, mainly from military works, which became the basis of Alexander Vasilyevich’s military education.

Alexander spent his childhood at his father’s estate. From birth he was weak, often ill. Therefore, the family predicted civil service for him. The youth himself dreamed of a military path, read a lot, studied military affairs, and became tempered. A family friend, General Abram Hannibal (great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin), had a great influence on the fate of the young man. Godson of Peter the Great and chief military engineer of the Russian army. Hannibal noticed Alexander’s abilities and expressed the opinion that he should be sent to military service.

In 1742, Suvorov was enrolled in the Semyonovsky regiment (in 1744 the regiment was transferred from Moscow to St. Petersburg). He studied a lot at home. In 1748 Alexander began active service. Suvorov served in the Semyonovsky Guards Regiment for more than six years. He continued his studies, both independently and in the Cadet Corps, studied several languages. He became closely acquainted with the life and service of ordinary soldiers. Alexander saw that soldiers from the time of Peter (even in the guards) were poorly trained and forgot the lessons of Peter’s victories. He saw that now soldiers are men in uniforms, servants and orderlies of commanders, and officers are landowners. The soldiers see in the commander, first of all, a master, and not a comrade in arms. And the commanders consider the soldiers to be their serfs, servants, and not fighters, military comrades-in-arms.

At this time, my father resumed his career, went up. In 1751 he took the post of prosecutor of the Senate, in 1753 he was promoted to major general, then he was appointed a member of the Military Collegium. Vasily Suvorov, together with Hannibal and Fermor, did a lot to prepare the army for war. Suvorov sought money and material resources for the army, Hannibal and Fermor were in charge of engineering and cannon business.

The rise of his father helped Alexander. The son of a local nobleman, who was out of work for a long time, became the son of an influential dignitary. The Suvorovs moved to the capital. In 1751, Suvorov was promoted to the rank of sergeant – the last highest soldier’s rank. In 1752, his father secured a business trip for his son abroad: by courier with dispatches to Dresden and Vienna. In addition, the choice fell on Alexander, since he knew German and French well (the languages ​​of the courts of that time). Alexander Vasilyevich spent several months at the Saxon and Austrian courts. Here everyone was waiting for a big war with the Prussian king Frederick.


Vasily Ivanovich Suvorov

Seven Years War

In 1754, with the next release of soldiers from the guard to the field troops, among others, Sergeant Alexander Suvorov was promoted to lieutenant. This was his first officer’s rank. Suvorov was assigned to the Ingermanland infantry regiment. Service in the regiment was poorly organized. The attempts of the young officer to change the situation did not lead to anything.

Then Suvorov, with the help of his father, went to the chief food master in Novgorod. There was a large army base there. The officer was also known here as an eccentric: he fought for every state penny with officials and contractors. Therefore, embezzlers and unscrupulous suppliers disliked him.

At the same time, Alexander Vasilyevich is trying to find himself in literature. He is taking the first steps in this area. While on duty in the capital, he converges with writers, visits the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature. He writes poetry, Alexander’s afterlife conversation with Herostratus and between the Mexican king Montezuma and the conqueror Cortez. Both “conversations” of Suvorov, read by him in the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature, were liked by the listeners. Sumarokov published the works of the young author in the collection of the Academy of Sciences. The war prevented the further development of Suvorov’s literary talent.

The troublemaker in Europe was the Prussia of Frederick II, backed by England. Prussia claimed hegemony in Germany, which irritated Austria (she set the same goals) and other German states. Also, Berlin was going to seize a lot of the western regions of Poland, to dislodge the Swedes from Germany. And France was afraid of the appearance of the Prussians (mercenaries of England) on the banks of the Rhine.

In 1756, Prussian troops captured Saxony, then invaded Bohemia and captured Prague. The Saxon prince fled to Poland, as he was the king of Poland. Prussia challenged several great powers at once: Austria, France, Russia and Sweden. The Prussian army was considered by many contemporaries to be the best in Europe.

Frederick had a low opinion of the Russian army:

“The Muscovites are wild hordes; they cannot resist the well-equipped troops in any way.”

Russia concentrated its troops in the Russian Baltic (Livonia and Courland). The chief of the Semyonovsky regiment, Stepan Apraksin, was appointed commander-in-chief, who received the rank of field marshal general. In the spring of 1757, the Russian army launched an offensive. A separate corps under the command of Fermor besieged and took Memel. In August, in a decisive battle at Groß-Jägersdorf, the Russians defeated the Prussians and opened the road to Königsberg, the main and richest city in East Prussia. However, Apraksin did not use the victory and withdrew the troops back with a quick march.

Alexander Suvorov at that time was a food master of the field troops, received the rank of Major Seconds (junior staff officer rank), then Prime Major (staff officer rank, Colonel’s assistant). He was engaged in the formation of reserve battalions, was constantly on the road between Riga and Smolensk, between Smolensk and Novgorod. The reinforcements were weak, with poorly trained soldiers and recruits. The officers were “undersized” from the Guard, who usually knew little about military service.

Suvorov demanded the sending of experienced soldiers from the army in order to put them in the battalions as teachers. But the Military Collegium abandoned this idea. Like, old soldiers are more needed at the front. There was a lot of trouble in terms of security. There were not enough boots and cloth for uniforms for the army in the field.

The first battles

Apraksin was removed from command, the army was led by Fermor. The Russians occupied Konigsberg without a fight. The population of the city swore allegiance to Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. The Russian army in August 1758 at Zorndorf defeated the troops of the Prussian king. The Prussian army was drained of blood and lost its former striking power. After the intrigues of the Austrians, who now feared the victories of the Russian allies more than Frederick, Fermor was removed from command (but he remained in the army). The new commander was Pyotr Saltykov. On the way, Saltykov passed through Memel, whose commandant at that moment was Suvorov. Saltykov liked the gallant officer, and he took him into the army.

In July 1759, Saltykov defeated General Wedel’s Prussian corps and successfully united with the allied Austrians. Having occupied Frankfurt an der Oder, the Russian army was preparing for the crossing and meeting with the royal army. Fermor took Suvorov as an officer on duty. In August, the decisive Battle of Kunersdorf took place. The “invincible” Prussian army was again beaten by the Russian “barbarians”. Almost nothing remained of Frederick’s army, its remnants fled.

The king wrote in panic to the capital:

“All is lost, save the yard and the archives!”

However, the allies failed to agree and finish off the enemy. In 1760, Saltykov, unable to act independently, resist political intrigues and agree on conflicting orders coming from Petersburg and Vienna, surrendered command to Fermor. Buturlin was appointed the new commander-in-chief.

Taking advantage of the fact that the Prussian army was diverted to the western border, the Russians easily occupied Berlin. The Russian detachment was led by General Totleben. Suvorov also took part in the raid on Berlin. He commanded the vanguard. After imposing a tribute of 1.5 million thalers on the city, destroying military enterprises and warehouses, Russian and Austrian troops left Berlin. Frederick went to save the capital, the allies did not have the strength to fight, and they left Berlin. The last period of the Seven Years War was filled with marches and maneuvers, raids and raids, the devastation of enemy settlements, there were almost no major battles. The role of the cavalry increased.

At this time, Suvorov left the army headquarters, went over to the cavalry and commanded a dragoon regiment. In numerous skirmishes, Alexander Vasilyevich showed himself to be a talented and brave cavalry commander. With a small detachment of cavalry and infantry, Suvorov made daring raids, suddenly attacked the superior forces of the enemy.

He said:

“To surprise – to win!”

Good luck always accompanied the brave man. He soon became more famous among the troops than some generals. Buturlin knew Suvorov the father well and was well disposed towards his son. More than once he wrote to Vasily Ivanovich, praising Lieutenant Colonel Suvorov.

Sharp turn

Vasily Ivanovich was also in the army at the end of the war. At first he was in charge of the supply of provisions, then became Governor-General of East Prussia. The incorruptible governor put things in order in Koenigsberg. But Elizaveta Petrovna, who had been ill for a long time, died. Pyotr Fyodorovich became Tsar, who did not want war with Frederick. He made not only peace with Berlin, but also an alliance. Königsberg returned to Prussia, which was already part of the Russian Empire. Suvorov, the father, was sent into an honorable “exile” – by the governor to Tobolsk.

The guard murmured. The victory was stolen, and the Prussian order was introduced into the army. Foreign diplomats, who feared the new policy of Peter III, entered the business. The center of the conspiracy was the wife of the new emperor, Catherine. Vasily Suvorov, who had not yet departed for Siberia, also took part in the conspiracy. In July 1762, a coup took place. Suvorov fulfilled an important mission – he disarmed the Holsteins, the personal guard of the emperor. He came to Oranienbaum with a detachment of hussars, arrested the Holstein generals and officers and sent them to the Peter and Paul Fortress. The privates were transferred to Kronstadt. Peter was killed, Catherine was elevated to the throne. In order not to irritate the guards and the army, the new empress abandoned the alliance with Prussia. But she did not continue the war. Without Russia, the Allies feared to fight with Prussia. War is over.

Catherine canceled the honorary link of Suvorov the father. He remained in the capital as a member of the Military Collegium, was promoted to prime-majors in the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment and to lieutenant colonels in the Life Guards Izmailovsky Regiment. Also engaged in secret affairs. Alexander Suvorov at that time was in the army. After the coup, he arrived in the capital with dispatches. He was graciously received by the new queen. Promoted to colonel, appointed commander of the Astrakhan regiment. Ekaterina will present her portrait to the officer.

Later Suvorov will write on it:

“This first date paved the way for me to fame…”.


Vasily Ivanovich Suvorov and son Alexander in Konigsberg (reconstruction): 1. Infantry general (Vasily Ivanovich Suvorov). 2. Musketeer of an infantry regiment. 3. Staff officer of the dragoon regiment (Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov).

To be continued…

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