Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov ( r Aleksandr Vasil‘evich Suvorov; 24 November [O.S. 13 November] 1729 or 1730 – 18 May [O.S. 6 May] 1800), Count Suvorov of Rymnik , Prince of Italy , Count of the Holy Roman Empire, national hero of Russia, was the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire.
Nineteenth century sources sometimes refer to him as “Suwarrow” or “Suwarow”.
Suvorov is one of the few generals in history who never lost a battle, being undefeated in over 60 large battles while frequently having numerical disadvantage.
He was famed for his military manual The Science of Victory and noted for several of his sayings, including “What is difficult in training will become easy in a battle,” “The bullet is a mad thing; only the bayonet knows what it is about,” and “Perish yourself but rescue your comrade!” He taught his soldiers to attack instantly and decisively: “Attack with the cold steel! Push hard with the bayonet!”.
He joked with the men, calling common soldiers “brother,” and shrewdly presented the results of detailed planning and careful strategy as the work of inspiration.
Suvorov was born into a noble family originating from Novgorod at the Moscow mansion of his maternal grandfather Fedosey Manukov. His father, Vasiliy Suvorov, was a general-in-chief and a senator in the Governing Senate, and was credited with translating Vauban’s works into Russian. His paternal ancestors had emigrated from Sweden in 1622.
His mother, Avdotya Fyodorovna née Manukova, was the daughter of Fedosey Manukov. The name Manukov might be a rusified version of the Armenian name Manukian. Still Armenian heritage of Suvorov is considered an unproven legend. There is no academic research or source in Russia that can confirm or deny the origin of Suvorov’s paternal or maternal ancestors.
There are some claims that he told the Swedish ambassador to Russia in 1791 that his paternal family came from Sweden. Those statements are not reliable due the unknown context of discussion.
As a boy, Suvorov was a sickly child and his father assumed he would work in civil service as an adult.
However, he learned to read French, German, Polish, and Italian, and devoted himself to intense study of several military authors including Plutarch, Quintus Curtius, Cornelius Nepos, Julius Caesar, and Charles XII. He tried to overcome his physical ailments through rigorous exercise and exposure to hardship.
His father, however, insisted that he was not fit for the military. When Alexander was 12, General Gannibal, who lived in the neighborhood, overheard his father complaining about Alexander and asked to speak to the child. Gannibal was so impressed with the boy that he persuaded the father to allow him to pursue the career of his choice.
Suvorov entered the army in 1748 and served in the Semyonovsky Life Guard Regiment for six years. During this period he continued his studies attending classes at Cadet Corps of Land Forces. He gained his first battle experience fighting against the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763).
After repeatedly distinguishing himself in battle Suvorov became a colonel in 1762, aged around 33. Suvorov next served in Poland during the Confederation of Bar, dispersed the Polish forces under Pułaski, and captured Kraków (1768), paving the way for the first partition of Poland between Austria, Prussia and Russia, and reached the rank of major-general.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 saw his first successful campaigns against the Turks in 1773–1774, and particularly in the Battle of Kozluca, he laid the foundations of his reputation, becoming a lieutenant-general in 1774. His later earned victories against the Ottomans bolstered the morale of his soldiers who were usually outnumbered. His astuteness in war was uncanny.
In 1774, Suvorov was dispatched to suppress the rebellion of Pugachev, who claimed to be the assassinated Tsar Peter III, but arrived at the scene only in time to conduct the first interrogation of the rebel leader, who had been betrayed by his fellow Cossacks and was eventually beheaded in Moscow.
Suvorov’s full name and titles (according to Russian pronunciation), ranks and awards are the following: Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov, Prince of Italy, Count of Rymnik, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Sardinia, Generalissimo of Russia’s Ground and Naval forces, Field Marshal of the Austrian and Sardinian armies; seriously wounded six times, he was the recipient of the Order of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle, Order of St. George the Bringer of Victory First Class, Order of St. Vladimir First Class, Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, Order of St. Anna First Class, Grand Cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, (Austria) Order of Maria Teresa First Class, (Prussia) Order of the Black Eagle, Order of the Red Eagle, the Pour le Merite, (Sardinia) Order of the Revered Saints Maurice and Lazarus, (Bavaria) Order of St. Gubert, the Golden Lioness, (France) United Orders of the Carmelite Virgin Mary and St. Lazarus (on 20. April 1800), (Poland) Order of the White Eagle, the Order of Saint Stanislaus.
Suvorov’s son, Arkadi Suvorov (1783–1811) served as a general officer in the Russian army during the Napoleonic and Turkish wars of the early 19th century, and drowned in the same river Rymnik in 1811 that had brought his father so much fame.
The drowning of his son in the river is supported by Aleksey Yermolov’s memoirs, as well as by the military historian Christopher Duffy.
His grandson Alexander Arkadievich (1804–1882) served as Governor General of Riga in 1848–61 and Saint Petersburg in 1861–66.
Suvorov’s daughter Natalia Alexandrovna (1775–1844) known under her name Suvorochka married count Nikolay Zubov.