, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 21-28

General Mikhail Kutuzov: One-eyed defender of Moscow

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Abstract

General Mikhail Kutuzov was a charismatic Russian general, most remembered for his defense of Moscow against Napoleon. He was in and out of favor with the emperor, Alexander I, but in times of crisis, on more than one occasion he was called back to lead the Russian Forces. From the standpoint of ophthalmology, it is of interest that while fighting the Turks, Kutuzov sustained two separate severe head wounds that ultimately led to loss of sight in his right eye. A portrait of General Kutuzov hangs in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kutuzov's birthplace. In the portrait Kutuzov is standing with his left side facing forward, presumably to hide his disfigured right eye. He lost the Battle of Austerlitz against Napoleon and at best gained a draw at the Battle of Borodino. Nevertheless, the latter battle was the beginning of the end for Napoleon's Grand Armée. They entered a deserted Moscow, part of Kutuzov's scorched earth policy that left no food or housing for the enemy, and with the Russian winter rapidly approaching, Napoleon began his long retreat from Russia. As with the German army, the harsh winter claimed many casualties while Kutuzov added to the French misery by harassing the retreating army from the rear. Of 450,000 French soldiers, only 10,000 returned to France.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.