And in a parallel to yesterday’s chapter, here we have Kutuzov, showing us how he is faring on the Russian side.  The funny thing is, just looking at what actually happens, there’s not a lot of difference between the two sides.  Both Napoleon and Kutuzov put up with reports coming from the battlefield (both true and false) and issue orders based on that.

The difference is that Napoleon is becoming increasingly demoralised by the bad stories coming back.  In the meantime, Kutuzov, very carefully doesn’t make particular orders, but instead tries to lead the impulse of the men.  So when he sends the Prince of Würtermburg out to fight to replace the wounded Bagration andthe Prince turns around and asks for reinforcements – Kutuzov immediately replaces him, because he’s aware that the Prince is too cautious, expecting the worst, and will infect the men with that attitude.

Even more so, when the German Woltzogen shows up from General Barclay de Tolly to say that the Russian army is routed, and Kutuzov tells him off.  It was true that Barclay had seen the Russians copping a beating – but we’ve already been told that the battle raged back and forth, so who’s to say at any time who is winning or losing?

So Kutuzov, rather than controlling particular military manouvres simply makes sure that a general optimism and fighting spirit reigns in the command and leaves it at that.

I would be very interested to read comments on War and Peace by actual military officers to see how true they find all this works in real life.  Is it just a matter of who has the most desire to win?  I can understand, from a patriotic Russian’s point of view, it would be great to say that none of the other European countries that Napoleon conquered had a strong enough desire to win until he locked horns with the Russians – the strongest of them all . . . It makes a great story, and hey, look, I think anyone that can read this far and not feel like a patriotic Russian is missing something.


One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 10.35 – Leading By Impulse

  1. I guess there’s something that fels almost quintessentially “Russian” in this notion that the real barometer for the progress of the war is the mood, the spirit, of the troops. Maybe it just comes from reading so much Russian literature and watching so many Russian movies and listening to so much Russian music, but somehow this idea of a vast, collective Russian soul seems to me to be a very strong feature of the Russian psyche. So, in that sense, I guess it’s not all that surprising that Kutuzov would accord such enormous importance to the mood of the troops. I suppose any nation, and culture, relies greatly on what it perceives to be its essence when it comes to war, or any other criss for that matter. It’s a bit like the Australian notion of “mateship”, which seems to always become the focus of our rhetoric when we are faced with crises here in Australia – as I’m sure will become the case over the next few weeks as, here in Victoria, we try to deal with the loss and devastation of yesterday’s bushfires. And so it is with Kutuzov and the war, too – his reliance is not on strategy, nor on position, nor on the number of weapons – but on what he senses is the real essence of his people: their spirit. It’s an interesting study ino the dynamics of the cultural psyche, I reckon.

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