Quotes of Alexander Suvarov

Biography of General Alexander Suvarov

  • The ditch isn't deep, the wall isn't high; fling yourself into the ditch, leap over the wall, charge with the bayonet, strike, chase, take prisoner. Storm.
    - principles of war.

  • The bullet is a mad thing; only the bayonet knows what it is about.

  • Fire seldom, but accurately. Thrust the bayonet with force. The bullet misses, the bayonet doesn't. The bullet's an idiot, the bayonet's a fine chap. Stab once and throw the Turk off the bayonet. Bayonet another, bayonet a third. A real warrior will bayonet half a dozen and more. Keep a bullet in the barrel. If three should run at you bayonet the first, shoot the second and lay the third out with your bayonet. This isn't common, but you haven't time to reload.

  • It is very difficult to do one's duty. I was considered a barbarian because at the storming of the Praga 7000 people were killed. Europe says I am a monster. I myself have read this in the papers, but I would have liked to talk to people about this and ask them: is it not better to finish a war with the death of 7000 people rather than to drag it on and kill 100,000.
    - After the assault on the fortified Warsaw suburb of Praga in 1794.

  • Strike at the enemy with humane treatment as effectively as with weapons.

  • The details depend on the circumstances, the judgement, the skill and on the bravery of the man in command.

  • The officers know that I myself am not ashamed to work at this. Suvarov was major and adjutant and everything down to corporal. I myself looked into everything and could teach everybody.

  • Every man passed through my hands and he was told that nothing more remained for him to know, if only he did not forget what he had learned. Thus he was given confidence in himself, the foundations of bravery.

  • Otherwise we should have wasted all our time in discussion, diplomatical, tactical, enigmatical; they would have smothered me and the enemy would have settled our arguments by smashing up our tactics.
    - On councils of war.

  • The ability to assess a situation at a glance, to know how to select the site for a camp, when and how to march and where to attack.

  • Speed. Quick grasp. Shock.

  • The more comfort the less courage there is.

  • To me death is better than the defensive.

  • According to my custom … I was present at the attack near the monastery of Svyanty Kryzh, but held my tongue, not wishing in the least to detract from the praiseworthy, skillful and brave commands of my subordinates. And there is nobody more terrible than the desperate.
    - 1799 campaign in Switzerland.

  • I was cut off and surrounded. Night and day we attacked the enemy, in front and in the rear, captured his guns, which we were obliged to throw off the precipices owing to the shortage of pack animals, and inflicted on him losses four times heavier than ours. Everywhere we forced our way through as victors.
    - 1799 campaign in Switzerland.

  • When the enemy is driven back, we have failed and we he is cut off, encircled and dispersed, we have succeeded.

  • With severity kindness is needed, or else severity is tyranny. I am strict in maintaining the health of the soldiers and a true sense of good conduct; kind soldierly strictness and then general brotherhood. To me strictness by whim would be tyranny.

  • Fight the enemy with the weapons he lacks.

  • No battle can be won in the study and theory without practice is dead.

  • Break through without stopping. The head must not wait for the tail. Commanders of units are not to wait to report, but are to act on their own initiative with speed and judgement. If the Turks ask for quarter, give it.

  • He who is afraid is half beaten.

  • Fire opens the gates of victory.

  • Rule fortune.

  • Permit me, your highness, to report that heroes are to be found also in the lower ranks.
    - After the battle of Kinburn vs the Turks.

  • There is an enemy greater than the hospital - the damned fellow who "doesn't know." The hint dropper, riddle poser, the deceiver, the word spinner, the prayer skimper, the two-faced, the mannered, the incoherent. The fellow who "doesn't know" has caused a great deal of harm. One is ashamed to talk about him. Arrest for the officer who "doesn't know" and house arrest for the field or general officer.

  • Genoa ... battle .... forward!

  • The safest way of achieving victory is to seek it among the enemy's battalions.

  • No offense must go unpunished, for nothing can cause the men so much harm as lax discipline.

  • Measured military punishment, together with a short and clear explanation of the offense, touches the ambitious soldier more than brutality which drives him to despair.

  • The science of winning ...

  • The military virtues are: bravery in the soldier, courage in the officer, valour in the general, but guided by the principles or order and discipline, dominated by vigilance and foresight.

  • Never pull up during an attack.

  • (The balance of rest and activity, the tricks to keep up the momentum) With this you get speed and the men don't get tired. The enemy reckons we're 60 miles away ... Suddenly we're on him like a cloudburst. His head whirls. Attack! That's why we came, that's why God sent us. Cavalry! Charge! Cut down, stab, chase, don't let them get away.

  • Die for the Virgin, for your mother the Empress, for the royal family. The Church will pray to God for the dead. The survivor has honour and glory!

  • Don't hurt civilians, they give us food and drink. A soldier is not a footpad.

  • That's all right ... the greater the enemy the more they will fall over one another and the easier it will be for us to cut through. In any case they're not numerous enough to darken the sun for us.

  • Be frank with your friends, temperate in your requirements and disinterested in conduct. Bear an ardent zeal for the service of your sovereign, love true fame, distinguish ambition from pride and vainglory, learn to love and forgive the faults of others and never forgive your own ...

  • Love the soldier and he will love you. That is the secret.

  • Learn to profit from local circumstances.

  • Remember that victory depends on the legs. The hands are only the instruments of victory.

  • Nothing but the offensive. Speed in marches, swiftness. Methodism is not needed. Full authority to the commanding general. Attack the enemy and hit him in the field. Lose no time in sieges ... take fortresses chiefly by assaults or open force. Never divide forces for security of different points. If the enemy went around them so much the better ... he approaches in order to be defeated. Never occupy yourself with vain manouevres.
    - On his plans for the 1799 campaign in Italy.

  • A sense of vocation is the greatest virtue of the military man.

  • Only pursuit destroys a running enemy.

  • Do not delay in the attack. When the foe has been split off and cut down, pursue him immediately and give him no time to assemble or form up ... spare nothing. With regard for difficulties, pursue the enemy day and night until he has been annihilated.

  • Pursue to the last man to the Adda and throw the remains in the river.
    - during the 1799 campaign in Italy.

  • A strong pursuit, give no time for the enemy to think. Take advantage of victory, uproot him, cut off his escape.

  • In cases of obstacles arising don't be too distracted by them. Time is more valuable than anything else - one must know how to save it.

  • A reconnaissance? I don't need one. They're only necessary for the timid and forewarn the enemy. If you really want to find the enemy you'll find him without them. Bayonets, cold arms, attack, punch - these are my reconnaissances.

  • All reports should be written clearly, precisely, as far as possible avoiding any inaccuracy, length or beauty of expression, in order not to cloud the thought.

  • Never sound the retreat. Never. Warn the men that if they hear it, it is only a ruse on the part of the enemy.

  • Perish yourself, but rescue your comrade.

  • One need only be on one's guard against the bottomless pit of systematic rules.

  • In military practice one must plan quickly and carry on without delay, so as to give the enemy no time to collect himself.

  • I work in minutes, not hours.

  • Large staffs - small victories.

  • Subordination is the mother of discipline, or the art of war.

  • To astonish is to vanquish.

  • It is bad to lack good fortune, but it is a misfortune to lack talent. The fortune of war is on the side of the soldier of talent.

  • Defeat the enemy with cold steel, bayonets, swords and pikes. Don't slow down during an attack. When the enemy is broken, shattered, then pursue him at once and don't give him time either to collect or reform. If he surrenders spare him, only order him to throw down his arms. During the attack call on the enemy to surrender. Spare nothing, don't think of your labours. Pursue the enemy night and day so long as anything is left to be destroyed.

  • "Help, danger" and other figments of the imagination are all right for old women who are afraid to get off the stove because they may break their legs and for lazy luxurious people and blockheads - for miserable self-protection which, in the end, whether good or bad in fact, always passes for bravery with the storytellers.

  • Training is light and lack of training is darkness.

  • A trained man is worth three untrained. That's too little, say six, six is too little - say 10 to one.

  • The soldiers like training provided it is carried out sensibly.

  • Victory is achieved only through the combination of courage and military art.

  • Complaints have been brought to my attention that the infantry have got their feet wet. That is the fault of the weather. The march was made in the service of the most mighty monarch. Only women, dandies and lazy bones need good weather.

  • The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.

  • Activeness is the most important of all attributes of the military …Hurry, your excellency! Money is dear; human life still dearer, but time dearest of all.
    - during the 1799 Campaign in Italy.

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