Bhishma: Is it true that you have mastered all the possible forms of war?
Drona: As well as you, Bhishma.—Jean-Claude Carrière and Peter Brook (translator), The Mahabharata
Alexander Suvorov wrote his Science of Victory (Nauka Pobezhadt) for enlisted soldiers as well as officers. Suvorov recognized that victory depended on the morale, training, and initiative of the front-line soldier. Suvorov's own career easily places him in the top rank of history's great military commanders. He would have easily been a match for Alexander the Great or George S. Patton. (Patton was easily Suvorov's intellectual, if not spiritual, reincarnation.) He was probably more than a match for Napoleon or Frederick the Great. He not only got away with violating Sun Tzu's guidelines for waging war, he won victories by doing so. Philip Longworth (1965) summarizes his career, "He won far too frequently to be called lucky: he never lost."
Few people outside of Russia know about Suvorov, but he is legendary in Russia. Russians revere Suvorov as Britons do King Arthur: "…one Russian legend has it that Suvorov never really died, that he rests in a deep sleep to awaken when Russia is threatened by grave military danger" (Menning, 1986).
Both Suvorov and Stalin forbade their troops to retreat, but they used different methods to get them to obey. Stalin ordered "blocking units" to shoot soldiers who gave ground. Suvorov prevented retreats by instilling his troops with pride, morale, and self-confidence. The Russians under Suvorov never considered retreat because they knew themselves to be better than the enemy!
This is not to say that Alexander the Great would not have achieved what he did without his advantages, but he definitely had a head start on Suvorov. It is quite likely that neither could have beaten the other decisively had they been on opposite sides at any time in history. They thought alike and they inspired confidence and commitment among the soldiers they led.
Subset: Possibly in the top rank, but not enough information
Suvorov appears in Lord Byron's Don Juan. If you're
interested, the entire
poem appears at Bob Blair's page (and may be available on line from
Project Gutenburg). Don Juan was, of course, the famous lover/ swashbuckler,
and Byron gives him a role in the siege of the Turkish fortress of Ismail.
From the Seventh CantoVIII
"Fierce loves and faithless wars" -- I am not sure
If this be the right reading -- 't is no matter;
The fact's about the same, I am secure;
I sing them both, and am about to batter
A town which did a famous siege endure,
And was beleaguer'd both by land and water
By Souvaroff, or Anglicè Suwarrow,
Who loved blood as an alderman loves marrow.
From the Eighth CantoSuvorov triumphant: the fall of Ismail
Poster from http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/lirsk/bildseit/kukryn.htm,
used by permission.
"Wir schlagen uns tapfer, wehren uns verzweifelt - die Enkel von Suvorov, die Kinder Chapaevs." 1941
|Vauban, Sebastian. French field marshal of the
late 17th century, and famous military engineer. Return
Suvorov taught his soldiers the "through attack" (or "attack through") with the bayonet for infantry, and the equivalent with lance or sabre for cavalry. The attackers did not stop to trade blows (as is usually portrayed in the movies), but instead tried to rush through the enemy line whether or not they hit their opponents. It is easy to imagine the effect on the enemy's organization and morale.
The drills for this tactic sometimes caused serious injuries and even fatalities, although the soldiers turned their weapons away when they closed with the opposing drill line. The casualties resulted from collisions, especially between galloping cavalry. The drills also, however, removed the soldiers' (and horses') natural fear of massed bayonets so, in battle, they triumphed over opponents not so drilled. See Philip Longworth, The Art of Victory, if you can find a copy; it is out of print. Return
"squander his time..." Byron cites one of Suvorov's success secrets, but derides it as a waste of the Marshal's time! Modern management experts agree that, for training to be effective, upper managers, including and especially the CEO, must show their commitment to its importance. They should, in fact, participate themselves! Suvorov was about 200 years ahead of them. Return
"judged them proper..." Only after the soldiers have been well trained does Suvorov assign them to important work. The same lesson applies to modern business. Return
|Timour or Zinghis: Tamerlane and Genghis Khan respectively. Suvorov was not as bloodthirsty as Byron paints him- in fact, at the storming of the Praga Fortress, he destroyed the bridge between the fort and the nearby city to prevent his soldiers from sacking the city. Ismail was looted, but Suvorov himself declined to take part in the spoils. The casualties at Ismail were horrific on both sides (one third of the Russian enlisted troops and two thirds of their officers), probabily due to the ferocity of the Turkish Janissaries who were defending the fortress; many preferred death over surrender. The Russians' persistance despite such losses attests to Suvorov's organizational development skills. Return|
Levinson (1994, ASQC Quality Press) The
Way of Strategy applies lessons from Clausewitz, Machiavelli, Miyamoto
Musashi, and Sun Tzu to modern business management.
Levinson (editor, 1998, ASQ Quality Press) Leading the Way to Competitive Excellence: The Harris Mountaintop Case Study uses Alexander the Great as its archetypical symbol for innovative thinking.
Unfortunately, I hadn't read much about Suvorov before I wrote these books. Many of his principles are applicable to modern business management!
Menning, Bruce W. 1986. "Train Hard, Fight Easy: The Legacy of A. V. Suvorov and his 'Art of Victory.'" Air University Review, November-December 1986, 79-88. (Furnished by the U.S. Army War College Library, Carlisle, PA)
Tsouras, Peter G. 1992. Warriors' Words– A Dictionary
of Military Quotations. London: Cassell Arms and Armor Press