Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Alexander Mikaberidze's "Kutuzov: A Life in War and Peace"

Alexander Mikaberidze is Professor of History and Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. He holds a degree in international law from Tbilisi State University and a Ph.D. in history from Florida State University. After working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, he taught European and Middle Eastern history at Florida State and Mississippi State Universities and lectured on strategy and policy for the U.S. Naval War College. Mikaberidze specializes in the 18th-19th century Europe, particularly the Napoleonic Wars, and the military history of the Middle East. He has written and edited some two dozen titles, including the critically acclaimed The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History (2020).

Mikaberidze applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Kutuzov: A Life in War and Peace, and reported the following:
On page 99, I discuss one of the unexpected turns in Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov’s long and interesting career, namely him becoming a diplomat. The page starts with the discussion of the end of the Russo-Ottoman War of 1787-1792 and the key provisions of the Treaty of Jassy that ended the conflict. One of them called for exchanging ambassadors “to guarantee the auspicious peace and sincere friendship between the two empires.” Russian Empress Catherine needed a capable and dependable individual “who could settle relations with the Turks, defend Russian interests across the Ottoman realm, and maintain peace along the empire’s southern borders for the foreseeable future.” After careful consideration, the empress decided to eschew professional diplomats in favor of battle-tested military professionals, and , on November 6, she announced the appointment of Kutuzov as the new Russian ambassador plenipotentiary to the Sublime Porte. This appointment startled many in Russian society but there were good reasons for it. “By choosing a man who had just recently trounced the Turks on the fields of battle, she was sending a clear message to the sultan: toe the line or risk a new war and fresh humiliations.” This analysis continues into the next page.

I do not think the Page 99 Test works well for this book. While it refers the reader to an important twist in Kutuzov’s career, this page does not represent the book well since it devotes much of the space to the discussion of the treaty provisions and arrangements for the exchange of the envoys. I certainly prefer other parts of the books, not the least of them the scenes of Kutuzov commanding troops in battles like Austerlitz and Borodino, or him leading the assault on the Ottoman fortress of Izmail.
Learn more about Kutuzov: A Life in War and Peace at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue