Two bullets to the head and an early winter: Fate permits Kutuzov to defeat Napoleon at Moscow

Sergiy V. Kushchayev, Evgenii Belykh, Yakiv Fishchenko, Aliaksei Salei, Oleg M. Teytelboym, Leonid Shabaturov, Markus Cruse, Mark C. Preul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


General Mikhail Kutuzov (circa 1745-1813) brilliantly repelled Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Honored as a national hero and a savior of Russia, Kutuzov has a unique medical story. He was shot in the head twice while fighting the Turks (1774 and 1788) and survived the serious injuries seemingly against all odds. The first bullet "ran through the head from one temple to the other behind both eyes." The second bullet entered the cheek, destroyed upper teeth, traveled through the head, and exited the occiput. Massot, a French surgeon with the Russian army, wrote after treating Kutuzov's seemingly two mortal wounds: "It must be believed that fate appoints Kutuzov to something great, because he was still alive after two injuries, a death sentence by all the rules of medical science." Aided by Massot's expert surgical technique, Kutuzov lived to become intimately engaged in events that altered world history. His health did, however, suffer significant effects due to the bullet wounds. In 1812, as Napoleon's Grande Armée approached, Kutuzov realized he could not confront Napoleon and he strategically retreated from Moscow, submitting the French to the harsh winter and Russian cavalry. Napoleon's devastated army retreated to Paris, and Kutuzov became the personification of Russian spirit and character. Kutuzov's survival of two nearly mortal head wounds created the legends, additional mystery, and drama surrounding him, not the least astonishing of which was the skilled neurosurgical care that probably saved his life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE3
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Gunshot wound
  • Head injury
  • History of neurosurgery
  • Massot
  • Mikhail kutuzov
  • Napoleon bonaparte
  • Neurological trauma
  • War of 1812

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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