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Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov ( ) ( – June 18, 1974) was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played an important role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Unionmarker and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation and conquer Germany's capital, Berlinmarker. He also organized the less known training exercise Snezhokmarker in which a nuclear experiment was conducted on the population of the Orenburg Oblast and the Soviet Army. He is one of the most decorated generals in the history of both Russia and the Soviet Union.

Career before World War II

Non-commissioned Officer Georgy Zhukov, 1916.
Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in Strelkovka, Maloyaroslavsky Uyezd, Kaluga Governorate (now merged into the town of Zhukovmarker in Zhukovsky Raion of Kaluga Oblastmarker in modern-day Russiamarker, Zhukov was apprenticed to work as a furrier in Moscowmarker, and in 1915 was conscripted into the army of the Russian Empiremarker, where he served first in the 106th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, then the 10th Dragoon Novgorod Regiment. During World War I, Zhukov was awarded the Cross of St. George twice and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer for his bravery in battle. He joined the Bolshevik Party after the October Revolution, and his background of poverty became an asset. After recovering from typhus he fought in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921, at one time within the 1st Cavalry Army. He received the Order of the Red Banner for subduing the Tambov rebellionmarker in 1921.

By 1923 Zhukov was commander of a regiment, and in 1930 of a brigade. He was a keen proponent of the new theory of armoured warfare and was noted for his detailed planning, tough discipline and strictness, and a "never give up" attitude. He survived Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of the Red Army command in 1937–39.

In 1938 Zhukov was directed to command the First Soviet Mongolian Army Group, and saw action against Japan's Kwantung Army on the border between Mongolia and the Japanese controlled state of Manchukuo in an undeclared Soviet-Japanese war that lasted from 1938 to 1939. What began as a routine border skirmish—the Japanese testing the resolve of the Soviets to defend their territory—rapidly escalated into a full-scale war, the Japanese pushing forward with 80,000 troops, 180 tanks and 450 aircraft.

This led to the decisive Battle of Khalkhin Golmarker. Zhukov requested major reinforcements and on August 15, 1939 he ordered what seemed at first to be a conventional frontal attack. However, he had held back two tank brigades, which in a daring and successful manoeuver he ordered to advance around both flanks of the battle. Supported by motorised artillery and infantry, the two mobile battle groups encircled the 6th Japanese Army and captured their vulnerable supply areas. Within a few days the Japanese troops were defeated.

For this operation Zhukov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Outside of the Soviet Union, however, this battle remained little-known, as by this time World War II had begun. Zhukov's pioneering use of mobile armour went unheeded by the West, and in consequence the German Blitzkrieg against Francemarker in 1940 came as a great surprise.

Promoted to full general in 1940, Zhukov was briefly (January–July 1941) chief of the Red Army's General Staff before a disagreement with Stalin led to him being replaced by Marshal Boris Shaposhnikov. Coincidentally, this led to a relative non-accountability of Zhukov's military role in the huge territorial losses during the German 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union thus ensuring his presence "in the wings" for Stalingradmarker. The question of how much he could have done had he held command earlier is still much discussed.

World War II

According to his own memoirs (written after the death of Stalin and during the peak of Nikita Khrushchev's anti-Stalin campaign), Zhukov was fearless in his direct criticisms of Stalin and other commanders after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (see Eastern Front ). Among Soviet commanders, he was one of the few who attempted to convince Stalin that the Kievmarker region could not be held and would suffer a double envelopment by the Wehrmacht troops. Stalin, who berated Zhukov and dismissed his advice, refused to evacuate the troops in the area. As a result, half a million troops became prisoners when the Germans took Kiev. Zhukov stopped the German advance in Leningradmarker's southern outskirts in the autumn of 1941.

Official sources, only made available recently, reveal that Zhukov and his colleagues had drawn up plans for a preemptive strike against Germany in 1941. A proposal from May 15, 1941, widely discussed amongst Russian historians, was first revealed by Vladimir Karpov, who had access to secret archives. He probably intended to show Zhukov as a military genius, who in the decisive moment had suggested a surprise attack on the enemy. Viktor Suvorov has used the plan to support his thesis that the Russians were planning to attack the Germans later that summer of 1941, and Mikhail Meltyukhov et al. have studied the background, reaching wider conclusions. The Memorandum was supposedly presented to Stalin by Zhukov and People's Commissar of Defence Semyon Timoshenko.

The document is unsigned, but this was rather a rule than exception at the time. It has been disputed whether the plan demanding a strike against Germany, was approved by Stalin or whether it was even ever presented to Stalin. Richard Overy suggests that the plan was developed by Zhukov and Timoshenko independently of Stalin, who later rejected it, fearing provoking the Germans. On the other hand, Russian historian Sokolov, supported by Vladimir Nevezhin and Valery Danilov, taking into account the concentration of decision-making into hands of political leadership, regards it "completely improbable that the highest officers of General Staff could have developed a plan of pre-emptive strike against Germany without Stalin's sanctioning." Meltyukhov has also pointed out the similarities between the May 1941 proposal and Soviet drafts dating back to 1940 These plans officially suggested repulsion of German aggression and a rapid counterstrike, however, the initial defence phase was not elaborated, leading Boris Sokolov to compare it with the alleged Soviet counter-strike plans in case of "Finnish aggression" in 1939.

In his history of the Russo-German conflict, Absolute War, author Chris Bellamy concludes that there was no intention by the Russians to attack Germany in 1941. Bellamy agrees with author Constantine Pleshakov, (Stalin's Folly), who hypothesized that the 15 May attack plan was an early sketch, and that the Russians would not have been ready to attack Germany until 1942 at the earliest. This view holds that when the German attack did come on June 22, 1941 that the Russians, in keeping with their doctrine of counterattack, implemented the half-formed 15 May plan in the absence of any other plan.

The Great Patriotic War

On June 22, 1941, Zhukov signed the Directive of Peoples' Commissariat of Defence No. 3, which ordered an all-out counteroffensive by Red Army forces: he commanded the troops "to encircle and destroy enemy grouping near Suwałki and to seize the Suwałkimarker region by the evening of 24.6" and "to encircle and destroy the enemy grouping invading in Vladimir-Volynia and Brody direction" and even "to seize the Lublinmarker region by the evening of 24.6". Despite numerical superiority, this maneuver failed, and disorganized Red Army units were destroyed by the Wehrmacht. Later, Zhukov claimed that he was forced to sign the document by Joseph Stalin, despite the reservations that he raised. This document was supposedly written by Aleksandr Vasilevsky, and Zhukov was forced to sign it.

On July 29, 1941, Zhukov was removed from his post of Chief of the General Staff. In his memoirs he gives his suggested abandoning of Kiev to avoid an encirclement as a reason for it. On the next day the decision was made official and he was appointed the commander of the Reserve Front. There he oversaw the Yelnya Offensive.

On September 10, 1941, Zhukov was made the commander of the Leningrad Front. There he oversaw the defence of Leningrad.

On October 6, 1941 Zhukov was appointed the representative of Stavka for Reserve Front and Western Front. On October 10, 1941 those fronts were merged into the Western Front under command of Zhukov. Under his command this front participated in the Battle of Moscowmarker and several Battles of Rzhev.

On October 26, 1942, Zhukov was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief and sent to the southwestern front to take charge of the defence of Stalingradmarker. In November that year he was sent to coordinate Western Front and Kalinin Front during Operation Mars.



In January 1943 he (together with Kliment Voroshilov) coordinated the actions of Leningrad Front, Volkhov Front and Baltic Fleet in Operation Iskra.

He was a Stavka coordinator at the Battle of Kurskmarker in July 1943. According to his memoirs, playing a central role in the planning of the battle and the hugely successful offensive that followed. Commander of Central Front Konstantin Rokossovsky, however, says that planning and decisions for the Battle of Kursk were made without Zhukov, that he only arrived just before the battle, made no decisions and left soon afterwards, and that Zhukov exaggerated his role.

Following the failure of Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, he lifted the Siege of Leningrad in January 1944. Zhukov then led the Soviet offensive Operation Bagration, which cleared the German forces from the Belorussian SSR and parts of Polandmarker. He launched the final assault on Germany in 1945, capturing Berlin in April. Before Soviet troops entered Berlinmarker, they had to pass the last German defence line, the Seelow Heights. Shortly before midnight, 8 May, German officials in Berlin signed an Instrument of Surrender, in his presence.

After the fall of Germany, Zhukov became the first commander of the Sovietmarker occupation zone in Germany. As the most prominent Soviet military commander of the Great Patriotic War, he inspected the Victory Parade in Red Squaremarker in Moscow in 1945 while riding a white stallion. American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in the West, was a great admirer of Zhukov, and the two toured the Soviet Union together in the immediate aftermath of the victory over Germany.

Career after World War II

[[Image:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-14059-0018, Berlin, Oberbefehlshaber der vier Verbündeten.jpg|thumb|The Supreme Commanders on June 5, 1945 in Berlin:Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.]]Immediately following the war Zhukov was the supreme Military Commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany, and became its Military Governor on June 10, 1945. A war hero and a leader hugely popular with the military, Zhukov constituted a most serious potential threat to Stalin's leadership . As a result, on April 10, 1946 he was replaced by Vasily Sokolovsky. After an unpleasant session of the Main Military Council, at which he was bitterly attacked and accused of being politically unreliable and hostile to the Party Central Committee, he was stripped of his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces. He was assigned to command the Odessa Military District, far away from Moscow and lacking strategic significance and attendant massive troops deployment, arriving there on 13 June 1946. He suffered a heart attack in January 1948, being hospitalised for a month. He was then given another secondary posting, command of the Urals Military District, in February 1948. After Stalin's death, however, Zhukov was returned to favour and became Deputy Defence Minister (1953).

In 1953 Zhukov was a member of the tribunal, headed by Konev, that arrested (and condemned to execution) Lavrenty Beria, who up until then was First Deputy Prime Minister and head of the MVD. In 1955, when Bulganin became premier he appointed Zhukov as Defence Minister.

Minister of Defense

As Soviet defence minister, Zhukov was responsible for the invasion of Hungarymarker following the revolution in October, 1956. Along with the majority of members of the Presidium, he urged Nikita Khrushchev to send troops in support of the Hungarian authorities, and to secure the border with Austriamarker. However, Zhukov and most of the Presidium were not eager to see a full-scale intervention in Hungary and Zhukov even recommended the withdrawal of Soviet troops when it seemed that they might have to take extreme measures to suppress the revolution. The mood on the Presidium changed again when Hungary's new Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, began to talk about Hungarian withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet leadership pressed ahead ruthlessly to defeat the revolutionaries and install János Kádár in Nagy's place.

In 1957 Zhukov supported Khrushchev against his conservative enemies, the so-called "Anti-Party Group" led by Vyacheslav Molotov. Zhukov's speech to the plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was the most powerful, directly denouncing the neo-Stalinists for their complicity in Stalin's crimes, though it also carried the threat of force : the very crime he was accusing the others of.

In June that year he was made a full member of the Presidium of the Central Committee. He had, however, significant political disagreements with Khrushchev in matters of army policy. Khruschev scaled down the conventional forces and the navy, while developing the strategic nuclear forces as a primary deterrent force, hence freeing up the manpower and the resources for the civilian economy.

Aboard the Chapayev class cruiser Kuibyshev, Zhukov visited Yugoslavia and Albania in October 1957, attempting to repair the Tito–Stalin split of 1948. During the voyage, Kuibyshev encountered units of the United States Sixth Fleet, and passing honours were rendered.

Zhukov supported the interests of the military and disagreed with Khrushchev's policy. The same issue of Krasnaya Zvezda that announced Zhukov's return to Moscow also reported that Zhukov had been relieved of his duties. Khrushchev, demonstrating the dominance of the Party over the army, had relieved Zhukov of his ministry and expelled him from the Central Committee. In his memoirs, Khrushchev claimed that he believed that Zhukov was planning a coup against him and that he accused Zhukov of this as grounds for expulsion at the Central Committee meeting.

In retirement

After Khrushchev was deposed in October 1964 the new leadership of Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksei Kosygin restored Zhukov to favour, though not to power. Brezhnev was said to be angered when, at a gathering to mark the twentieth anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, Zhukov was accorded greater acclaim than himself. Brezhnev, a relatively junior political officer in the war, was always concerned to boost his own importance in the victory.

Zhukov remained a popular figure in the Soviet Union until his death in 1974, although by his own admission he was much better dealing with military matters than with politics. He was buried with full military honors.

Controversies

On September 28, 1941, Zhukov sent ciphered telegram No. 4976 to commanders of the Leningrad Front and Baltic Navy, announcing that families of soldiers captured by the Germans and returned prisoners would be shot. This order was published for the first time in 1991 in the Russian magazine Начало (Beginning) No. 3. Also, in 1946, seven rail carriages with furniture which he was taking to the Soviet Union from Germany were impounded. In 1948, his apartments and house in Moscow were searched and many valuables looted in Germany were found .

In 1954, Zhukov was in command of a nuclear weapon test at Totskoye rangemarker, from Orenburgmarker. A Soviet Tu-4 bomber dropped a 40 kiloton atomic weapon from . He watched the blast from an underground nuclear bunker while about 5,000 Soviet military personnel staged a mock battle and about 40,000 troops were stationed about away from the epicentre. The number of soldiers killed, injured or made infertile as a result of the explosion is unknown because of the secrecy surrounding the eventmarker.

Awards

Zhukov was a recipient of numerous awards. In particular, he was four times Hero of the Soviet Union; besides him, only Leonid Brezhnev was a (self awarded) four-time recipeint. Zhukov was one of three double recipients of the Order of Victory. He was also awarded the high honours of many other countries. A partial listing is presented below.

Soviet awards

Order of the Red Banner (3 times)

Marshal Star

Order of Lenin (6 times)

Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union (4 times)

Medal "Of XX of the years of RKKA"

Order of Suvorov 1st class (twice)

Medal "for the defense of Moscow"

Medal "for the defense of Leningrad"

Medal "for the defense of Stalingrad"

Medal "for the defense of the Caucasus"

Order of Victory (twice)

Medal "for the Liberation of Warsaw"

Medal "for the taking of Berlin"

Medal "for the victory over Germany in the Second World War 1941–1945 yr."

Medal "to the memory of the 800th anniversary of Moscow"

Medal "Of XXX of the years of the Soviet Army and Navy"

Medal "40 years of the Soviet Army and navy"

Medal "50 years Armed Forces of the USSR"

Medal "in memory of 250 years—the anniversary of Leningrad"

Medal "Of XX years of Victory in the Second World War 1941–1945"

Order of the October Revolution

Medal "100th Anniversary of Lenin's Birth"

Foreign awards

Order of Freedom, SFRYmarker

Grand Cross, Order of the Bath, United Kingdom (honorary, military division)

Montgomery's Shield

Medal "25 years of the Bulgarian People's Army"

Medal "to the 90th anniversary of the birthday of Georgiy Dimitrov"

Partisan medal of Garibaldi (Italy)

Medal "Chinese–Soviet friendship"

"The star" of hero of the Mongolian People's Republic

Order of Sukhbaatar (thrice)

Combat Order of the Red Banner, Mongolian People's Republic (twice)

Medal to the memory of combat at the Khalkin-gol, Mongolian People's Republic

Medal "50 years of the Mongolian People's Republic"

Medal "50 years of the Mongolian People's Army"

Medal "30 year anniversary of victory at the Khalkin-golmarker", Mongolian People's Republic

II and III class, Polonia Restituta, Poland

Grand Cross, Virtuti Militari, Poland

Medal "for Warsaw 1939–1945 yr." Poland

Medal "for Oder, Nisu and to Baltic Region", Poland

Chief Commander, Legion of Merit, USA

Grand Cross, Legion d'Honneur, France

Military cross, France

1st class, Order of the White Lion, CSR

1st class, Order "for the Victory ", CSR

Military cross, CSR

Memorials

.


The very first monument to Georgy Zhukov was erected in Mongoliamarker, in memory of the Battle of Halhin Golmarker. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this monument was one of the very few which did not suffer from the anti-Soviet backlash in the former Communist states.

A minor planet 2132 Zhukov discovered in 1975 by Sovietmarker astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh is named in his honor.

In 1995, commemorating Zhukov's 100th birthday, Russia adopted the Zhukov Order and the Zhukov Medal.

Recollections

Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's poem On the Death of Zhukov ( , 1974) is regarded by critics as one of the best poems on the war written by an author of the post-Second World War generation. It is a clever stylisation of The Bullfinch, Derzhavin's elegy on the death of Generalissimo Suvorov in 1800. Brodsky obviously draws a parallel between the careers of these commanders.

Zhukov himself reportedly participated in Beria's arrest at the Kremlin—with one version having him exclaiming "in the name of the Soviet People, you are under arrest, you son of a bitch." The historical accuracy of some accounts are doubted. Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs confirms this story, if not the use of colourful language.

In his book of recollections, Zhukov was critical of the role Soviet leadership played during the war. The first edition of was published during Brezhnev's reign, only on condition that criticism on Stalin was removed and Zhukov had to add an (invented) episode of a visit to Leonid Brezhnev, politruk at Southern Front, with the purpose of having consultations on military strategy.

Footnotes

References



Primary Sources

Cold War International History Project Bulletin, no. 5 (Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC), Spring, 1995, pp. 22–23, 29–34.

Additional reading



External links




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