Georgy Zhukov

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Georgy Zhukov

In office
9 February 1955 – 26 October 1957
Premier Nikolai Bulganin
Preceded by Nikolai Bulganin
Succeeded by Rodion Malinovsky

Full member of the Politburo
In office
29 June – 29 October 1957

Candidate member of the Politburo
In office
27 February 1956 – 29 June 1957

Born 1 December 1896(1896-12-01)
Strelkovka, Kaluga, Russian Empire
Died 18 June 1974 (aged 77)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Birth name Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov
Гео́ргий Константи́нович Жу́ков
Nationality Soviet
Ethnicity Russian
Political party Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Profession Soldier
Religion Russian Orthodox Church
Military service
Allegiance  Russian Empire
 Soviet Union
Service/branch Russian Imperial Army
Soviet Army
Years of service 1915–1957
Rank Marshal
Battles/wars World War I, Russian Civil War, Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan), Great Patriotic War
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union — 1939 Hero of the Soviet Union — 1944 Hero of the Soviet Union — 1945 Hero of the Soviet Union — 1956

Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (Russian: Гео́ргий Константи́нович Жу́ков; 1 December [O.S. 19 November] 1896 – 18 June 1974), was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation and conquer Germany's capital, Berlin. He is the most decorated general in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union.


Early life and career

Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in Strelkovka, Maloyaroslavsky Uyezd, Kaluga Governorate (now merged into the town of Zhukov in Zhukovsky District of Kaluga Oblast in modern-day Russia), Zhukov was apprenticed to work as a furrier in Moscow. In 1915 he was conscripted into the army of the Russian Empire, where he served first in the 106th Reserve Cavalry Regiment, then the 10th Dragoon Novgorod Regiment.[1][2] 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; 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 rebellion in 1921.[3]

Peacetime service until Khalkhin Gol

Georgy Zhukov, the commander of the 39th Buzuluk Cavalry Regiment, 7th Cavalry Division Samara in 1923

In the end of May 1923 Zhukov became a commander of a 39th cavalry regiment.[4][5] In 1924 he entered the Higher School of Cavalry,[6] which he graduated next year,[7] returning to command the same regiment.[7] In May 1930 Zhukov became a commander of 2nd cavalry brigade in 7th cavalry division.[8] In February 1931 he was appointed the assistant inspector of cavalry of the Red Army.[9] In May 1933 Zhukov was appointed a commander of 4th cavalry division.[9] In 1937 he became a commander of 3th cavalry corps, later - of 6th cavalry corps.[9][10] In 1938 he became a deputy commander of Belarusian military district for cavalry.[9][11]

Khalkhin Gol

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 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 Gol. Zhukov requested major reinforcements, and on 20 August 1939 his "Soviet Offensive" commenced. After an artillery barrage, nearly 500[12] BT-5 and BT-7 tanks advanced, supported by over 500[13] fighters and bombers; this was the Soviet Air Force's first fighter-bomber operation.[14] The offensive first appeared to be a conventional frontal attack; however, two tank brigades were held back and ordered to advance around both flanks, supported by motorised artillery, infantry and tanks. This daring and successful manoeuvre encircled the Japanese 6th Army and captured the enemy's vulnerable supply areas. By 31 August 1939, the Japanese were cleared from the disputed border leaving the Soviets victorious.[15]

The campaign was significant beyond the immediate outcome. Zhukov demonstrated and tested techniques later used against the Germans in the Second World War. These included the deployment of underwater bridges,[16] and improving inexperienced units by adding a few experienced troops.[17] Evaluation of the performance of the BT tanks led to the replacement of fire-prone petrol engines with diesel engines, and provided valuable experience for the development of the T-34 medium tank.[16] After the campaign, Nomonhan veterans were transferred to units that had not seen combat, to better spread the benefits of experience.[17]

For his victory, Zhukov was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union. However, the campaign, and Zhukov's pioneering use of tanks, remained little known outside of the Soviet Union. As a result, the Allies were surprised by the German Blitzkrieg during the Battle of France in 1940. Zhukov considered Nomonhan invaluable preparation for the Second World War.[18]

Before the war

In June 1940, Zhukov was appointed commander of Kiev Military District.[specify] One month before, due to the reorganization of the Soviet military rank system, Zhukov had been bestowed the rank of Colonel General, an equivalent of the former rank "First-rank Army Commander".[specify]

Bessarabia campaign

On 9 June 1940, Zhukov was appointed to command the Odessa Military District[specify] with the mission to guard the USSR border at Bessarabia. Not long after that, on 28 June, 460,000 troops of the Southern Front under his command crossed the Soviet-Romanian border and reclaimed Bessarabia. When the Romanians counter-attacked, Zhukov deployed the 201st and 204th Paratrooper Brigades, together with the Soviet Marines and pushed the Romanian troops back. Finally, on 2 September 1940, Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were incorporated into the newly-formed Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic with a population of 776,000 and an approximate area of 50,762 km2.[19]

Pre-war military exercises

In autumn of 1940, G. K. Zhukov started working on the plans for defending the border of the Soviet Union against possible German aggression. At this time, the Soviet border had moved west from the annexation of Eastern Poland.[20]

In his memoirs Zhukov reports that during this command he was in charge of the "Western" or "Blue" forces (the supposed invasion troops) and his opponent was Colonel General D. G. Pavlov, the commander of the "Eastern" or "Red" forces (the supposed Soviet troops) as part of a military exercise with the purpose trying his plans to defend the Soviet Union in the event of a German attack. He noted that the "Blue Armies" had 60 divisions, while the "Reds" had 50. Zhukov in his memoirs describes the events of this exercise as similar to the actual events during the German invasion.[21]

As historian Bobylev reports in his article in "Military history journal", the actual details of the exercises were reported differently in different memoirs of their participants.[22] He reported that two exercises were done, one on January 2–6, 1941 (for the North-West direction), another on January 8–11, 1941 (for the South-West direction).[22] Conditions of the first one explained that "Western" forced have attacked "Eastern" on July 15, but "Eastern" forces counterattacked and by August 1 have reached the original border.[22] At that time (start of the exercise) "Eastern" forces had a numerical advantage (for example, 51 infantry division against 41, 8811 tanks against 3512), with exception of anti-tank guns.[22] Bolylev describes that by the end of the exercise the "Eastern" forces didn't manage to surround and destroy the "Western" forces, which, in their turn, threatened to surround the "Eastern" forces themselves.[22] The same historian reported that the second game was won by the "Easterners", meaning that, on the whole, both games were won by the side commanded by Zhukov.[22] However, he noted that the games had a serious disadvantage, given that they did not consider the initial attack by "Western" forces, but only a (later) attack by "Eastern" forces from the initial border.[22]

In February 1, 1941 Zhukov became chief of the Red Army's General Staff.[23]

Controversy about a plan for war with Germany

From 2 February 1941, as the General Chief of Staff, Deputy Minister of Defense of USSR, Zhukov took part in drawing up the "Strategic plan for deploying of the Soviet Union in the case of war with Germany and its allies"[24] The plan was completed not later than 15 May 1941. In this document, there is a paragraph saying:

The Germany is mobilizing most of its army to the border and actively building its reserves. That fact warns us about a surprise attack may happen. In order to prevent this, I suggest it is necessary to take the strategic initiative against The Third Reich in any case, including forestalling the enemy and deploying a pre-emptive offensive against the German units when definitely verify the time when they will attack. We must even make them have no time to prepare in order to create an advantage in combat power.

Some researchers suppose that, on 14 May 1941, Soviet Minister of Defence S. K. Timoshenko and Zhukov reported to I. V. Stalin a suggestion about making a preemptive attack against Germany through Southern Poland (with the target of occupying the Vistula Border), then the Soviet Army may penetrate to Katowice or even Berlin (in the case that the German main armies retreat to Berlin), or the Baltic Coast (in the case that the German main armies cannot manage to retreat and have to protect Poland and East Prussia). The attacking Soviet forces were supposed to reach Siedlce, Deblin, then capture Warsawa, penetrate to the southwest direction of the front and finally defeat the Germans at Lublin.[25]

At the moment, historians do not have the original documents in order to verify the existence of such a preemptive attack plan, and if it really exists it is still unclear whether Stalin accepted it or not since there is no proof that such plans were signed and passed, even though a place to be used for signing was marked. In a memorandum of an interview on 26 May 1965, Zhukov stated that Stalin did not approve the plan. However, Zhukov did not make clear whether execution of the preemptive offensive plan was attempted on 22 June 1941 or not. And still to this day, people have not found any other unannounced plan for the Soviet-German war which has the signature of Stalin.[26]

During the 1930-1940 period, with the approval of the Soviet leaders, the Soviet artists and writers did create fictious works about an invasion of the Soviet Army into German land. Such approval may have caused a misunderstanding that the preemptive offensive was accepted. This misunderstanding was also emphasized by extremists who always believed that the Soviet Union should attack its enemies. Consequently, many people supposed that G. K. Zhukov already had an offensive plan prior to the German invasion, arguing that if this kind of plan was not executed it was only because Stalin did not approve it. However, military plans could not be created unmethodically, but had to be based on the real situation on the battlefield at the time it was executed; the Soviet counter-blows against the German invasion seem to be some kind of indirect or direct preemptive offensive deployment.[27][28] Zhukov himself did not mention anything about such plans in his memoirs (even in the full edition published in 1992).[29] According to Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, the war-game defeat of Pavlov's Red Troops against Zhukov was not known widely, but the victory of Zhukov's Red Troops against Kulik was overemphasized and widely propagandized, thus causing a popular illusion about an easy success of a Soviet preemptive offensive.[30]

Despite all controversies, Zhukov predicted that the Soviet-German war could not be avoided, thus the Soviet Army need to build its own independent motorized and tank units in order to quickly satisfy the new conditions of the expected war. His suggestions, however, were not appreciated by the Soviet leaders. And when war broke out, the harsh reality of the battlefields painfully proved the correctness of most of Zhukov's ideas about the role of tanks and motorized units in modern warfare.[31]

World War II

General Georgy Zhukov speaking on 1 September 1941.

First struggles

On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the USSR. As a General Chief of Staff, Zhukov requested Stalin to promulgate No. 1 Directive (at 0:25 AM on 22 June). At 7:15 AM, he again requested the Soviet Supreme Command to promulgate No. 2 Directive about general mobilization in all USSR territories in order to fight against the German invasion.[32] At 1:00 PM, Stalin ordered him to fly to the headquarters of the Southwestern Front to monitor the battlefield situation. At 11:50 PM, Stalin ordered Deputy General Chief of Staff N. F. Vatutin to prepare the Directive No. 3 which ordered the deployment of all Soviet forces in a counter-offensive. As Zhukov explains in his memoirs, from Tarnopol he called Moscow to object to the decision of Stalin, as Stalin didn't know the situation. However, N. F. Vatutin replied that Stalin had already made the decision, thus Zhukov had no choice but to sign the Directive.[33] The careless and premature counter-offensive failed painfully, and the Western and Northwestern Fronts suffered serious casualties. Meanwhile, the Southwestern Front, guided by Zhukov, managed to gain some achievements, considerably slowing penetration by the German forces.[34]

Kiev and Yelnya

As the Chief of the General Staff, Zhukov and his colleagues researched the positions of German forces in the battlefield, then came to a conclusion: after intensive penetrative movements, the German Panzers were considerably worn out and need time to be refitted. Thus they would not strike directly at Moscow, but at weaker and more vulnerable Soviet positions. For example, Zhukov believed that the Germans would attack the Central Front, then from that position launch a strike to the right flank of the Southwestern Front at Kiev. From this data, Zhukov suggested an audacious plan: moving the troops guarding the west of the Moskva River to the Central Front. The Southwestern Front needed to abandon Kiev and retreat to the East of Dnepr River in order to avoid encirclement. The Western Front would clear the German forces at the Yelnya salient, thus preventing the Germans from using Yelnya as a bridgehead to launch an offensive to Moskva.[35]

However, Stalin didn't approve the abandonment of Kiev. On the night of July 29, during a violent argument, Stalin stated that the reasons for abandoning Kiev were "nonsense." As straightforward and as hot-tempered as Stalin was, Zhukov replied angrily:

"If you think the Chief of the General Staff talks nonsense, then I have no business here. I ask that you relieve me from the post of Chief of the General Staff and send me to the front. There, apparently, I shall be of greater use to the country."[36]

Zhukov's "wish" was granted and he was appointed to be the Commander of Reserve Front.[37] However, Stalin stated that Zhukov was still a member of the Soviet High Command STAVKA. When he arrived at his new post, Zhukov commanded the Reserve Front on the successful Yelnya Offensive, inflicted heavy casualties to the Germans, and cleared them out of Yelnya. The German casualties included the Grossdeutschland regiment, which was almost annihilated in the battle.[35]

While commanding the Reserve Front, Zhukov took note of the events on other fronts. On 19 August 1941, when he noted the German II Panzer Army changing their direction southward to Glukhov, Chernigov, Konotop, and Lokhvitsa, Zhukov sent to Stalin a telegram predicting that the Germans would assault the rear of the Southwestern Front in order to encircle and destroy it. This way, the southern flank of German Center Army Group could be secured and it would enable the Germans to attack Donbass. If all of these targets were achieved, the bulk of German army could move to Moskva. Zhukov requested that a strong force should be established at the Glukhov - Chernigov - Konotop line in order to prevent the German attack.[38] As Zhukov predicted, on the 5th of September the German executed the offensive. However, due to lack of forces, the passiveness of the generals F. I. Kuznetsov, A. I. Yeriomenko, and the lateness of Stalin's retreat orders, the Southwestern Front was encircled and decimated.[39][40]

Siege of Leningrad

On 30 August 1941 German forces cut the Leningrad-Moscow railroad and severed other connections to Leningrad. Stalin told his staff at the meeting with military commanders "Leningrad may be lost. Situation is hopelessly bad there." Zhukov was present at the meeting, and was then summoned by Stalin for a private discussion that soon made impact on the course of WWII. Zhukov and Stalin agreed that Leningrad and surrounding territories are crucial for winning the war, thus everything related to defense of Leningrad becomes first priority, including Red Army and Navy operations in Karelia and Northern Russia, partisan guerrilla resistance in Novgorod and Leningrad area, control over the Lake Ladoga and Svir River, defending seaports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk receiving British, Canadian, and American help through Arctic convoys, and most importantly - evacuation of civilians, millions of whom were trapped in the encircled city and suburbs.[41][42][43][44]

Stalin ordered Zhukov to save Leningrad by any means, because if the city failed, 11% of national economy and invaluable wealth of the Hermitage museum and palaces of the Russian Tzars would be in the enemy hands, then the German forces united with Finnish forces, could quickly take Northern Russia and attack Moscow, possibly winning the war. At that time, German forces already cut the Moscow railroad, and Finnish forces north of Leningrad attacked and obliterated roads connecting Leningrad to seaports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk threatening Leningrad and Moscow due to their dependence on British and American supplies through Arctic convoys. On 10 September 1941, following the encirclement of Leningrad by German and Finnish armies, Zhukov was made the commander of the Leningrad Front.[45]

In a clandestine operation, Zhukov and his staff officers flew over the Lake Ladoga and landed on partially destroyed strip of Rzhevka Airport in besieged Leningrad. Zhukov found the 3,5 million city and suburbs flooded by additional 460 thousand refugees from the neighboring provinces occupied by the National Socialists. Shortage of food and munition was critical. In order to save the important city and strategic Navy base Zhukov had to accomplish three tasks: one - stop the advancing Axis powers before they enter Leningrad, two - protect the civilians evacuating from the besieged city and suburbs, three - reorganize joint command and civilian resistance to prepare for a lengthy siege. Zhukov ordered executions of several inefficient officers, thus improving the defense of the siege perimeter. To continue efficient resistance, Zhukov organized a special armed regiment empowered to shoot anyone who retreats from the front lines of the siege perimeter. Then he ordered to lay dense minefields and deploy artillery batteries at all critical directions, and sent fifty thousand Navy men from the Baltic Fleet to fight ashore side by side with the land forces.

During September - October 1941, Zhukov organized the defenders of Leningrad to launch a series of bold counter-attacks to harass and wear out the German and Finnish forces holding the siege perimeter North and South of Leningrad. One of counter-offensives stopped the Axis powers which penetrated the defense lines near the seaport of Leningrad just two miles from the Kirov Plant which was building heavy tanks KV. With heavy support of land and sea artilleries, the counter-offensive effectively stopped the attack on Leningrad in this sector.[46] Zhukov's brutal efforts gave instant result - the Axis powers attack on Leningrad was stopped and the fierce battle transformed into siege. The city was saved and thus Hitler's plan to win the war failed. Outraged Hitler together with Keitel visited Finland on 4 June 1942 and met with Finnish president Ryti and Mannerheim attempting to renew joint attack on Leningrad, then Mannerheim visited Hitler, Himmler and Goering in Germany on 27-28 of June 1942, but all sides of the battle were already exhausted and could only afford maintenance of the existing siege standoff. After the Hitler - Mannerheim meetings of 1942, the battle of Leningrad lasted for another year-and-a-half until January 1944.

Zhukov was present in Leningrad only during part of the siege, secretly flying in and out, still constantly overseeing the 900-days-long battle of Leningrad and related operations, such as defense, evacuation of 1,5 million civilians, evacuation of industries, front reorganization after the failure of the 2nd Shock Army in 1942, Operation Iskra in 1943, Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive in 1944 and other operations around besieged Leningrad.[47][48][49]


After the situation at Leningrad was greatly stabilized, on 8 October Zhukov was sent back to the Reserved Front. At that time, the Battle of Moscow was taken place, the Soviet Western Front was being encircled at Rzhev - Vyazma; its commander S. M. Budyonny wasn't present at its headquarter, and its officers in the High Command didn't know anything happened at the front line. Therefore, Zhukov himself had to go to the frontline himself to grasp the battlefield situation and then went around to find Budyonny.[50] In order to unify the Soviet forces' operations, he sent a suggestion to Stalin that the Reserved and Western Fronts should be merged together. After that, Zhukov became the de facto leader of the Moskva's defending forces.

After a little while, Zhukov managed to establish communication links with the encircled Soviet troops of the Western Front. He then analyzed the situation, pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of the surrounding German troops and gave instructions to the encircled Soviets. Under the guidance of Zhukov, despite being unable to make an effective breakout, the surrounded Soviet troops managed to strengthen the positions and effectively worn out their German foes, greatly reduced the offensive power of the National Socialist Germany.[50]

On 15 November, the German launched another offensive to Moskva. At Krasnaia Poliana (Красная поляна) and Kriukovo (Крюково) NW of the Soviet capital, the German was only about 20 km from Moskva. Zhukov recognized an important error in the German plan: they attacked fiercely from both flanks but the German forces at the central were virtually inactive. Zhukov made a daring decision: he repositioned most of the central battle force to reinforce the two flanks. With this change, the Soviets managed to deflect German attacks without using precious reserve troops. These fresh reserved forces later played an important role in the Moskva counter-offensive.[50]

Zhukov also knew that the Germans would eventually realize their mistake and begin a fierce attack in the weakened center. Zhukov ordered the centre's remaining force to carefully prepare for a violent German offensive. As predicted, finally the Germans learned their error and attacked the central sector; Soviet preparations, however, managed to effectively stop the German offensives.[50]

After intensive and bloody fightings, Moskva still stood firmly and the German forces was severely exhausted. Although the Soviet combat forces now was still not really in the upper hand compared with their German foes,[51][52] G. K. Zhukov still decided to launched an counter-offensive. On 1 December, Zhukov coordinated the operations of Western, Bryansk and Kalinin Fronts in the counter-offensive and on 6 December, the Soviet forces started to attack. After two months, the Soviet managed to pushed their German foes 100–250 km away from Moskva (in some area, 400 km) and put 581,900 German soldiers out of action.[53] This is the first time in World War II that the German army was defeated in a large-scale battle with the participating of millions of troops. Ultimately, Operation Barbarossa failed. The Soviet victory at Moskva effectively strengthened the faith of the Allied Nations in their fighting against the National Socialist Germany and its Axis vassals.[54]

Of course, Zhukov receive unmatchable glorious as a saver of Moskva. Stalin himself lavishly praised Zhukov's role in the battle of Moskva:

The Motherland and the Party will never forget the action of the Soviet commanders in the Great Patriotic War. Name of the victorious generals who saved the Motherland will forever be engraved in the honorary steles placed at the battlefields. Amongst these battlefields, there is one battlefield with exceptional meanings, that is the great one at Moskva. And, the name of Comrade Zhukov, as a symbol of victory, will never be apart from this battlefield.

—I.V.Stalin, [55]

Rzhev sector and Operation Mars

On February 1942, the effect of victory at Moskva started to decline as the German had transferred reinforcements from Western Europe to the Soviet-German front. Although lacked reinforcements and ammunitions, G. K. Zhukov still ordered an attack. Due to the impatient action of Kalinin Front, its 33th Army, 1st Guard Cavalry Army and 4th Paratrooper Army were surrounded at the salient Rzhev-Vyazma. Two relieving operation was launched subsequently by the Soviets and they were able to rescue the 1st Guard Cavalry, 4th Paratrooper and parts of 33th Army. However, the loss was high: 193,683 people was dead, wounded or captured, these casualties was about 56.1% of the originally surrounded troops.[56] Some Soviet generals commented that these offensives were unnecessary, however the German General Kurt von Tippelskirch said:

There was a difficult situation appeared at the Rzhev - Sychevka direction during the first months of this year. The Russians nearly destroyed our first defensive line. This breakthrough was only stopped when we kept three Panzer divisions and some infantry units at this place - according to the plan these units must have been deployed at the South. With regards to tactics, the Germans were successful as they managed to mend the hole in this direction, however the Russians received a greater strategical profit when they managed to detain a large amount of German troops at this place and to prevent them from reinforcing the main battlefield.

—Kurt von Tippelskirch, [57]

At the end of 1942, Operation Mars began. It occurred concurrently with the first phase of Operation Uranus but it was not prepared by Zhukov nor did he commanded the operation directly at the battlefield. At that time, G. K. Zhukov was still carrying out his task as Deputy Commander-in-Chief and Representative of General Headquarter at Stalingrad. However Zhukov still cannot escaped his responsibility about Mars since he was the regulator of Western Front and Kalinin Front. Operation Mars was a clear tactical failure for the Soviet Union as, despite tragic losses, they could not manage to encircle and eliminate the German 9th Army. Within only 25 days, the Soviet losses were 215,000 KIAs, WIAs and captured, 1,315 tanks and self-propelled artilerry was destroyed. The average casualties per day were even higher than at Stalingrad.

However, by providing the orders of Soviet STAVKA, especially about making fake information of an "offensive" at Rzhev sector; the historian M. A. Gareev rejected the opinions of David Glantz and other Western historians about an "defeat" at Rzhev. According to Gareev, the Mars and Uranus operations was two parts of a united strategic vision; the main strategic goal of Operation Mars was to lure the German forces to the Rzhev sector and to prevent them from reinforcing the Stalingrad ones; thus it ensured the success of Operation Uranus and the Soviet offensives at the South. Thus, to Gareev, "there is not any convincing reasons to say that Operation Uranus was a failure or "the greatest failure of Marshal Zhukov" as David Glantz and other Western scholars described".[58]

David Glantz himself, in his book "The greatest failure of Marshal Zhukov" (Russian version. Moskva. 2006) also quoted the comments of A. V. Isaev about Operation Mar:

Aside from causing the influences about the local events of the fronts in November and December 1942; "Operation Mars" also influenced the fighting situation in 1943. In winter 1942, the 9th Army of General Walther Model was tightly pinned against the Rzhev salient. And in summer 1943, this Army was so exhausted that it could not be used in Operation "Citadel".

—A. V. Isaev, [59]

Battle of Stalingrad and Operation Uranus

In late August 1942 Zhukov was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief and sent to the southwestern front to take charge of the defence of Stalingrad.[60] From October 1942, he and A. M. Vasilevsky later planned the Stalingrad counteroffensive.[61] named "Operation Uranus", which was commented as "having a clarified mission, a daring idea and an extensive scope, which made everybody pay attention to it".[62] The counter-offensive was launced at 19 November 1942 and ended at 2 February 1943, as a result the German 6th Army was completely decimated. In the Stalingrad Counteroffensive, G. K. Zhukov was the coordinator of Southeastern and Stalingrad Front, meanwhile A. M. Vasilevsky coordinated the Southwestern and Don Front. The great victory at Stalingrad was a turning point of the Great Patriotic War and World War II on Europe Battlefield. Every Allied Nations in this war were proud of such a magnificent victory like that.[63] Due to his great merit in planning and commanding, G. K. Zhukov was awarded the 1st Order of Suvorov together with A.M.Vasilevsky, N.N. Voronov, N.F.Vatutin, A.I.Yeryomenko and K.K.Rokossovsky. In particular, the letter "No 1" was engraved distinctly on the order's medal of Zhukov.[62]

Breaking the siege of Leningrad

In January 1943 Zhukov (together with Kliment Voroshilov), coordinated the actions of the Leningrad Front and Volkhov Front in accord with the Baltic Fleet in Operation Iskra that led to partial breaking of the German sector of the siege perimeter. A narrow path was made between German armies and the waterfront of the Lake Ladoga. The path allowed to deliver some food and munition to Leningrad, but Germans constantly bombarded the path so it was a deadly area that took over 300 thousand lives of defenders. The siege of Leningrad continued for another year, until January 1944, when both German and Finnish military forces were thrown away from the city under Zhukov's command.[64] For his participation in the Leningrad relieving offensive, on 18 January 1943 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet granted Zhukov the rank Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Battle of Kursk

On 17 March 1943, G. K. Zhukov guided the combat at the south of Kursk and hastily organized the Voronezh Front (under the command of N. F. Vatutin) in order to face the supposed offensive of the Don Army Group under the command of Erich von Manstein to Belgorod - Kharkov area. On 8 April, based on the information collected by the Soviet intelligence, Zhukov sent a telegram to Stalin:

According to the situation of the Soviet-German front, the enemy will attempt to cut off the Kursk salient, encircle and destroy the Soviet forces of Central Front and Voronezh Front deployed here. At the moment, both fronts only have 15 tank divisions, meanwhile the German forces at Belgorod - Kharkov direction have alreadly gathered 17 tank divisions, most of them include the new types of tanks such as Tiger I, improvised Panther, Jagdpanzer IV and some kinds of tank destroyers such as Marder II, Marder III.


The German High Command had not completed Operation Citadel yet and only till 15 April, Hitler gave the direction about this offensive.

In the 8th April telegram, Zhukov also suggested the method to cope with the German offensive:

I consider it inadvisable for our forces to go over to the offensive in the very first days of the campaign in order to forestall the enemy. It would be better to make the enemy exhaust himself against our defences, and knock out his tanks and then, bringing up fresh reserves, to go over to the general offensive which would finally finish off his main force.


Marshal G. K. Zhukov inspected the captured German Tiger tank, August 1943

Zhukov's prediction was correct. Due to full understanding of the enemy's intention, the Soviet Army prepared a strong and deep defense at Kursk, and within only one week, (5–12 July 1943), the German attack was seriously stagnated, and finally the Soviet won the great Battle of Kursk against their German formidable Panzers, who is even much stronger than the German tank force in operation Barbarossa.[67] Zhukov himself guided the Voronezh Front facing the German at northern Kharkov - the southern sector of the Kursk salient.[68]

Although disagreed with a preemptive offensive like N. F. Vatutin and K.K.Rokossovsky suggested, Zhukov agreed with them about a smaller-scale "preemtive preparation" against the German attacking force right before the offensive began. The heavy bomardment of Soviet artilleries, Katyusha rocket launcher and air forces in this "preemtive preparation" inflicted considerable casualties on the German assault forces and sharply reduced their penetrating power.[69][70]


From 12 February 1944 Zhukov coordinated the actions of the 1st Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts.[71] On the 1 March 1944 Zhukov was appointed the commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front[72] until early May.[73]

Operation Bagration and Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive

During the summer offensive in 1944, Zhukov became the co-ordinator of the 1st Belorussian Front (commander: I. D. Chernyakovssky), 2nd Belorussian Front (commander: G. F. Zakharov) and later also First Ukrainian Front (commander: I. S. Koniev).[74] The Summer Offensive was a decisive Soviet victory, as they crippled the German Army Group Center, encircled and eliminated 30 divisions, penetrated 350–500 km deep and pushed the Germans out of Soviet territory. At the south, in July 1944, Zhukov guided Koniev's 1st Ukrainian Front's offensive at Lvov and Rava-Russkaya, pushed the National Socialist Germany out of Ukraina and penetrated to the Stanislavsk - Sandomirsk line. On 8 July 1944, Zhukov secretly moved the 5th Tank Army of P. A. Rotmistrov from Third Belorrusian Front to First Pribaltic Front, that act caught the German unexpectedly and thus helped the Soviet Army gain victories in Memel Offensive and East Prussian Offensive later.[75]

Jassy - Kishinev Offensive

On August 1944, Zhukov was appointed to be the coordinator of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts under the Colonel Generals Rodion Malinovsky and Fyodor Tolbukhin. These two fronts launched the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, virtually decimated the southwestern sector of German defense line and liberated Romania, Bulgaria, penetrated to Yugoslavia and Hungary. In this offensive, Zhukov order these two front narrow down the penetrated sectors from 22 km to 16 km in order to increase the artilleries concentration on these sectors (220 cannons/km to 240 cannons/km).[76] When the Soviet marched to Bulgaria, Zhukov aided the Bulgarian Communist Government to build their own forces (including 2 armies and 5 independent corps) in order to fight alongside the Soviet against National Socialist Germany.

Vistula and East Prussian Offensive

At the end of September 1944, G. K. Zhukov came back from the battlefield to the GHQ and was immediately appointed to be the coordinator of First and Second Belorussian Front at Eastern Poland. He strongly support the opinion of K. K. Rokossovsky - commander of 1st Belorussian Front - about not continuing to cross the Vistula River because the Red Army was worn out and severely exhausted after continuously attacking for three months. In addition, the spearhead units moved so fast that the logistics units and airbases could not catch up; and the distance between the German troops at front and the logistics base at the rear was significantly reduced since the front line was pushed back toward Germany. Thus, a pause time for resting and preparing is critically needed.[77] However, Zhukov demanded that the First and Second Belorussian Fronts had to keep the Saldomirsk, Pulava and Nareva bridgeheads for future offensives.[78]

During the East Prussian Offensive, G. K. Zhukov suggested that the Red Army should not send its tank units into the battlefield, as the tight and complicated terrain of East Prussia and Königsberg was unfitted for using tanks. On his opinion, air forces and artillery units needed to be used instead in order to pull the German garrisons from the strong stone fortresses to the open areas so that they can be easily eliminated. However, Zhukov's idea was not accepted. Zhukov himself commented about this refusal as:

I think this was a grave mistake of the Supreme Commander-in-chief. The later events proved that, using tanks in the intricate East Prussian streets made the battle become bloody.


Vistula–Oder Offensive

On 15 January 1945, G. K. Zhukov arrived at Liublin to have a talk with Polish Liberation Committee of Bolesław Bierut. He accepted the suggestion of the Committee about sending the Polish 1st and 2nd Armies of Stanislav Poplavsky and Zygmunt Berling (both are Polish) to Poland to fight alongside the 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian Fronts. Zhukov also suggested sending a large portion of Soviet weapons and ammunitions to reinforce the Polish's People Army. The suggestions was accepted and the Polish army then received about 3,500 artillery, 1,200 aircrafts, 1,000 tanks, 700,000 guns, and 18,000 cars.[80] Zhukov himself went to the frontline to inspect the attacking forces. When one Soviet military officer asked about the reason of such large scale and careful preparation of the offensive, Zhukov answered:

We have to ensure that, the offensive not only are 100% successful, but 200% !

—G. K. Zhukov, [81]

In this Vistula-Oder offensive, G. K. Zhukhov was the coordinator of First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts. The original target was the Vistula - Bromberg (Bytgot) - Poznal - Breslaw (Vroslav) line. However, right on 17 Jan, the First Polish Army of Stanislav Poplavsky had already liberated Warsaw. On 2 February, the main German forces of Centre Army Group was decimated and the First Belorussian ad Ukrainian Fronts reached the German border on Oder - Neisse line.[82] The furthest Soviet units were only 68 km away from Berlin. For the Germans, the Vistula-Oder offensive was a horrible bolt suddenly occur at a quiet noon.[83]

Battle of Berlin

Zhukov in Berlin, 1945
The Supreme Commanders in Berlin on 5 June 1945; from left to right: Bernard Montgomery (Great Britain), Dwight D. Eisenhower (US), Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (France)

Zhukov was present when German officials signed the Instrument of Surrender in Berlin.[84]

Post war service under Stalin

The signing the German Instrument of Surrender at the Soviet headquarters in Karlshorst, Berlin. Standing in the middle is Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov

After the capitulation, Zhukov became the first commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany in Germany. On 10 June, Zhukov came back to the Soviet Union to prepare for the Moscow Victory Parade of 1945 in Red Square. On 24 June, I. V. Stalin appointed him to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Parade. After the Victory Ceremony, on 24 June night Zhukov went to Berlin to continue his mission.[85]

During May 1945, Zhukov signed three important resolutions about maintaining an adequate living standard of the German people in the Soviet occupation zone: Resolution 063 (11 May 1945) about providing food for the people of Berlin, Resolution 064 (12 May) about restoring and maintaining normal activities of public services in Berlin, and Resolution 080 (31 May) about providing milk for children in Berlin. Zhukov also requested the Soviet Government to urgently transport to Berlin 96,000 tons of grain, 60,000 tons of potatoes, 50,000 cattle, thousands tons of other foods such as sugar and animal fat. He strictly ordered his subordinates to "Hate the national socialism but respect the German people" and to make all efforts to restore and maintain a stable living standard for the German people.[86]

From 16 July to 2 August, G. K. Zhukov participated in Potsdam Conference. As one of the four commander-in-chiefs of the Allies forces at Germany, Zhukov managed to establish good relationships with other three commander-in-chief: US's General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower, UK's Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and France's Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. The four generals usually exchanged their views about matters such as judging war criminals, rebuilding the war-torn Germany, relationship between Allied Nations, and the USSR's role in defeating the Japanese Empire. General Eisenhower especially was very satisfied with and respected his close relationship with Zhukov. Eisenhower's successor, General Lucius Dubignon Clay also praised the Zhukov-Eisenhower friendship, he commented:

The Soviet-America relationship should have developed well if Eisenhower and Zhukov had continued to work together.

—Lucius Dubignon Clay.[87]

American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in the West, was a great admirer of Zhukov;[specify] the two toured the Soviet Union together in the immediate aftermath of the victory over Germany.[88]

Zhukov was not only the supreme Military Commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany but also became its Military Governor on 10 June 1945. A war hero and a leader hugely popular with the military, in Stalin's view Zhukov constituted a potential threat to Stalin's leadership.[citation needed] As a result, he was replaced by Vasily Sokolovsky on 10 April 1946. After an unpleasant session of the Main Military Council, in 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 Soviet Ground Forces.[89] He was assigned command of the Odessa Military District, far from Moscow and lacking strategic significance and attendant massive troop deployment. He arrived there on 13 June 1946. He suffered a heart attack in January 1948 and spent a month in hospital. In February 1948 he was given another secondary posting, the command of the Urals Military District.

Zhukov also suffered terribly from Lavrentiy Beria's plots and slanders. In fact, one of the last disasters that Beria caused to the Soviet Union was the plot to topple Zhukov. Two of Zhukov's subordinates, Marshal of the Red Air Force Alexander Alexandrovich Novikov and Lieutenant-General ru:Konstantin Fyodorovitch Teleghin (Member of the Military Council of 1st Belorussia Army Group) were arrested and tortured in Lefortovo jail at the end of 1945. At the confrontations, G. K. Zhukov unmasked the slander of the Director of the Intelligence Department, F. I. Golikov, about Zhukov's squandering of booty and exaggerating of the National Socialist Germany's strength. Some other people[who?] accused him of being a Bonapartist.[90]

In 1946, seven rail carriages with furniture which Zhukov was taking to the Soviet Union from Germany were impounded. In 1948, his apartments and house in Moscow were searched and many valuables looted from Germany were found.[91] In this investigation, Lavrentiy Beria even fabricated such unbelievable and unimaginable information such as: Zhukov had 17 golden rings, three gemstones, 15 golden necklaces' faces, more than 4,000 meters of cloths, 323 pieces of fur, 44 carpets taken from German palaces and 55 paintings and 20 guns....[92] These incidents were ironically called "the investigation of the cup" by the Soviet military. In response, G. K. Zhukov answered:

I do not need to defend myself since there is a fact that I completely do not need these things, and they might have been put into my house by someone else. I need a public inspection with clear pledge in order to avoid misunderstandings and slanders. Certainly, I will still serve whole-heartedly for the Motherland, the Party and Great Comrade Stalin.

—G. K. Zhukov, [93]

When learning of the "misfortunes" that happened with G. K. Zhukov, despite not understanding all the problems Dwight David Eisenhower expressed his sympathy for his "comrade-in-arms" Zhukov.[94]

Rise and fall after Stalin

After Stalin's death, however, Zhukov returned to favor and became Deputy Defence Minister in 1953. He then had an opportunity to pay back Lavrentiy Beria, the one who previously set up many plots to topple the Soviet Marshal.

Arresting Beria

With the sudden death of I. V. Stalin, the Soviet Union fell into a leader crisis. According to the Rule, Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov became temporary First Secretary. Malenkov and his allies tempted to get rid of Stalin's influence and the Stalin personality cult, however Malenkov himself did not have the courage to do this alone. Moreover, Lavent Beria was still a dangerous threat. Again, the Soviet politicians sought reinforcement from the powerful and prestigious military men. In this matter, Nikita Khrushchev chose Zhukov, because he and Zhukov had a good relationship, and, in addition, in the Great Patriotic War, Zhukov saved Khrushchev twice from being a victim of wrong accusation.[95][96]

On 26 June 1953, a special meeting of the Politburo was held by Malenkov. L. P. Beria came to the meeting with an uneasy feeling because it was called unusually hastily. Indeed, unknown to Beria, Zhukov himself ordered General S. K. Moskalenko to secretly prepare a special force and permitted them to use two of Zhukov's and Bulganin's special cars - which had black glass - in order to safely infiltrate the Moscow Kremlin. The NKVD's Guard was also replaced by the Moscow Military Zone's Guard, again, under the order of G. K. Zhukov. In this meeting, Khrushchev, Malenkov and their allies denounced "the imperialist element Beria" about his "anti-Party", "anti-socialism", "sowing division", "acting as a spy of England" activities together with Beria's other crimes. Finally, N. S. Khrushchev suggested expelling Beria from the Communist Party and bringing him to the military court. Immediately, Zhukov's Guard under the Moskaleno rushed into the meeting room. G. K. Zhukov himself came to Beria and shouted: "Hands up ! Follow me !". Beria replied in a panic: '"Oh Comrades, what's the matter ? Just sit down.". G. K. Zhukov shouted again: "Shut up, you are not the commander here ! Comrades, arrest this traitor !". Moskaleno's Guard obeyed this order right away.[97][98]

After that, Zhukov was a member of the military tribunal headed by Marshal Ivan Konev in the Beria trial.[99] As one of the most prestigious members of the Red Army, Zhukov's opinion was important to the tribunal's decision, and finally on 18 December 1953, the Military Court sentenced Beria to death. During the burial of Beria, Konev commented: "This bastard's birthday is deserved to be cursed!" Zhukov replied: "I think that my duty is contributing my little part in this matter."[97][100]

Political career after 1953

When Bulganin became premier in 1955, he appointed Zhukov as Defence Minister.[99] In this period, Zhukov participated in many political activities, both as a member of Soviet government and as a normal Soviet citizen. He strongly (and successfully) opposed the re-establishment of the Commissar system, because the Party and political leaders are not professional militarists, thus the highest power should fall to the professionals: the army's commanders. Till 1955, Zhukov had sent to and received letters from his old wartime friend US President Dwight Eisenhower, and both leaders agreed that the world's superpowers should coexist peacefully together.[101] On July 1955, Zhukov together with Khrushchev, N. A. Bulganin, V. M. Molotov and A. A. Gromyko participated in Summit Conference at Geneva after the USSR signed a peace treaty with Austria and withdrew its army from that country.

Zhukov followed orders from the Soviet Prime Minister Malenkov and Communist Party leader Khrushchev in the invasion of Hungary following the 1956 event in this country.[102] Along with the majority of members of the Presidium, he urged Nikita Khrushchev to send troops to support the Hungarian authorities and to secure the border with Austria. Zhukov and most of the Presidium were not, however, 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 in the Presidium changed again when Hungary's new Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, began to talk about Hungarian withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet leadership pressed ahead ruthlessly to defeat the revolutionaries and install János Kádár in Nagy's place. In the same years, when UK, France and Israel invaded Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis, Zhukov express his support for Egypt as he believed that Egypt had the right of self-defense. Zhukov visited Yugoslavia and Albania in October 1957 aboard the Chapayev class cruiser Kuibyshev, attempting to repair the Tito–Stalin split of 1948.[103] During the voyage, Kuibyshev encountered units of the United States Sixth Fleet, passing honours were rendered.

On his 60th birthday (1954), Zhukov received his fourth Hero of the Soviet Union title. He became the highest-rank military professional who was a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He also became a symbol of the strength of the nation, millions of Soviet citizens put their faith in him and in the Soviet Army. Zhukov's prestige was even higher than the USSR's police and security agencies, thus it caused worry and envy among the political leaders of the Soviet Union—worries for good reason. For example, going further than Khruschev, Zhukov demanded that the political agencies in the Red Army report to him before the Party. He demanded an official condemnation of Stalin's crimes during the Great Purge. He also support wholeheartedly the vindication and rehabilitation for M. N. Tukhachevsky, V. K. Blyukher, A. I. Yegorov and many others. Thus, many political leaders accused him of being a Reformist and Bonapartist. Such enviousness and hostilities would be the key factor leading to the downfall of the Marshal later.[104]

The relationship between Zhukov and Khrushchev continued to develop and it reached the peak during the XX Congress of the Communist Party (1957). After becoming the First Secretary of the Party, N. S. Khrushchev carried out a series of acts which nobody previously had dared to think of. They are: criticizing the "personality cult", moving Stalin's body out of the mausoleum and burying it at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis as with other Soviet leaders. Little to be known that, in order to execute such startling acts, N. S. Khrushchev needed the approval (or at least the acquiescence) of the military men, headed by Minister of Defence G. K. Zhukov. At the Central Conference of the Communist Party held on June 1957, the conservative Stalinists led by Malenkov and Bulganin tried to removeKhrushchev by using the mechanial majority in voting, with a draft of a resolution about dismissing Khrushchev. But the coup failed, and the strongest supporter of Khrushchev was none other than Zhukov. At that Central Conference, Zhukov himself stated:

The Army went against this resolution and not even a tank will leave its position without my order !

—G. K. Zhukov, [105]


However, Zhukov later paid a high price for this statement. He was removed from the Presidium of the Party's Central Committee, removed from the Ministry of Defence and was forced to retire at the age of 62. All these things happened behind his back, when Zhukov "left his tanks" to participate in a visiting trip to Yugoslavia at the invitation of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. The same issue of Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) that announced Zhukov's return to Moscow also reported that Zhukov had been relieved of his duties.[106] Even N. S. Khrushchev did not do anything to help Zhukov. According to many researchers, the Soviet politicians and Khruschev himself had a traditional fear of "powerful people".[107]

Last years in retirement

After being forced out of the government, Zhukov kept away from politics. However, during this time many people, including former subordinates, frequently paid him visits, including hunting excursions, and waxed nostalgic about past achievements. On September 1959, while visiting the United States, Khrushchev told US President Dwight D. Eisenhower that retired Marshal Zhukov liked fishing. Eisenhower in response sent Zhukov a set of fishing tackle as a special gift for his old friend. Zhukov respected this gift so much that he is said to have exclusively used Eisenhower's fishing tackle till the end of his life. In 1969, Brezhnev gave him permission to represent the Soviet Delegation at Eisenhower's funeral.[108]

After Khrushchev was deposed in October 1964, Leonid Brezhnev restored Zhukov to favour - though not to power - in a move by Brezhnev to use the former marshal's fame to strengthen his position. Zhukov's name was put in the public eye again when Brezhnev lionized Zhukov in a speech to commemorate the Great Patriotic War. On 9 May 1965, Zhukov was invited to sit on the tribune of the Lenin Mausoleum to review the military at the Red Square.[109]

In 1958, Zhukov started writing his memoirs "Reminiscences and reflections" (Воспоминания и размышления). He spent several years working on it. This intensive workload, together with his deteriorating health due to old age, worsened his heart disease. In December 1967, Zhukov had a stroke. He was hospitalised until June 1968 and received further treatment at home under the care of his second wife, Galina Semyonova, a former officer in the Medical Corps. His memoirs were published in 1969 and became a best-seller. Within several months of his memoirs' publication, Zhukov received more than 10,000 letters from readers offering comments, expressing gratitude, giving advice and lavishing praise on the Marshal. The Communist Party also planned to invite Zhukov to participate in its XXIV General Assembly in 1971 as an Honorary Member. But due to opposition from some people, the invitation was cancelled.[110]

On 18 June 1974, Zhukov died after suffering another stroke. His ashes were buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis alongside many other generals of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.


Father: Konstantin Artemyevitch Zhukov (1851–1921), a shoes maker. Konstantin was an orphan adopted by Ms. Anuska Zhukova at the age of two.

Mother: Ustinina Aktemievna Zhukova (1866-?), a farmer descended from a poor family. According to G. K. Zhukov, his mother was a person with respectable strength who could carry five put (80 kilograms) of wheat on the shoulder. G. K. Zhukov inherited this strength from his mother.

Elder sister: Maria Kostantinovna Zhukova (b. 1894).

Younger brother: Alexei Konstantinovich Zhukov (b. 1901), died prematurely.

First wife: Alexandra Dievna (?-1967), married in 1920 at Voronezh; divorced in 1954, died in Moskva.

Second wife: Galina Alexandrovna Semyonova (1926 - November 1973[111]), Colonel, military officer of Soviet Medical Corps, worked at Burdenko Hospital, specialized in therapeutics. Married in 1955.

First daughter: Era Zhukova (b. 1928), mothered by Alexandra Dievna

Second daughter Margarita Zhukova (b. 1929), mothered by Alexandra Dievna

Third daughter: Ella Zhukova (b. 1937), mothered by Alexandra Dievna

Fourth daughter: Maria Zhukova (b. 1957), mothered by Galina Semyonova.

Controversy and praise

Still, there are several opinions that criticized Marshal Zhukov's acts and personality. Even after the Russian Federation honoured Zhukov in 1995, some people still do not acknowledge him. For example, the young historian Konstantin Zaleski believed that in Zhukov's memoirs, the Marshall exaggerated his own role in the Patriotic War.[112] Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky said that the 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.[113] Andrei Mertsalov stated that Zhukov was a rude and wayward person. About his rudeness, some documents states that when arresting Beria at Kremlin, Zhukov shouted: "In the name of the Soviet people, you are under arrest, you "comrade" son of a bitch." The historical accuracy of some accounts is doubted, and in Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs he confirmed Zhukov did not use such a colorful language like that. Mertsalov also accused Zhukov of setting terribly strict rules toward his subordinates in order to achieve the goals.[114] Others pay attention to Zhukov's "dictatorship." For example Major General P. G. Grigorienko stated that Zhukov always wanted other people to comply with his orders unconditionally. Some notable example for these points is that, on 28 September 1941, Zhukov sent ciphered telegram No. 4976 to commanders of the Leningrad Front and the Baltic Navy, announcing that returned prisoners and families of soldiers captured by the Germans would be shot.[115] This order was published for the first time in 1991 in the Russian magazine Начало (Beginning) No. 3. And in the same month, Zhukov also ordered that any soldiers who arbitrary left their positions would be shot.[116]

Specially, Anthony Beevor in Berlin: the Downfall (published in London, 2002) criticized Zhukov that the Marshal let his subordinates do everything they wanted during two weeks before the Berlin Military Management Committee was actived. However, this point received violently opposition from Doctor Joachim Fest, a researcher about Berlin and Hitler at the end of World War II. Fest stated that, Beevor totally forgot about the fact that Zhukov was really sensitive about the indiscipline of his subordinates and would strictly punish that indiscipline. Fest also commented that Beevor had scattered wrong information about history.[117] The book also received heavy critics from Grigori Karasin, Russian Ambassador at London.[118]

Some opinions stated that Zhukov is a typical "squander-soldier general" and that he was emotionless about the loss of lives of his forces. However, some scholars strongly rejected this idea and they quoted some of Zhukov's order stored by Russian Minster of Defence and Government of Moskva to prove that Zhukov did care about the soldiers' lives.[119]

The reason why 49th Army failed to accomplish the attacking mission and suffered heavy loss of lives is because the commanders of the units terribly violated the regulations of using artillery in preparing shot in order to persecuted and broke the enemy's lines and did not pay attention to reinforcing the shelters and trenches for the soldiers to take cover in. The units of 49th Army repeated many useless head-on assault towards Kostino, Ostrozhnoye, Bogdanovo, Potapovo; that lead to heavy loss of lives and failure of the mission.

Even a person with primary education level can understand that these strong points are very suitable for defence and shelter. The area in front of these strong points was arranged with many perfect firing posts. Repeating many assaults in winter condition is the result of the indiscipline and the lack of preparing to the idiotic extend that led to heavy and useless loss of lives of the Motherland and for thousands of Mothers.

If you still want to stay at your commanding positions, execute my following order:

Stop immmediately the head-on assaults. Terminate instantly the pointless bombardment of artillery in the front. When moving soldiers must make full use of mountain creeks and forests in order to reduce casualties. Secretly isolate the strong points and do not stop in order to assault Sloboda and Rassvet and develop to Levshina.

I demand you to execute the order before 24:00 of 27 January.

—Order of G. K. Zhukov to the High Command of 49th Army on 27 January 1942[120]

You have created such a useless thinking that victory can be achieved by tactic of "using meat to crush people." Victory can only achieved by combat arts and fighting skills, not by people's lives.

—Order of G. K. Zhukov to Zakharkin on 7 March 1942, [121]

Tactics of Western Front recently indicated a completely unacceptable attititude about saving forces. Commanders of armies, corps and divisions just threw the units into the battlefields, however they were irresponsible about preparing medical care for the soldiers. Recently, casualty rates of Western Front was two or three times more than other areas; however wounded soldiers were still abandoned. It seems to be that saving lives of the wounded and maintaining health of the soldiers was only considered as a petty problem.

—Order of G. K. Zhukov on 15 March 1942, [122]

However, Zhukov still received many positive comments about him, mostly from his companions in the Soviet Army, from the Russian Army nowadays, and from the Western Allied generals lived contemporarily with him. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower stated that because of Zhukov's credits in the war aganist the National Socialists, the United Nations owed him much more than any other notable military leaders in the world.

The war in Europe ended with victory and nobody could did that better than Marshal Zhukov, we owed him that credit. He is a modest person and so, we can't undervalue his position in our mind. When we can come back to our Motherland, there must be another type of Order in Russia, an Order named after Zhukov, which is awarded to everybody who can learn the bravery, the far vision and the decisiveness of this soldier.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, [123]

Major General Sir Francis de Guingand, Chief of Staff of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery described G. K. Zhukov as a friendly and nice person.[124] The US writer John Gunther, who met Zhukov many times after the World War, said that Zhukov was the most friendly, the nicest and the most honest person, much more than any Russian leaders that Guther had met.[125] John Eisenhower (Dwight D. Eisenhower's son) claimed that G. K. Zhukov was really ebullient and was a very suitable friend of him.[126]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev laying a wreath at a monument to Zhukov in Ulan Bator, whilst on a state visit to Mongolia in August 2009.
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.

Zhukov was a recipient of numerous decorations. In particular, he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union four times ; besides him, only Leonid Brezhnev was a (self awarded) four-time recipient. 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.

Russian Imperial decorations

Soviet Orders and Medals

Foreign awards


Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj visit the monument to Georgy Zhukov in Ulan Bator, near the Zhukov Museum in Zhukov Street (Mongolian: Жуковын гудамж) in memory of the Battle of Khalkin Gol.

The very first monument to Georgy Zhukov was erected in Mongolia, in memory of the Battle of Halhin Gol. After the dissolution 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 Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh, is named in his honor.[127]

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


Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's poem On the Death of Zhukov ("Na smert' Zhukova", 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.[128] The poem is a 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.

In his book of recollections,[129] Zhukov was critical of the role the Soviet leadership played during the war. The first edition of Vospominaniya i razmyshleniya was published during Brezhnev's reign, only on condition that criticism of Stalin was removed and Zhukov had to add an (invented) episode of a visit to Leonid Brezhnev, politruk at the Southern Front, to consult on military strategy.[130]

In popular culture

Zhukov is a character in Robert Conroy's Red Inferno: 1945. The novel follows his career as Marshal of the Soviet Union in a fictional situation where the Soviet Union attacks America and the remaining Allied nations. Towards the end of the novel an American Boeing B-29 Superfortress drops a nuclear bomb near the city of Paderborn, Germany, where he has set up his headquarters. The fictional bomb kills both him and his protégé and second in command, Vasily Chuikov, as well as a large portion of the Soviet military's elite forces.

In the title song from the Swedish band Sabaton's album Attero Dominatus they sing about Georgy Zhukov during the Battle of Berlin.

Cigar City Brewing Company in Tampa, Florida brews a Russian imperial stout named after Zhukov.

The USS Zhukov, an Ambassador-class starship, is referred to several times in Star Trek: The Next Generation.


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  3. (Russian)В огне революции и гражданской войны Retrieved on 2002-07-17
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  5. Zhukov, p.90 (1st part).
  6. Zhukov, p.87 (1st part).
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  8. Zhukov, p.99 (1st part).
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  13. Coox p. 590
  14. Coox p. 663
  15. Coox p. 899
  16. 16.0 16.1 Coox p. 998
  17. 17.0 17.1 Coox p. 991
  18. Coox p. 996
  19. Konstantin Tarnovsky. Sơ lược lịch sử Liên Xô. Novosty. Moskva. 1984, trang 117.
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  61. Chaney, p.224
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  65. Жуков Георгий Константинович "Воспоминания и размышления" - Глава 17. Разгром фашистских войск на Курской дуге С. 130.
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  67. William J. Spahr. Zhukov, The Rise and Fall of a Great Captain. Presidio Press. 1993.
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  77. K. K. Rokossovssky. Duty of a soldier. Moskva, p. 285.
  78. S. M. Shtemenko. The Soviet General Staff in war. vol 2, p. 129. (Vietnamese)
  79. Жуков Георгий Константинович "Воспоминания и размышления" - Глава 19. Освобождение Белоруссии и Украины С. 238
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  86. Grigori Doberin. Những bí mật của chiến tranh thế giới thứ hai, trang 340-343.
  87. Albert Axell. Marshal Zhukov, p. 356. (Vietnamese)
  88. Chaney, p.346–7
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  130. As pointed out by Mauno Koivisto in his book Venäjän idea, Helsinki. Tammi. 2001.


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.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Nikolai Bulganin
Minister of Defence of Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Rodion Malinovsky
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