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World War 2 

Marshal Zhukov


Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov was born in 1896 in Kaluga province, Russia, and died in Moscow, in 1974. He was a marshal of the Soviet Union, and the most important Soviet military commander during World War II.

Zhukov began his military service at the Imperial Russian Army during World War I. Zhukov became twice holder of St. George Cross (highest decoration in the Russian Imperial Army) and formed as a soldier in Russian Imperial Army, in dragoons .

In 1918 he joined the Red Army, served as a cavalry commander during the Russian Civil War. Although, Zhukov himself admitted, that under circumstances he could be in the White Army. After the war was over, Zhukov studied military science both in Russia and in Germany.

In 1936 Stalin, realizing that the war with Hitler is inevitable, ordered to introduce Cossack units in the Red Army, to dress them in the Cossack uniforms. One of the first Soviet Cossacks became future marshal G.K.Zhukov, who was at the time the commanding officer of the 4th Cavalry Division. The division was renamed into 4th Don Cossack Division, Zhukov was in command of it for two years, until he was appointed as a commander deputy (in charge of cavalry) of the Belorussian Military District. Thus Georgy Zhukov in a way was the only marshal in Russian history, who had served in Cossacks.

As head of Soviet forces in the Manchurian border region he defeated Japanese troops in 1939. In January 1941 Zhukov was appointed chief of staff of the Red Army.

After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), Zhukov was involved in the planning or execution of almost every major engagement in the war. He organized the defense of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). He directed the defense of Moscow (autumn 1941) as well as the massive counteroffensive (December 1941) that drove the German Army Group Center back from central Russia. He oversaw the defense of Stalingrad (late 1942) and planned and directed the counteroffensive that encircled the German Sixth Army in that city (January 1943). After that Zhukov was named a marshal of the Soviet Union. Zhukov devastated Wehrmacht in the Battle of Kursk (July 1943) and directed the Soviet sweep across Ukraine in the winter and spring of 1944. He commanded the Soviet offensive through Belorussia (summer-autumn 1944), which resulted in the collapse of the German Army Group Center and of German occupation of Poland and Czechoslovakia. In April 1945 he personally commanded the final assault on Berlin and then remained in Germany as commander of the Soviet occupation force. On May 8, 1945, he represented the Soviet Union at Germany's formal surrender. After Stalin’s death, Zhukov arrested Beria (the head of NKVD, later known as KGB) and saved Russia and all other Former USSR states from the new wave of terror and Gulags. Otherwise, Beria, the man who handled all the "witch-hunt" and Gulags could be a new leader of USSR after Stalin’s death. Nobody knows what would happen to the people of USSR and world in that case…

I read in memoirs of a Red Army military interpreter, that when in 1944 a German General was taken captive, and asked : "How German command evaluates actions of the 4th Ukrainian front?" he replied: "We are not worrying about actions of the 4th Ukrainian, we are worrying about Zhukov being inactive". Germans had to watch close where was Zhukov. That’s why he was signing all his messages as "Konstantinov". Military interpreters sometimes asked captive officers, what they thought was the strength of the Red Army. And answers were: tank T-34, endurance of soldiers, Zhukov…

On June 24 1945 from the Spassky gates of the Kremlin came out a rider on a white horse. He commanded the Victory Parade. That rider was Georgy Zhukov. There was a deep symbolism, (even though Stalin didn’t mean it that way) – many realized that in military sense it was his, not Stalin’s, victory.

This sub-page is not about Zhukov as a man, but as a general/marshal. I didn’t know him in person, I don’t know anybody who knew him – so I don’t know what was he like in life. But I know that WWII could go differently and could be longer if not Zhukov’s military genius. Zhukov symbolized Russian military power, which was somewhat inadequate when WWII began and would be contesting global paramountcy when it ended.

Photo: G.K.Zhukov




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