Man who crushed the Nazis – Georgy Zhukov
“It is a fact that under equal conditions, large-scale battles and whole wars are won by troops which have a strong will for victory, clear goals before them, high moral standards, and devotion to the banner under which they go into battle.” (Georgy Zhukov)
Born: 1896, Strelkovka.
Died: 1974, Moscow.
Georgy Zhukov was the Soviet Toyotomi Hideyoshi – to rise from a simple farmer to a military general is no small feat, though he did not rule the land like Hideyoshi did, but waged war for his Motherland. However, the most famous Soviet general left something more valuable than nation rule: a cherished memory in his countrymen and fame around the world as the best general in the WWII. Perhaps I am exaggerating, but his results show us just that – from his fierce defense of Moscow to the toppling of Berlin, his skill is confirmed.
Zhukov was not a man whom life cuddled and took care of – he was born into a poor worker family, forced to learn his father’s trade as a furrier and sleep on the factory floor when he went to Moscow with his uncle to find work. During this trying time, Zhukov witnessed firsthand the harsh condition of the working class and the negative aspects of the Czarist autocracy.
Zhukov’s military career started with conscription during the World War I into the cavalry. His performance was admirable earning him the cross of St. George twice, but Zhukov’s role ended with a wound that rendered him unable to fight on. The brutality of the warfare that Georgy Zhukov faced, disclosed the weaknesses of the Russian army and generals’ neglect for the soldiers’ lives, resulting in skyrocketing casualties figures. All of this convinced Zhukov to focus on finding new ways to prevent the mass loss of life and more effective war waging mechanisms, especially the use of heavy armor that was undeveloped at the time.
“We will do all we can to insure peace… but if war is imposed upon us we will be together shoulder to shoulder as in the last war to strive for the happiness of mankind.”
The Bolshevik revolution changed the fate for our talented officer. Thanks to his humble working family origin, Zhukov joined the Bolshevik Party and once again saw war in the cavalry, first in the Russian Civil War (1918-1921) and then he also took part in the ending of Tambov rebellion in 1921. Now, Zhukov started researching military theories and strategies, wholeheartedly devoting his time to his studying. His talent was seen and he became the commander of the cavalry division in 1933, only to become the head of Belorussian Military District later.
Georgy Zhukov’s role in World War II
Everything started with the Far Eastern front against the Japanese in Mongolia. Appointed there by Joseph Stalin, Zhukov coordinated with the Mongolian military forces to focus the resistance. The Japanese army was known for its fighting spirit, iron discipline and expertise in the field of camouflage, but was prone to recklessness and blind fanaticism that cost them thousands of lives in many battles before, especially during the Russo-Japanese War. To counter them Zhukov deployed a big number of tanks, better communications and artillery. His careful planning and understanding of the Japanese forces allowed Zhukov to win at the battle of Khalkin Gol river. Zhukov ordered the Soviet units to deceive the enemy by a full retreat and draw them out in order to allow the heavy armor to put an end to the surprised Japanese force. For this display of valor, he was proclaimed the “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
Georgy Zhukov advanced in both fame and rank, but frequently fell out with Stalin due his rising fame that seemed like a threat to Stalin. This misunderstanding was eventually ended until the war’s end when Zhukov was once again removed from the “bigger picture”. General Zhukov’s further campaigns:
- October 1941 – The defense of Moscow. This was a major test of Zhukov’s ability and allowed a huge counter-offensive against the broken German Wehrmacht.
- February 1943 – Zhukov takes back Stalingrad, a city destroyed and covered in Soviet blood. This battle destroyed the Nazi forces by bombardment and encircling.
- From July 1943 to August 1943 – The legendary battle of Kursk that broke the German spine in the Eastern front.
- January 1944 – Zhukov practically liberated Leningrad in the operation “Iskra” after heavy bombardment and urban fighting.
General Zhukov’s most famous accomplishment was of course the taking of Reichstag and with it the entire Berlin. This victory was paid heavily in Soviet lives, fighting in the streets and canals to the last man. In fact, every battle on the Eastern front was a bloodbath, taking Soviet and German lives without question – general Zhukov knew that, but still he showed his talent on the battlefield being able to reorganize the entire army and to sweep across the Eastern Europe and win the war.
“Here they found real war, but they were not ready for it. They were used to easy victories. This deprived them of flexibility on the one hand, of tenacity on the other. For them, war was merely maneuvers. They have neither cavalry nor skiers, their tanks cannot pass over the snow.”
After the war, Georgy Zhukov was the Supreme commander of the Soviet occupational forces in Germany, but eventually he returned to Moscow where he presided by riding the white horse instead of Stalin. Still, Stalin did not trust Zhukov so the good general lived in fear. He was ordered to supervise the military district of Odessa, but was soon appointed Minister of Defense when Stalin died in 1957. However, again, he was substituted and never again entered government service and finally received a chance to live peacefully. The Soviet Hero died in 1974 and was buried on the Red Square next to Kremlin walls.
However, the real question is what do you make of Zhukov – he is known for his compassion to soldiers serving under him, but also for his ruthless discipline. He never lost a battle, but still lost a lot of men, used firing squads regularly and held a penal squad that charged forward first to demonstrate the high demand for discipline and loyalty. Still, Zhukov never got the recognition for his services in my opinion, since he was deposed a number of times and even his first advice to abandon Kiev and strengthen the defensive line was rejected by STAVKA and Stalin. To add to his misery, even being a general loved by the people, he still lived in fear from Stalin’s jealousy and was at times deported to serve in some outer provinces. However, those were dark and bloody times, when everyone made sacrifices – I still believe that we all owe a debt of gratitude to our comrade Georgy Zhukov for liberating us and the USSR for helping the Balkans during the war.
Вечная слава Георгию Жукову!