Zhukov, Georgy Konstantinovich

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(18961974), marshal of the Soviet Union (1943), four-time Hero of the Soviet Union, and the Red Army's "Greatest Captain" during the Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War (World War II).

Stalin's closest wartime military confidant, Georgy Zhukov was a superb strategist and practitioner of operational art who nonetheless displayed frequent tactical blemishes. Unsparing of himself, his subordinates, and his men, he was renowned for his iron will, strong stomach, and defensive and offensive tenacity.

A veteran of World War I and the Russian Civil War, Zhukov graduated from the Senior Command Cadre Course in 1930 and became deputy commander of the Belorussian Military District in 1938 and commander of Soviet Forces in Mongolia in 1939. After Zhukov defeated Japanese forces at Khalkhin Gol in August 1939, Stalin appointed him commander of the Kiev Special Military District in June 1940 and Red Army Chief of Staff and Deputy Peoples' Commissar of Defense in January 1941.

During World War II, Zhukov served on the Stavka VGK (Headquarters of the Supreme High Command) as First Deputy Peoples' Commissar of Defense and Deputy Supreme High Commander, as Stavka VGK representative to Red Army forces, and as front commander. In June 1941 Zhukov orchestrated the Southwestern Front's unsuccessful armored counterstrokes near Brody and Dubno against German forces in Ukraine. As Reserve Front (army group) commander from July to September, Zhukov slowed the German advance at Smolensk, prompting Hitler to delay his offensive against Moscow temporarily. Zhukov directed the Leningrad Front's successful defense of Leningrad in September 1941 and the Western Front's successful defense and counteroffensive at Moscow in the winter of 19411942.

In the summer of 1942, Zhukov's Western Front conducted multiple offensives to weaken the German advance toward Stalingrad and, in November-December 1942, led Operation Mars, the failed companion piece to the Red Army's Stalingrad counteroffensive (Operation Uranus), against German forces west of Moscow. During the winter campaign of 19421943, Zhukov coordinated Red Army forces in Operation Spark, which partially lifted the Leningrad blockade, and Operation Polar Star, an abortive attempt to defeat German Army Group North and liberate the entire Leningrad region. While serving as Stavka VGK representative throughout 1943 and 1944, Zhukov played a decisive role in Red Army victories at Kursk and Belorussia, the advance to the Dnieper, and the liberation of Ukraine, while suffering setbacks in the North Caucasus (April-May 1943) and near Kiev (October 1943). Zhukov commanded the First Belorussian Front in the liberation

of Poland and the victorious but costly Battle of Berlin.

After commanding the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces, Germany, and the Soviet Army Ground Forces, and serving briefly as Deputy Armed Forces Minister, Zhukov was "exiled" in 1946 by Stalin, who assigned him to command the Odessa and Ural Military Districts, ostensibly to remove a potential opponent. Rehabilitated after Stalin's death in 1953, Zhukov served as minister of Defense and helped Khrushchev consolidate his political power in 1957. When Zhukov resisted Khrushchev's policy for reducing Army strength, at Khrushchev's instigation, the party denounced Zhukov, ostensibly for "violating Leninist principles" and fostering a "cult of Comrade G.K. Zhukov" in the army. Replaced as minister of Defense by Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky in October 1957 and retired in March 1958, Zhukov's reputation soared once again after Khrushchev's removal as Soviet leader in 1964.

See also: khrushchev, nikita sergeyevich; stalin, josef vissarionovich; world war ii


Anfilov, Viktor. (1993). "Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov." In Stalin's Generals, ed. Harold Shukman. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Glantz, David M. (1999). Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Zhukov, Georgy Konstantinovich. (1985). Reminiscences and Reflections. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress.

David Glantz