Georgy Zhukov – WWII Marshal of the Soviet Union

Georgy Zhukov – WWII Marshal of the Soviet Union

Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov is a legendary Soviet commander, Marshal of the Soviet Union, who was one of the key figures of the Red Army during the Second World War and was later nicknamed “Marshal of Victory” by the people.

Biography

Georgy Zhukov was born in the village of Strelkovka, Maloyaroslavets district, Kaluga province, in the family of a peasant Konstantin Zhukov.

After finishing three classes of school in the neighboring village of Velichkovo in the summer of 1908, he continued his studies with his mother’s brother Mikhail Pilikhin. On July 15 (28), 1914, the Russian Empire entered the First World War. In connection with losses at the front, in May 1915, an early conscription of young people born in 1896 was announced.

On August 7 (20), 1915 Zhukov was drafted into the Imperial Army. In Maloyaroslavets, they were selected for the cavalry and on the same day with a group of recruits were sent to Kaluga, where his military career began in the 5th cavalry regiment of the 189th reserve infantry battalion.

After training at the end of August 1916 he was transferred to the South-Western Front at the disposal of the commander of the 10th Novgorod Dragoon Regiment. Taking part in hostilities, he was awarded the St. George Cross, 4th degree, “for the capture of a German officer” . In October, he received a severe concussion and, due to partial hearing loss, was sent to the reserve cavalry regiment.

For being wounded in battle he was awarded the second St. George Cross, this time 3rd degree. Also received a rank of junior non-commissioned officer in the Russian Imperial Army. After the squadron was disbanded in December 1917, he returned to Moscow, then to the village to his parents, where he suffered from typhus for a long time.

Georgy Zhukov, 1916

Non-commissioned officer Georgy Zhukov, 1916. Photo by Wikipedia

Imperial Cross of Saint George

Imperial Cross of Saint George IV and III class. Photo by medalirus.ru.

Zhukov’s career in the Red Army

In 1918, Georgy Zhukov joined the Red Army and ended the civil war as a squadron commander. From 1923 to 1930 he commanded a cavalry regiment. Then he was an assistant inspector of the Red Army cavalry, commanded the 4th cavalry division, 3rd and 6th cavalry corps. Already during this period Zhukov showed himself to be a talented organizer of training and education of soldiers, an impeccable commander. The formations led by him achieved high performance in combat and political training.

In July 1938 Zhukov became deputy commander of the troops of the Belarusian Special Military District for cavalry. And in the summer of the following year, he took command of the 57th Special Corps, and then the 1st Army Group of Soviet Forces in Mongolia. Zhukov received his first Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Star of the Hero of the Mongolian People’s Republic on August 29, 1939 for successfully leading the operation to defeat the Japanese invaders on the Khalkhin-Gol River, Mongolia. In the battles on Khalkhin Gol, Zhukov for the first time widely used tank units to solve the problem of encircling and destroying the enemy.

In May 1940, in accordance with the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (of 05/07/1940) “On the introduction of military ranks in the Red Army”, among others, Zhukov was awarded the rank of army general.

 G.K. Zhukov

Hero of the Soviet Union, komkor G.K. Zhukov, 1939.

Liberation of Bessarabia

Another step to the post of chief of the Soviet General Staff and at the same time to the post of Deputy People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR for Zhukov was the command of the Kiev Special Military District and participation in the “Bessarabian campaign” in 1940. During the “Bessarabian campaign” General of the Army Zhukov worked out another tool that he will actively use during the Second World war: the release of airborne assault forces in order to capture key enemy strongholds. An interesting detail: the commander of the Southern Front in his order directly demanded that the soldiers of the Red Army in the liberated Bessarabia serve as an example of exemplary appearance and behavior, and therefore ordered not to introduce poorly dressed fighters into the annexed lands.

General of the Army Georgy Zhukov.

The commander of the Southern Front, General of the Army Georgy Zhukov (standing in the car on the far right) at a military parade in Chisinau, July 4, 1940.

Elninsky ledge

Having met the Second World War as chief of the General Staff of the Red Army, Zhukov was removed from this post on July 29, 1941 – shortly after he dared to insist in a conversation with Joseph Stalin on the need to withdraw Soviet troops from Kiev, and not wait for the inevitable encirclement … Events proved Zhukov was right, but it was no longer possible to rectify the situation. General Zhukov, assigned to command the Reserve Front, was able to plan and carry out the operation that became the first successful strategic offensive of the Red Army during the Second World War. In nine days, the so-called Yelninsky ledge, which threatened the Soviet troops, was liquidated, and Yelnya itself was liberated.

Georgy Zhukov

General of the Army Georgy Zhukov, commander of the Reserve Front, near Yelnya, August 1941.

Marshal of the Soviet Union

After the success at Yelnya, front commander Zhukov was appointed commander of the Leningrad front. The assigned tasks near Leningrad were completed – the first, most powerful blows of the Germans were repulsed and the city was defended. Then there was a counteroffensive near Moscow, three operations near Rzhev, which ended in failure, and in the final – participation in the development of Operation Uranus, which ended in victory at Stalingrad. It was after the success at Stalingrad that First Deputy People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the USSR Georgy Zhukov was the first of the wartime generals to receive the highest Soviet officer rank at that time – Marshal of the Soviet Union.

From that moment on, the epithet “first” was added to Marshal Georgy Zhukov more and more often. He became the first four times Hero of the Soviet Union in the USSR: he received his Gold Stars in 1939, 1944, 1945 and 1956. The second after Zhukov four times the Hero was Leonid Brezhnev, who received his first highest award ten years after Zhukov’s fourth award. Zhukov was the first in the country to be awarded the highest Soviet military leader’s order “Victory” twice, in 1944 and 1945; Marshal Alexander Vasilevsky was the second to be awarded this award twice a fortnight after Zhukov, and Stalin was the third (in June 1945).

Marshal Zhukov

Marshal Zhukov in his uniform decorated with military awards.

Marshal of Victory

There are many explanations for the fact that it is Georgy Zhukov who is called the Marshal of Victory. Among them is the fact that the honorary right to announce and sign from the Soviet side the Act of Germany’s surrender on the evening of May 8, 1945 in Karlhorst was given to the commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, whose troops played a key role in the Berlin operation, Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov. He also hosted the Victory Parade, which took place on June 24, 1945 in Moscow; It is curious that this parade was commanded by the former commander of Zhukov, and at that moment equal to him in rank and military glory, Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky. And on September 7, Marshal Zhukov received from the Soviet side another parade of winners, held in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate with the participation of the troops of all four victorious powers – the USSR, Great Britain, the USA and France. The very idea of ​​this parade also belonged to Zhukov, and he also won the right to lead the solemn march of a column of Soviet troops.

 Victory Parade on June 24, 1945

S.M. Budyonny, I.V. Stalin and G.K. Zhukov on the podium of the Mausoleum during the Victory Parade on June 24, 1945.

Personal life

There are a lot of myths about the marshal among the people, including the personal life of Georgy Zhukov. Therefore, it is worth talking only about those romantic relationships that he himself recognized. For the first time Zhukov could marry as a young man. He had an affair with the daughter of a housewife, from whom Georgy rented a Moscow apartment. But because of the First World War, those plans have sunk into oblivion. In 1919, in the Saratov infirmary, Georgy Zhukov met the nurse Maria Volokhova, and feelings immediately appeared between them. But because of the hostilities, the young people broke up.

A year later, the future marshal fell in love with the young teacher Alexandra Zuikova, who began to be considered his wife, although they officially signed only in 1953. And here fate again brought Georgy Konstantinovich to Maria Volokhova. For several years Zhukov was between two women. Interestingly, almost at the same time, both ladies made him a father: Alexandra gave birth to a daughter, Era, and Maria gave birth to Margarita. By the way, both “wives” of Georgy Zhukov knew about each other, but resigned themselves to the situation. Volokhova later married another man and broke off relations with Zhukov. And the official wife gave George another daughter, Ella.

During the Second World War, Zhukov lived in a civil marriage with the military paramedic Lidia Zakharova. She went with the marshal throughout the war, more than once went to the front line with him and moved to the south of Ukraine, when Zhukov was appointed commander of the Odessa military district. They parted only when Alexandra Zuikova came to visit her husband. As a result, Georgy Konstantinovich broke off relations with his mistress, but not for the sake of his wife, but for the sake of the military doctor Galina Semenova. They also lived in a de facto union, but in 1965 Georgy Zhukov officially divorced Zuikova and went to the registry office with Galina, who gave birth to his fourth daughter Maria.

Georgy Zhukov

Georgy Zhukov with his wife Alexandra Zuikova and daughters.

Georgy Zhukov with his last wife Galina.

Georgy Zhukov with his last wife Galina.

Georgy Zhukov and his daughter Maria.

Georgy Zhukov and his daughter Maria.

The Medal-Man

The post-war history of Georgy Zhukov is replete with ups and downs due to his pathological inability to play political games. In 1946, after being accused of inflating his merits in the victory over Germany, Marshal Zhukov was demoted and sent to command the Odessa Military District. In 1955 he was returned to Moscow and appointed Minister of Defense of the USSR, and in 1958 he was again accused of “Bonapartism” and finally dismissed from military service, leaving the right to wear military uniform. After this resignation, Zhukov was consistently and diligently tried to consign to oblivion, from which he was gradually returned only after 1965, but he still remained for most Soviet people the “Marshal of Victory” and one of its main creators. And on May 9, 1994, state awards appeared in Russia, established in honor of the Soviet commander – the Order of Zhukov and the Zhukov Medal, which are also awarded to participants in the battles of World War II.

Two varieties of Zhukov's medal.

Two varieties of Zhukov’s medal.

Order of Zhukov is a state award of the Russian Federation.

Order of Zhukov is a state award of the Russian Federation.

Death of Marshal

In the last years of his life, Georgy Zhukov again began to visit the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, where he was invariably greeted with prolonged applause. Also, the marshal was a consultant for the documentary “If Your Home Is Dearest to You” and “Pages of the Battle of Stalingrad”, and he even starred in two episodes. The book of memoirs “Memories and Reflections”, on which Zhukov worked for more than 10 years, was also published.

At the end of 1973, the wife of Georgy Zhukov, Galina Aleksandrovna, died, after which the marshal began to feel worse and worse. He suffered a stroke, then a heart attack, and in the spring fell into a coma. Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov died in hospital on June 18, 1974 after several weeks in a coma. Despite the last will of the commander about a traditional burial, his body was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the Kremlin wall on Red Square in Moscow.

Monument to Marshal Zhukov in Moscow on Red Square.

Monument to Marshal Zhukov in Moscow on Red Square.

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