Steven Peterson's Reviews > Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov

Stalin's General by Geoffrey Roberts
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's review
Aug 11, 2012

really liked it

This is a much needed biography of General Georgy Zhukov. His career in World War II is chronicled nicely in this volume, as is his up and down career thereafter (sacked twice, but able to rebound).

Zhukov began life in humble circumstances, as part of a peasant family. As the work notes (Page 13): ". . .Zhukov's humble origins and stratospheric rise are keys to understanding his lifelong loyalty to communism and to the Soviet system." Born in 1896, he served in World War I and was wounded. In the interwar period, he remained in the military and moved upward over this time frame.

His career really took off in 1939 when he was sent east to examine the unsatisfactory record of the Russian forces against Japanese troops along the Khalkin-Gol River on the boundary between Manchuria and Mongolia. After his work concluded, he was named to lead the Soviet forces there. He prepared assiduously and, finally, attacked the Japanese army. He used mechanized forces very well. The end result was a victory (some referred to it as another Cannae), and Zhukov was given great credit.

Subsequently, he was dispatched to the main battlefront against the Germans, returning westward in 1940. Here, the narrative turns to his leadership (with others, of course), culminating in the decisive defeat of Germans forces in Stalingrad. The book continues with his role in pushing the German Army back toward Germany's borders. We read of the hard fighting (including--sometimes--infighting among Russian generals).

Then, his postwar career, in which he was sacked twice--once by Stalin and a second time by Khrushchev. Each time, like a phoenix, he rose from the ashes of a care seemingly ended.

The book also tells the reader of his family life. Rather bittersweet, it turns out.

Overall, this is a fine, well written biography of a major figure. The assessment of his career as a general is nicely done, neither praising him over effusively nor speaking ill of the subject. In short, a fine work.
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