Georgi ZhukovGeorgi Konstantinovich Zhukov (December 1, 1896 - June 18, 1974) was a Soviet military commander and politician. One of the finest and certainly toughest and most overtly successful army commander during World War II.
Born into a peasant family in Strelkovka, Kaluga Province. He was apprenticed to work in Moscow and in 1915 was conscripted into the dragoon regiment as a private. During World War I Zhukov was awarded St.George Cross (twice) and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer for his bravery in the battle. He joined the Bolsheviks Communist Party after the October Revolution and his poor background became an asset. After recovering from typhus he fought in the civil war (1918-20). Zhukov received the award of the Order of the Battle Red Banner for subduing a peasant revolt. By 1923 he was commander of a regiment and in 1930 of a brigade. He was a keen proponent of the new tank warfare and was noted for his detailed planning, tough discipline and strictness. He also survived the massive and grim purges of the army command institued by Stalin in the 1930s. He left the dangerous environment of Moscow to command the First Soviet Mongolian Army Group and saw action against the Japanese on the Manchurian border (1938-39). On August 15,1939 he ordered the both-flanks' attack, spearheaded by Soviet tank groups, against the 6th Japanese army. Within several days the Japanese troops were defeated. For this operation Zhukov was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Promoted to full general in 1940 he was briefly chief of STAVKA before a disagreement with Stalin led to him being replaced in June with Marshal Boris Shaposhnikov (replaced by Alexander Vasilevsky in November).
In October, 1941, he replaced Semyon Timoshenko in command of the central front and directed the defense of Moscow. He also directed the transfer of troops from the far East, where 2/3 of Soviet ground forces had been stationed on the day of Hitler's invasion, which had surprised Stalin. This feat of logistics is considered by some to be his greatest achievement. Most analysts believe that Moscow would certainly have fallen without it.
In 1942 he was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief and sent to the southwestern front to save Stalingrad, capturing the German Sixth Army in 1943 at the cost of maybe a million dead. In January 1943 he orchestrated the break-through of the German blockade of Leningrad (Saint Petersburg). He gave General Vatutin command in the Battle of Kursk. Following the failure of Marshal Voroshilov he lifted the siege of Leningrad in mid-1944.
He led the offensive of 1944 and the final assault on Germany in 1945, capturing Berlin in April and becoming the first commander of the Soviet occupation zone in Germany.
But in 1947 he was demoted to command the Odessa military district. After Stalin's death, Zhukov became deputy defense minister (1953) then defense minister (1955). He supported Nikita Khrushchev in 1957, and was made in June, 1957 a full member of the Central Committee. Just four months later he was relieved of his ministry and dropped from the central committee by Khrushchev. After Khrushchev was deposed (1964) Zhukov could appear in public again.
He was buried with full military honours.