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Stalin's General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov Hardcover – June 5, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Advance praise for Stalin’s General
“At long last we have a full biography of Marshal Zhukov. Geoffrey Roberts has written a well-informed, judiciously balanced, and lively account, covering not only Zhukov’s role in 1941–1945 as a frontline commander and Stalin’s closest military advisor but also his formative experiences in the prewar Red Army, his complex family relationships, his place in Cold War military planning, and his lapses into political disfavor under both Stalin and Khrushchev. There is a wealth of new material here, including firsthand insights from Zhukov’s relatives. A three-dimensional picture emerges of the peasant boy who became the greatest general of World War II. This is a splendid book, comprehensively detailed, readily understood, and it is essential reading for anyone interested in the Russian-German conflict or the Soviet experience.”—Evan Mawdsley, author of December 1941 and Thunder in the East

About the Author

Geoffrey Roberts is the author of Stalin’s Wars and Victory at Stalingrad. He is professor and head of the School of History at University College Cork, Ireland. Roberts is a frequent contributor to British, Irish, and American newspapers and to popular-history journals and has been a consultant for TV and radio documentaries.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781400066926
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066926
  • ASIN: 1400066921
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By F. Henderson on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the assertion made by Geoffrey Roberts in very good new biography on Geory Zhukov. As Roberts expresses in his conclusion when one thinks of the major field commanders from each side in the Second World War we are left with Montgomery, Patton, Rommel & Zhukov. When comparing these men I do agree with Roberts' thesis. However, and this is pointed out, Zhukov is not the sole reason for the impressive Russian victory on the Eastern Front. He had plenty of help: able front commanders, a good manager in Stalin and a talented General Staff.

The book itself is a quick read. I admire that Roberts did not get tied down in the tactics and troop movements of each campaign. There are other books for that. However, the reader is left with a good understanding of what happened.

For me the most interesting part was the post-war period where Zhukov was disgraced, and rehabilitated, twice! The reader is given an informative look into the power struggles of the USSR and the attempts to rewrite the history of the Great Patriotic War. Reading this, and thinking about previous books I have read, I was left wondering how a system based on paranoia, ego and lies didn't collapse sooner.

Zhukov took umbrage with the memoirs of German generals who couldn't admit that the primary reason they lost the war was the superior generalship of the Soviets. He assigned little weight to their arguments of the meddling of Hitler, Russian weather, and the weight of numbers. This subject is debatable but I believe Zhukov got wrapped up, once again, in his own press and that of the Red Army. All sides had very able commanders but when a country can absorb the sheer number of losses that the Red Army took in the Second World War - and keep coming!
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Format: Hardcover
I have to commend Roberts for tackling a difficult subject. Examination of any Soviet-era figure is rife with the inherent problems of sifting through obviously slanted and biased source materials that were either part of propaganda (both positive and negative) or which sought to denigrate someone and mark them for potential retribution. Zhukov's career spanned from his rise during Stalin's purges of the 1930s through to his subsequent purge in the 1950s, a brief rehabilitation, and subsequent purge again in the late 1950s. At best Zhukov led a tenuous existentence, seeking to please Stalin but not to outshine him, an unenviable situation if ever there was one. Obviously he was gifted as a strategist and a military leader who was clearly respected if not admired by his soldiers and the general public. In the Soviet Union this wasn't necessarily a good thing as his power rivaled that of Stalin and had the potential to eclipse it, and Stalin was not a man given to people rivaling his popularity or power. But as World War II intensified Stalin came to realize he needed the best qualified officers he could find and there was no man more qualified to lead than Zhukov.

In the West Zhukov is not as well known as Montgomery, Eisenhower, Patton, De Gaulle or other leading Allied generals, which "Stalin's General" seeks to rectify. Zhukov's turnarounds in the defense of Leningrad (today's St. Petersburg), Moscow, Stalingrad, and the decisive battle at Kursk should solidify him as one of the best generals of all time. Any one of those campaigns could have made or broken a commander, yet Zhukov persevered at all of them, albeit it at a significant loss of life.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I was biased against Mr. Roberts after reading Ms. Siegel's review in the Wall Street Journal (6/25/12) but his book is a solid piece of well documented research and his knowledge of the main landmarks of Zhukov's biography and events related to it is impressive. He is familiar with practically all the related historic sources known to me and well beyond.
I have found a couple of errors which I would consider a matter of principal to be corrected: "Soviet state offered people like Zukov unprecedented and previously unimaginable opportunities for social mobility." p. 13 (Top Generals of the Russian Imperial Army M. Alexeev - Chief of the General Staff, like G. Zhukov himself 25 years later, L. Kornilov and A. Denikin were all from the lowest rungs of the society).
"There is also a story that after the German attack Stalin lost his head and descended into a depression. According to Zhukov `Stalin himself was strong-willed and no coward... After June 22, 1941, and throughout the war, Stalin firmly governed the country'." p. 107 (This is a fact, not a story. Stalin indeed "lost his head" and retired to his dacha on June 28 after he learned the German tanks were observed to the east of Minsk).

I did not find any chronological or geographical mistakes with the exception of few inconsequential typos. The maps to the best of my knowledge are correct and helpful. Mr. Roberts is a first-rate historian who knows his subject well and I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in widening his knowledge of military history.
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