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Stalin's General Drawing on rich new sources from the recently-opened Soviet archives, Geoffrey Roberts has fashioned the definitive, first full-scale biography of this seminal 20th century figure. Full description
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
50 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
The Best All-Around General of World War II?21 juin 2012
- Publié sur Amazon.com
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! - one would be foolish to think numbers had nothing to do with it. On top of that economic factors played a huge role. The evidence is the superiority the Russians had in artillery, tanks, etc.
All in all, a very good book that left me wanting more. Highly recommended.
28 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Finally a modern assessment of Zhukov, warts and all29 juin 2012
- Publié sur Amazon.com
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. And perhaps that's why Zhukov doesn't merit the recognition he deserves; he was all too willing to sacrifice men, and often in staggering numbers, to achieve his objectives. But "Stalin's General" doesn't bog down in the minutia of particular campaigns; this isn't geared for the military historian so much as the general public. Zhukov's push to Berlin is given a good bit of coverage here, as does the Russian capture of Berlin and driving the final nail in Hitler's coffin. What I admired most is that "Stalin's Generals" captures the sacrifices the Russians made towards defeating Germany at a time the rest of the Allies were content to fight slowly across North Africa and to mass troops in England waiting for D-Day. Too often Western histoirans ignore or minimize Russia's bearing the burden of fighting against Hitler's onslaught virtually alone from 1941 to 1944. "Stalin's Generals" shows what Zhukov and the Russians were up against in pretty stark detail.
Most authors would be content to revel in the glory that was Zhukov's military successes, but Roberts plumbs his role in the occupation of Germany and how he contended with Stalin during the post-war era. Stalin was clearly jealous of Zhukov's stature and knew the potential threat Zhokov represented and took steps to minimize Zhukov and keep him perpetually off-balance. Perhaps the best part of the book is the section dealing with the post-Stalin era and how Zhukov became both a player and a pawn in the power struggle that broke out. Zhukov could easily have made a grab for power and gone the military dictatorship route and it's unclear if he lacked the desire to do so or was thwarted. His role in the ensuing power struggle is muddled and it's likely that in ensuing years as more sealed records are made public we'll get a better sense of the ensuing struggles that went on. At any rate by the time Khrushchev solidified his power Zhukov was again on the outs. While he did publish his own memoirs they were heavily censored and even later "un-revised" versions raise doubts about their veracity.
In the end "Stalin's Generals" is a fascinating read about a figure largely unknown to most Westerners, which is a shame as Zhukov was largely responsible for hastening the end of Hitler's Germany. To a certain extent he is also a Russian Cincinnatus, a citizen soldier who could easily have grasped power but instead to remain humble and true to his roots. Zhukov remains something of an enigma as like many Russians enduring a tenuous existence during the Stalinist era had to be careful of what they said and wrote. It's hard to know what he was thinking, what motivated him, what inspired him, and what he really thought. Roberts had a tough task here with the obviously biased source materials, but what emerges is the portrait of a man who was a genuinely powerful leader who deserves more respect than he currently is receiving.
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Good Book, but Incomplete15 septembre 2012
- Publié sur Amazon.com
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.
The author deserves respect for truthfully mentioning the battles where Zhukov failed either completely: three Rzhev - Viazma offensive operations, or operationally - Polar Star, or tactically - Berlin, though it is not a great achievement anymore to expose those costly episodes in the age of immensely increased knowledge. After all it is not 1969 any longer when Zhukov was able either to distort or to hide those untidy events without fearing discomfort of exposure.
But all this well deserved praise does not mitigate the fact that one of the most prominent sides of Zhukov's character escaped the author's attention almost completely. It happened not because the author is unaware of it but in his sympathy to the hero of his book he dismissed this feature of his character as irrelevant and thus brings to his book a scent of distortion.
The author writes in the book's introduction: "But the more I worked on his biography the more sympathetic I became to Zhukov's point of view. Empathy combined with critique, and the result is what I hope will be seen as a balanced reappraisal that cuts through the hyperbole of the Zhukov cult while appreciating the man and his achievements in full measure" (p. IX)
I am pretty sure Mr. Roberts is familiar with the coded telegram # 4976 (9/28/41), which Zhukov sent to all commanders of land armies and Baltic Fleet shortly after he became Leningrad Front Commander. It has not been a secret since 1991. How could anybody become more sympathetic to the author of this order? "You must explain to rank and file of all units under your command that families of military personnel who surrendered to the enemy will be shot and they will be shot after returning from the captivity."
Even the Great Humanitarian Comrade Stalin himself failed to reach this "summit of magnanimity" in his cruel orders # 270 (8/1941) and # 227 (7/1942). Yes, he was a hot-headed man, he did not mind to give 10, sometimes 25 years of labor camps for former POWs, or execute some of them to advance a common "noble cause", even five years after the end of the war, but not their families. He found it sufficient just to put them in prison.
In October 1941 Zhukov was transferred from Leningrad to command the Western Front to meet the German drive to Moscow. This is a coded telegram he sent to the CO of 49A Leutenant General I. Zakharkin on October 12: "I order you to counterattack and to restore the situation, otherwise for unwarranted retreat from the city of Kaluga not only commanding officers of all units but also you personally will be shot."
Zhukov's cruelty and disregard for soldiers were at the full display not only during the critical months of 1941 - 1942, but all way through the war.
Juriy Kovalenko, the officer for special assignments for General N. Vatutin, the CO of the First Ukrainian Front in the fall of 1943, recalled:
"The Front was getting ready to force the river Dnepr south of Kiev. Top Front's Generals and representatives from Stavka gathered to discuss details of the future operation. During meeting Zhukov was asked about 300,000 Ukrainians recently drafted from liberated areas of Ukraine. The question was raised about uniforms and weapons for new recruits. After listening for a while to the pro and con arguments of Generals Zhukov finally said, - Why are we breaking our heads over this issue? Why do we have to provide for these "khokhly" (offensive name for the Ukrainians) all this good stuff in the first place? They are all traitors. The more of them drown in the Dnepr the less we would have to move to Siberia after the war."
I agree with the author who expresses the well founded suspicion and mistrust of memoirs of the Soviet Marshals and Generals. There was no group of people more prone to lying than the Soviet military leaders of WW II. But while accepting this premise we must not forget that Zhukov also belonged to the same group of "truth-seekers" and his memoirs have to be treated accordingly.
I am under the impression the author completely disregarded the numerous recollections of simple soldiers and low rank front line officers (which became available rather recently) who have had the misfortune to be in close proximity to Marshal.
J. Roberts writes: "There are reports that Zhukov, too, (like G. Patton) occasionally hit his subordinates, a practice picked up from his time in the tsarist army, where it was common." p. 315
The statement "there are reports" sounds ambivalent if not outright unsupportive of the well known and widely used by Zhukov practice of physical and verbal abuse of military personnel. Physical violence was broadly spread in the Red Army but its presence was never revealed neither in war literature nor in memoirs and documents. Only relatively recently has this fact became known with the appearance of Internet recollections of front line soldiers and officers. The chain of physical abuse started at the top and went down all way to the level of battalion commanders. It seldom descended lower because of the fear of possible retaliation. Unlike the tsarist army where victims of physical abuse were only soldiers and NCOs, the range was much wider in the Red Army - from privates all way up to high ranking officers (which was unheard of in the Russian Imperial army in the beginning of XX c.)
"When Zhukov entered the room he went directly to Colonel Shuba and punched him in the mouth. I clenched my teeth so when he punches me I would not bite my tongue."
To compare the Sicilian accidents of General Patton for which he lost the command of the 7th Army and almost ruined his military carrier with Zhukov's treatment of subordinates is absolutely out of place. Anyway, battle fatigue (posttraumatic stress disorder) was treated as cowardice in the Red Army and usually was punished by death.
Some of the Marshal's most innocent abusive acts looked outright vain and even childish, however extremely humiliating. The driver of the truck full of artillery shells passed Zhukov's motorcade without giving too much thought to it. Zhukov became mad and after his guards stopped the truck he ordered the shaken driver to show his driver's license. He took the license and after tearing it apart ordered: - "Punch him in the mug and piss on him". (By the way, urinating on their victims was one of the favorite "innocent" jokes of SA men in Germany in March of 1933).
Such names like Nevskaya Dubrovka, the bloodiest place of the WWII, where probably 200,000 Red Army men perished for nothing, Viazma encirclement, where the 33A of General Efremov was destroyed, and all way to the Zeelov Hights and Berlin in April 1945, when the highest daily casualty rate (15,325) since the destruction of the South-Western front in July 1942 was registered, where the two top Red Army commanders were storming the doomed surrounded city to satisfy theirs and their immoral boss' vanity, all these places and a lot more in between are tied in a blood-spattered knot together with the name of Marshal Zhukov.
The front line soldier and Great Russian writer Victor Astafiev (1924-2011) put it this way: "Zhukov and Stalin have burnt Russia and the Russian people in the war's fire and from this severe accusation we have to start any debate about that war. Only then we will be able to arrive at the truth but we won't live long enough to see it. Our strength, intelligence and courage fall too short to say all truth about our people's tragedy, even just a main part of it". Without this fundamental principle even the best biographies are destined to fall short of expectations.
30 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Much Needed: A Modern Biography of Georgy Zhukov14 juin 2012
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
This is a new (June 2012) biography of Gregory Zhukov. Zhukov was the most decorated and most influential Soviet general in World War II. Much has been written about the war and Zhukov, but this is the first attempt at a Zhukov biography since Soviet archives have been open to scholars.
Winston Churchill summed up the Russians in his famous quote: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
In the last decade we have learned a great deal about WW II from government archives and private papers that have recently been made public. Normally this makes for better history, but this biography emphasizes that we don't really understand the Soviet era today much better than at the time of Winston Churchill.
The author states that "The archives show between February 27, 1937, and November 12, 1938, Stalin, Molotov, and Kaganovich had personally sanctioned 38,679 political executions." It is impossible to keep an historical record when you execute your political (or imagined) opponents. Everybody who took notes was scared of a similar fate, and the written record cannot be trusted.
I read a lot of history, and I have been lied to, but this is the first history that I get the feeling everybody is lying. Certainly this isn't the fault of Geoffrey Roberts. He has done a great job of attempting to get at the truth. I just get the feeling that very little truth survived this era.
Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union started June 22, 1941. We know that Stalin had been told by the English and Americans that Hitler was going to attack. They even told him the day he was going to attack. The soviet air force was wiped out on the ground, and half a million prisoners were taken within a few days. If you think this book can shed any light on how this happened you would be wrong.
The real story is how the Soviet peoples eventually beat Hitler. Piecing together a history of this struggle is also difficult. If Zhukov or anybody else had any opinions about about this or any subject, they kept their mouths shut, and what history was written was whatever propaganda was approved by Stalin.
This book is not the definitive history of WW II. There are better histories. The Germans kept better records and were a lot more truthful. Nevertheless the book is fascinating.
One of my favorite parts of this book was the battle of Khalkhin-Gol in 1939. I had never heard of Khalkhin-Gol. It is on the border between the Soviet Union and Mongolia. The Japanese had occupied Soviet territory, and Zhukov was sent to fight the Japanese. He beat the Japanese. This campaign showed Zhukov's strengths. He gathered extensive intelligence on the Japanese while managing to fool them that he was only building defensive positions. He assembled a coordinated attack of air, infantry, cavalry and artillery four hundred miles from the nearest rail lines. He launched a surprise attack on a Sunday morning and trounced the Japanese.
We know from Japanese archives that they dropped the "northern strategy" in favor of conquering Southeast Asia and leading to Perl Harbor. More importantly Zhukov demonstrated that he was a competent leader and was a master of modern warfare.
The book continues from the beginning to the end of WW II, the death of Stalin, the atomic age, Khrushchev and Brezhnev. At times Zhukov is in favor, other times he is out of favor. Much of the later part of the book is concerned with Zhukov's memoirs which appeared in several editions sometimes written by him and rewritten by others during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras. As he got older he was always involved in politics. I can understand elections even British house of parliament, but Soviet power changes mystify me. I can't fault the author. Soviet politics were done in secret, and very few outsiders knew what was going on in the inner circle of the Soviet Union.
Once Zhukov was dead, the government could build statues of him and strike a commemorative ruble coin. In life he had his supporters and detractors. He had been born a peasant, and soldiers of the day were mostly illiterate. Zhukov could be cruel and rude. He sent cannon fodder into battles with no training and no weapons and had more than 100,000 his own soldiers shot for various offences. It is not surprising that many people hated him.
Zhukov is an important figure in world history, and it is good that he has a modern biography written in light of new material. Zhukov's world was not a comfortable world, and it is very different from our world. Geoffrey Roberts has immersed himself in that world and has done a remarkable job of bringing Zhukov and his world to modern readers.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Stalin's General20 juin 2012
- Publié sur Amazon.com
While there are multiple biographies of German generals Zhukov seems to be the only figure that western historians concentrate on when looking at the Soviet Union and the Eastern Front. In this case, Zhukov has had numerous biographies written about him and Roberts has made a worthwhile addition with this newest attempt to document the life and career of one of the more impressive figures to come out of the Red Army and Soviet Union.
"Stalin's General" spans from Zhukov's early life to his postwar career and Roberts does an excellent job documenting various periods of his life while contextualizing the overall situation occurring within the Soviet Union. I found the most interesting aspects of this work the various 'myths' that Roberts attempts to address. It is no surprise that when Zhukov sat down to write his memoirs he did so with a mission in mind: to protect and justify his actions during the war against those who had now turned on him both under Stalin and Khrushchev. Thus various meetings/events that Zhukov described could in all honesty have been fabricated in order to protect his version of events. Roberts notes multiple attempts to do just that by cross-referencing Stalin's log/meeting book/schedule and pointing out those dates/events that do not coincide with available information. Now this isn't to say, and Roberts readily admits so, that meetings outside what was recorded could have occurred, but there are some events that sound like they were an impossibility rather than an improbability. Thus one of the more interesting aspects of 'Stalin's General' is the detective work that Roberts went through to figure out how Zhukov put his memoirs together, including what he attempted to exaggerate and gloss over, etc.
Zhukov's abilities and the battles he participated in are well known to those familiar with the Eastern Front. Although Roberts discusses them there are certainly better monographs and histories for those purely interested in the military aspects of Zhukov's career. For Roberts, Zhukov's life and postwar career carry just as much weight and interest as his wartime activities. By the end of the book I would agree with the author's conclusions that Zhukov, while not an original thinker (he did not add much to Soviet strategy or operational art like other theorists one could point to), was still successful in helping the Red Army and Soviet Union overcome the genocidal threat that was the Wehrmacht and Nazi Germany.
Finally, I was hopeful that Roberts would utilize the latest research on some aspects of Zhukov's career, like Operation Mars. Geoffrey Jukes's latest book ("Stalingrad to Kursk") offers an original look and assessment of Operation Mars but unfortunately that information is absent here as Roberts mainly relies of Glantz's work, which while excellent is somewhat lacking. Overall, for those interested in the Soviet Union, the Eastern Front, Zhukov, and the postwar battle(s) around the history(ies) of the war, this is a highly recommended book.