Georgy Zhukov Monument in Moscow
Georgy Zhukov monument in Moscow is one of those beautiful examples of historic controversy that I love to reflect upon. I would say this figure is just as controversial and mysterious as Joseph Stalin. So who was Marshal Zhukov - a hero or a criminal?
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On the one hand, Marshal Zhukov was definitely a hero. He was one of the people responsible for turning the tide of war. Under his command, the Red Army began to fight back and break the Nazi offensive. It is enough to say that Georgy Zhukov coordinated the so-called "Operation Iskra" that was aimed at ending the terrible Leningrad blockade.
Couple of words about this blockade - in 1941, the Nazis surrounded and completely cut off the city of Leningrad from the rest of the country. The results were terrible - the residents of the city starved, many of them to death. There were many cases of cannibalism...
Zhukov managed to cut through the blockade, thus providing the city with food and supplies. The Germans fought back fiercely, but they were not able to encircle the city completely again. The Soviets also couldn't clear the area from Nazis, but the important thing is that the blockade was finally breached. Note that it happened only in 1943, meaning that Leningrad had to survive for 2 long years without food and under constant bombings.
Marshal Zhukov was also responsible for fighting and winning the Battle of Berlin. While the allies decided not to intervene, probably due to heavy losses they would have taken there, the Soviet command decided to finish with Hitler once and for all. And so, thanks to Zhukov, the red flag was soon put above the German Reichstag.
Georgy Zhukov's monument is located
right outside the Red Square.
There were many other victories during the military career of Georgy Zhukov. There's no need to list them all here, but he was indeed a very talented military commander and strategist. Was he a hero? To many people he was, but I wouldn't be so sure.
You see, there was a darker side to Zhukov's success, and that was excessive cruelty. I agree that cruelty was the general trait of the totalitarian state built by Stalin, but that's not really an excuse, is it?
Marshal Zhukov was very cruel. During the capturing of Berlin, the Red Army lost more than 80,000 people, with 280,000 more wounded. Many of those casualties could have been avoided if the Soviet command would spend some more time clearing the way for the advancing troops. However, it was decided that Berlin must not fall in the hands of allies, and therefore USSR had to hurry.
During the entire World War 2, Soviet losses were terrible. It is estimated that the Red Army had at least 100% turnover during the war, which means the losses are counted in millions. The Germans, on the other hand, lost much fewer men.
The biggest problem is that in many cases the losses were unnecessary. Take the Battle of Berlin for example - it was a purely political decision to storm the city. I'm sure that if Georgy Zhukov and Stalin cared for their men a little bit more they would think about some other solution.
Another example are the nuclear tests performed on Totskoye range in 1954. The tests (codenamed "Snowball") were directed by Zhukov, their objective was to see how the soldiers would perform during the nuclear war.
During the tests, the nuclear bomb was detonated, and then 45,000 soldiers and officers had to perform different exercises. They did not have any protective gear, and they were told that the explosion was just a simulation, not the real thing. Needless to say, tens of thousands of people suffered from radiation, many of them died a terrible death later on. Now if that's not a crime - I don't know what is!
Looking at Georgy Zhukov's monument, I still can't understand who he was - a hero or a criminal. He did a lot for his country, that's true, but how many lives could he spare if he just cared a little bit more about his soldiers? How many people had to die just because Zhukov didn't want to give his strategy a second thought? But what am I saying....after all, it was Zhukov's famous phrase - "Don't think about soldiers, Russia has many women and they will give birth to enough new ones".
So who was Marshal Zhukov? It's up to you to decide. One thing for certain - Zhukov, like Stalin, will forever remain a part of our history, for better or worse. As for the monument - let it stay. I think a lot of time has to pass until we'll learn to judge our history objectively.
Who knows? Maybe one day, our grandchildren will finally know what to do with all that controversial Soviet legacy...
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