Marshal Zhukov's grandson: “He was respected for fairness!”
Interview with Georgy Zhukov about the declassified personal file of the commander and unknown aspects of his personality
The world celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War last week. One of the creators of peace in 1945, Marshal Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974), Realnoe Vremya remembers with his grandson — also Georgy. The grandfather's namesake and son of the military commander's youngest daughter Maria (Zhukov had four daughters from three marriages) was born a few years after the death of his great relative but is one of the few relatives of the marshal who agrees to discuss the identity of the famous grandfather. Georgy Zhukov told our publication more about the role of the commander in the family and history, as well as new unknown facts from his biography.
“I haven't read authors with a scientific approach to the personality of Zhukov, except for Isaev”
Mr Zhukov, it is important for the citizens of the country to know the truth about every great person. It is clear that in Soviet times, some facts about the life and work of your famous grandfather were concealed for political reasons, and not all historians could write about the personality of Zhukov during the war. How many objective scientific works about the marshal appeared after the censorship eased, and can you be proud of such works as a descendant?
I can't say that I spend a lot of time studying publications about my grandfather, but over the past few years, among the published works that pay attention to Zhukov I can highlight the works of historian Aleksey Isaev. And it so happened that, apart from him, I haven't read anything serious about my grandfather.
Are all the memoirs of Marshal Zhukov published in our country, or are there some memoirs, documents that are still in the archives and can not reach readers?
There was a story, but just last year, in 2019, some archives of the ministry of defence were declassified — including Zhukov's personal file — it is freely available, and I also think I will soon get acquainted with it. If there are any new scientific publications about Zhukov in the near future, I think they will be related to the study of these archival materials. In the same year, by the way, on the basis of these documents, an article was published in Ogonyok magazine, which very vividly illustrates the story of Zhukov's disgrace, which began in 1957, and the only thing that remains is to see how further study of the archives associated with my grandfather will unfold. But I'm very happy that many things are finally getting the right publicity.
I see a lot of political essays, and political essays of various kinds, varying degrees of reliability, and I have not met authors with a scientific approach to the personality of Zhukov, except for Isaev
“The fact that Simonov interviewed his grandfather was rather an exception to the rule”
Can any unknown video materials about Zhukov appear from the archives?
Perhaps, because such materials should be there because my grandfather was the minister of defence. At least I know that Gosfilmofond has a video about Zhukov's trip to India in 1957 — I personally saw pieces, but I hope that it will all be published over time.
Are there any films about Zhukov as a retired man from the 1960s and 1970s? Did he give interviews to documentary filmmakers of that time?
It is unlikely, Zhukov was in isolation at that time, and the fact that Simonov interviewed him was rather an exception to the rule.
“Zhukov was dismissed completely, not even allowed to teach”
Zhukov after the war fell into the first disgrace — Stalin, because of the suspicions that Zhukov was exporting valuables from Germany for personal use, sent him to command the Odessa military district, and in 1957 the second disgrace, Khrushchev's, followed. What did Zhukov do after his retirement?
He spent most of his time working on a book of memoirs — this work was very difficult for him. Zhukov waited a very long time for permission to publish it and was very worried about censorship. Besides, he was constantly under the supervision of the authorities, and Zhukov's dacha was periodically searched — especially when they found out at the top that he was writing a book: the story was very unpleasant, and the pressure was very high. But my grandfather completed the task.
Did the marshal want to return to the army in the 1960s?
The thing is that Zhukov was dismissed, as they say, completely — he was not even given the opportunity to teach. Therefore, even if my grandfather wanted to, there was no question of any return to the troops. Zhukov asked for a job, but it was not given to him, and, in my opinion, the fact that he was not allowed to teach is a crime.
I understand that if this happened under Khrushchev, it was under him that Zhukov was dismissed. But was the marshal's isolation as harsh under Brezhnev — wasn't he a front-line soldier either?
Under Brezhnev, too. The isolation was very serious — Zhukov's social circle was very much reduced, they were afraid to communicate with him, and those who communicated with Zhukov were, as they say, on watch list.
Why could Brezhnev be afraid of Zhukov?
Heroes of such scale as Zhukov are great people, and it is very difficult for politicians to find themselves against their background.
Zhukov asked for a job, but it was not given to him, and, in my opinion, the fact that he was not allowed to teach is a crime
“The war with history is designed to distract people more and more from the realities of life”
Last year, a bust of your grandfather was demolished in Kharkiv, although it was restored after a while. As a human being, don't you want to ask, for example, Ukrainian President Zelensky to send the bust to Russia, where it would be more important for society?
There are many outbreaks of madness of various kinds in the world. Yes, for me personally, this is a sensitive story, but it's not the worst thing that I and many people have seen recently. But it is gratifying to see that common sense still exists.
Certainly, but monuments to military leaders in the countries of Eastern Europe that they liberated are being demolished and moved, and I am not surprised that history there may soon be significantly rewritten and finally call the soldiers who liberated these countries from Nazism occupiers.
The war with history is designed to distract people more and more from the realities of life. Those who do not see a way to change the surrounding reality will leave and go into an endless war with history.
Are these cases pure politics or something else?
I think that, of course, this is politics. The main challenges for us are in the present, not in the past.
But you know, I am concerned about the historical education of future generations, especially for their knowledge of the Great Patriotic War. Will the memory of that terrible but important period remain with the next generations?
I believe that a lot has been done for the memory of the war in Russia, and the best thing that can be done for such memory is to make sure that the peaceful sky above our children and grandchildren still exists. For it to exist, we need to develop our Russian statehood — develop the institutions of state and municipal administration, and broad participation of citizens in this management. When the current ills of our political growth pass, when we live in a more prosperous country, with a standard of living close to that of more developed countries, then people will have a better memory of what war is, and this will guarantee that such stories will not be repeated. Let's hope that the Great Patriotic War will remain the bloodiest war in the history of mankind, and we will not see a repeat.
The war with history is designed to distract people more and more from the realities of life. Those who do not see a way to change the surrounding reality will leave and go into an endless war with history
“No bravura should obscure the real horrors and pain of war”
Director Andrey Smirnov in a recent interview with our publication said that the memory of the war can only be preserved by writing textbooks with the truth. I think that Marshal Zhukov would agree with him if he were alive.
I agree with Smirnov — I agree in many ways: recently, a lot of materials have been published that tell the hard truth, first of all, on behalf of ordinary soldiers, from people who went through the war from beginning to end — yes, their history may differ from the official history that we are used to in our time, but the history of soldiers can give a complete picture of the circumstances that people had to face during the war. And it is very important to convey these things to the younger generation — no bravura should obscure the real horrors and pain of war.
The famous monument to Marshal Zhukov near the Red Square has been removed this year, replacing it with a copy where the marshal puts his hand to his head, unlike the original, where the hand is lowered. But then the original was returned, although they said that they would move it to Poklonnaya Gora.
So, this monument still stood in its place!
I agree. In your opinion, is this work the best monument to your famous grandfather that exists in the world?
It is difficult to judge here — this is a matter of artistic taste, but I like the bust by Vuchetich in Zhukov's homeland in Kaluga Oblast, better than all the monuments to my grandfather that I know. The city where it stands is named after his grandfather — Zhukov, and there is a monument near the local history museum.
Did someone follow in the footsteps of their grandfather in the large Zhukov family? Has military service become a tradition?
I once graduated from the Military University, received a higher military education, served in the military for a short time, and I paid some tribute to the traditions of my family. And if we talk about military service, I did not see myself there, perhaps this was because the army was not particularly needed by society at that time, and I found myself more useful in the civil service.
But I think I still have a tradition from my grandfather — it is in my attitude to life: Georgy Zhukov believed that not all compromises in life should be made, and I also adhere to this principle. What is it about? You know, the most important thing that I remember from conversations about my grandfather from his fellow servicemen when they were alive (in particular, from the driver of Zhukov during the war) is that they respected Zhukov for fairess. Yes, Zhukov was harsh, but he was very fair, and in 1946, after the war, the special services were preparing a case of treason against Zhukov — they jailed all people around his grandfather, tortured people, but none of them testified against him, and the leader did not believe the material that Abakumov “dug up” and put on Stalin's table. And after Stalin's death, my grandfather put a lot of effort into rehabilitating the repressed military — some were returned from prison, many were helped after their imprisonment, and these are very important things for me.