The Soviet-America relationship should have developed well if Eisenhower and Zhukov had continued to work together.
Zhukov was a recipient of decorations. Most notably he was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union four times. Aside from Zhukov, only Leonid Brezhnev was a four-time recipient (the latter's were self-awarded).
Zhukov was one of only three recipients to receive the Order of Victory twice. He was also awarded high honors from many other countries. A partial listing is presented below.
Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in Strelkovka, Maloyaroslavsky Uyezd, Kaluga Governorate (now merged into the town of Zhukov in Zhukovsky District of Kaluga Oblast in modern-day Russia), Zhukov became an apprentice furrier in Moscow. In 1915 the Army of the Russian Empire conscripted him; he served first in the 106th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (then called the 10th Dragoon Novgorod Regiment). During World War I, Zhukov was awarded the Cross of St. George twice, and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer for his bravery in battle. He joined the Bolshevik Party after the 1917 October Revolution; in Party circles his background of poverty became a significant asset. After recovering from a serious case of typhus he fought in the Russian Civil War over the period 1918 to 1921, serving with the 1st Cavalry Army, among other formations. He received the decoration of the Order of the Red Banner for his part in subduing the Tambov Rebellion in 1921.
At the end of May 1923, Zhukov became a commander of the 39th Cavalry Regiment. In 1924, he entered the Higher School of Cavalry, from which he graduated the next year, returning afterward to command the same regiment. In May 1930, Zhukov became commander of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade of the 7th Cavalry Division. In February 1931, he was appointed the Assistant Inspector of Cavalry of the Red Army. In May 1933, Zhukov was appointed a commander in the 4th Cavalry Division. In 1937, he became a commander of the 3rd Cavalry Corps, later of the 6th Cavalry Corps. In 1938, he became a deputy commander of the Belorussian Military District for cavalry.
In 1938, Zhukov was directed to command the First Soviet Mongolian Army Group, and saw action against Japan's Kwantung Army on the border between Mongolia and the Japanese-controlled state of Manchukuo. This campaign was an undeclared war that lasted from 1938 to 1939. What began as a routine border skirmish rapidly escalated into a full-scale war, with the Japanese pushing forward with an estimated 80,000 troops, 180 tanks and 450 aircraft.
These events led to the strategically decisive Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan). Zhukov requested major reinforcements, and on 20 August 1939, his "Soviet Offensive" commenced. After a massive artillery barrage, nearly 500 BT-5 and BT-7 tanks advanced, supported by over 500 fighters and bombers. This was the Soviet Air Force's first fighter-bomber operation. The offensive first appeared to be a typical conventional frontal attack. However, two tank brigades were initially held back and then ordered to advance around on both flanks, supported by motorized artillery, infantry, and other tanks. This daring and successful manoeuvre encircled the Japanese 6th Army and captured the enemy's vulnerable rear supply areas. By 31 August 1939, the Japanese had been cleared from the disputed border, leaving the Soviets clearly victorious.
In autumn 1940, G. K. Zhukov started preparing the plans for the military exercise concerning the defence of the Western border of the Soviet Union, which at this time was pushed further to the west due to the annexation of Eastern Poland.
Others note Zhukov's "dictatorial" approach. For Example, Major General P. G. Grigorienko stated that Zhukov demanded unconditional compliance with his orders. Some notable examples for these points include the time, on 28 September 1941, that Zhukov sent ciphered telegram No. 4976 to commanders of the Leningrad Front and the Baltic Navy, announcing that returned prisoners and families of Soldiers captured by the Germans would be shot. This order was published for the first time in 1991 in the Russian magazine Начало (Beginning) No. 3. In the same month, Zhukov apparently ordered that any Soldiers who left their positions would be shot.
In late August 1942 Zhukov was made Deputy Commander-in-Chief and sent to the southwestern front to take charge of the defence of Stalingrad. He and Vasilevsky later planned the Stalingrad counteroffensive. In November Zhukov was sent to coordinate the Western Front and the Kalinin Front during Operation Mars.
Zhukov was a Stavka coordinator at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. According to his memoirs, he played a central role in the planning of the battle and the hugely successful offensive that followed. Commander of the Central Front Konstantin Rokossovsky, said, however, that the planning and decisions for the Battle of Kursk were made without Zhukov, that he only arrived just before the battle, made no decisions and left soon afterwards, and that Zhukov exaggerated his role.
From 12 February 1944 Zhukov coordinated the actions of the 1st Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts. On 1 March 1944 Zhukov was appointed the commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front until early May. During the Soviet offensive Operation Bagration, Zhukov coordinated the 1st Belorussian and 2nd Belorussian Fronts, later the 1st Ukrainian Front as well. On 23 August Zhukov was sent to the 3rd Ukrainian Front to prepare for the advance into Bulgaria.
There is a statue of Zhukov on horseback as he appeared at the 1945 victory parade on Manezhnaya Square at the entrance of the Kremlin in Moscow. Zhukov Statue in Moscow
In 1946, seven rail carriages with furniture that Zhukov was taking to the Soviet Union from Germany were impounded. In 1948, his apartments and house in Moscow were searched and many valuables looted from Germany were found. In his investigation Beria concluded that Zhukov had in his possessions 17 golden rings, three gemstones, the faces of 15 golden necklaces, more than 4,000 meters of cloth, 323 pieces of fur, 44 carpets taken from German palaces, 55 paintings and 20 guns". Zhukov admitted in a memorandum to Zhdanov:
Zhukov suffered a heart attack in January 1948, spending a month in hospital. In February 1948, he was given another secondary posting, this time command of the Urals Military District.
Zhukov was a member of the military tribunal during the Beria trial, which was headed by Marshal Ivan Konev. On 18 December 1953, the Military Court sentenced Beria to death. During the burial of Beria, Konev commented: "The day this man was born deserves to be damned!". Then Zhukov said: "I considered it as my duty to contribute my little part in this matter (arresting and executing Beria)."
When Nikolai Bulganin became premier in 1955, he appointed Zhukov Defense Minister. Zhukov participated in many political activities. He successfully opposed the re-establishment of the Commissar system, because the Party and political Leaders were not professional military, and thus the highest power should fall to the army commanders. Until 1955, Zhukov had both sent and received letters from Eisenhower. Both Leaders agreed that the two superpowers should coexist peacefully. In July 1955, Zhukov—together with Khrushchev, Bulganin, V. M. Molotov and A. A. Gromyko—participated in a Summit Conference at Geneva after the USSR signed a peace treaty with Austria and withdrew its army from that country.
The relationship between Zhukov and Khrushchev reached its peak during the XX Congress of the Communist Party (1956). After becoming the First Secretary of the Party, Khrushchev moved against Stalin's legacy and criticized his "personality cult". To complete such startling acts, Khrushchev needed the approval—or at least the acquiescence—of the military, headed by Minister of Defense Zhukov.
At the plenary session of Central Committee of CPSU held in June 1957 Zhukov supported Khrushchev against the "Anti-Party Group", that had a majority in the Presidium and voted to replace Khrushchev as First Secretary with Bulganin. At that plenum, Zhukov stated:
Zhukov had begun writing his memoirs "Reminiscences and Reflections" (Воспоминания и размышления) in 1958. He now worked intensively on them, which together with steadily deteriorating health, served to worsen his heart disease. In December 1967, Zhukov had a serious stroke. He was hospitalized until June 1968, and continued to receive medical and rehabilitative treatment at home under the care of his second wife, Galina Semyonova, a former officer in the Medical Corps. The stroke left him paralyzed on his left side and his speech became slurred and he could only walk with assistance. His memoirs were published in 1969 and became a best-seller. Within several months of the date of publication of his memoirs, Zhukov had received more than 10,000 letters from readers that offered comments, expressed gratitude, gave advice, or lavished praise. Supposedly, the Communist Party invited Zhukov to participate in the XXIV Congress in 1971 but the invitation was rescinded.
After Khrushchev was deposed in October 1964, Brezhnev restored Zhukov to favour (though not to power) in a move to use Zhukov's popularity to strengthen his political position. Zhukov's name was put in the public eye yet again when Brezhnev lionized Zhukov in a speech commemorating the Great Patriotic War. On 9 May 1965, Zhukov was invited to sit on the tribunal of the Lenin Mausoleum and given the honor of reviewing the parade of military forces in Red Square.
Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's poem On the Death of Zhukov ("Na smert' Zhukova", 1974) is regarded by critics as one of the best poems on the war written by an author of the post-war generation. The poem is a stylization of The Bullfinch, Derzhavin's elegy on the death of Generalissimo Suvorov in 1800. Brodsky draws a parallel between the careers of these two famous commanders.
In 1989 parts of previously unpublished chapters from Zhukov's memoir were published by Pravda, which his daughter said had been hidden in a safe until they could be published. The excerpts included criticism of the 1937–1939 purges for annihilating "[M]any thousands of outstanding party workers" and stated that Stalin had played no role in directing the war effort, although he often issued orders devised by the general staff as if they were his own.
In 1996, Russia adopted the Order of Zhukov and the Zhukov Medal to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birthday.
Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky commented that Zhukov is one of the most outstanding and brilliant military commanders of the Soviet Military Force. Major General Sir Francis de Guingand, Chief of Staff of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, described Zhukov as a friendly person. US Writer John Gunther, who met Zhukov many times after the war, said that Zhukov was more friendly and honest than any of the other Soviet Leaders. John Eisenhower – Dwight Eisenhower's son – claimed that Zhukov was really ebullient and was a friend of his. Albert Axell in his work "Marshal Zhukov, the one who beat Hitler" claimed that Zhukov is a military genius like Alexander the Great and Napoleon. Axell also commented that Zhukov is a loyal communist and a patriot.
After being forced out of the government, Zhukov stayed away from politics. Many people—including former subordinates—frequently paid him visits, joined him on hunting excursions, and waxed nostalgic. In September 1959, while visiting the United States, Khrushchev told US President Eisenhower that the retired Marshal Zhukov "liked fishing" (Zhukov was actually a keen aquarist). Eisenhower, in response, sent Zhukov a set of fishing tackle. Zhukov respected this gift so much that he is said to have exclusively used Eisenhower's fishing tackle for the remainder of his life.
In the satirical 2017 film The Death of Stalin, Zhukov is portrayed by Jason Isaacs.