It is an inquiry to provoke debate rather than a definitive answer, but Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov is a persuasive choice. Most historians agree Hitler's army was conclusively defeated in Russia rather than on the Western Front, and it was Marshal Zhukov who was at the head of Russia's move from desperate defence to unforgiving, awful attack.
He was key to both defence of Leningrad, where a siege inflicted dreadful losses among the civilians, and Stalingrad where, famously, all animals fled to leave a hellish battlefield inhabited only by human beings. Zhukov, too, was key to the victory at Kursk that was, perhaps, the most crucial set-piece battle of the war, and he led the Red Army into Berlin.
Yet this astonishing record and these campaign medals did not protect him from the capricious wrath of Stalin and the deadly envy of his rivals. In his memoirs, the man who broke the German Army wrote of a time just three years after the end of the Great Patriotic War: "I feared arrest every day and I had a bag ready with my underwear in it."
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